(L to R): Greg Taylor, minister, The Journey Church; Teresa McIlroy, owner, VIM 360; Ben West, communication coordinator, Kibo Group International; and Mary-Margaret Watson, runner and Kibo supporter.
Most of us give little thought to where our water comes from when we turn on a faucet, but in countries like Uganda, potable water is at a premium. When a group of missionaries from Searcy, Arkansas visited the country in 1994, they quickly discovered how important water is to communities and to their own mission.
Greg Taylor, a minister at The Journey Church in Tulsa, was a member of the mission group that went in 1994. He said their initial work was to spread their religious message to the residents they met. But after several years, they realized how big of a problem unsanitary water was for the community and the message they brought. And the mission grew into something that saved lives in more ways than one. “Our mission immerses, so when we baptized some people in polluted water sources, it convicted us that we need to also address the physical needs of clean drinking water for people, as well as addressing spiritual needs.”
That trip more than 20 years ago led to the creation of Kibo Group International, which is dedicated to bringing clean water to Uganda through the construction and maintenance of water wells. The Kibo Group’s mission goes well beyond just clean water. They see clean water as the key to creating flourishing, healthy communities. Kibo provides funding for well projects, and teaches the locals how to build and maintain the wells, giving residents independence, stability and better health.
Ben West, Kibo Group’s communication coordinator, said they fund four to five new wells each year at a cost of ten to fifteen thousand dollars per well. Kibo also helps to repair 15 to 20 wells per year. Training local residents how to maintain the wells is also important. “Repairing a well is sometimes a couple of hundred dollars up to a few thousand,” he said, adding that not all the funding comes directly from Kibo. “The communities help pay for the repairs. They might raise a thousand dollars to help pay for the repair. “
Most of Kibo’s funding is from individual donors from across the United States. But the group is gearing up for their two biggest fundraisers on April 9: the Run to the Well, a 5K and Fun Run, and The Kibo Group Partnership Dinner.
Run to the Well was the brainchild of Mary-Margaret Watson, an avid runner and Kibo supporter. “Uganda is near and dear to my heart,” she said. “Even though our feet are planted in Tulsa, we can make a difference around the world.”
Watson said she was told by other 5K organizers that they should be happy if they break even the first year, but Run to the Well raised approximately $14,000 in 2015, and Watson’s goal is to raise $25,000 this year. They are expecting 400 participants this year.
Teresa McIlroy, owner of VIM 360, formerly Strength of Mind & Body, is a race sponsor for the second year and will be having training sessions leading up to the event. She learned about Kibo from Taylor. She and her husband, Jeff, have visited Uganda twice and witnessed first-hand the difference Kibo’s work has made. “We were impressed with the way Kibo hires and empowers Ugandans to do the mission work,” she said. “Who better to serve Ugandans than Ugandans who know first hand the culture and needs?”
McIlroy is also forming a team to participate in the run and encourages people to join her team or form their own. Sponsorships are available and range in price from $500 to $2,500. The course is USATF certified and runners are chipped and timed. The 5K and the Fun Run are open to all ages and ability levels. Participants will also find an interactive Ugandan village with a working well at the finish line. The Fun Run starts at 8 a.m. and the 5K at 8:30 at the River Walk Crossing in Jenks. Online registration is available at
www.eventbrite.com and ends April 7.
For non-runners, Kibo is holding its third annual Kibo Group Partnership Dinner the same evening. Featured guests include Jim White, the winningest cross country coach in the country who was featured in the Disney movie “McFarland USA,” and Duncan Ojiambo and Lazarus Wogoli from Uganda will speak about the accomplishments of Kibo in their communities. The dinner is from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Renaissance Tulsa Hotel and Convention Center. Sponsorships are available.
See more about Run to the Well: