23-year-old student Georgia Hales (pictured) recaps on two weeks spent volunteering at Excellent Development HQ in London...

I am a Civil and Environmental Engineering Student at the University of Leeds and was fortunate enough to get some work experience with Excellent Development in London this summer.

My interest in water, sanitation and sustainable international development drew me to the charity. I was also interested as I knew that its main focus was to support the construction of sand dams in countries that suffered from frequent droughts, in order to provide adequate, safe drinking water to rural communities. 

I was introduced to the team (all of whom were very welcoming) before having a briefing with the Head of Programmes, Christine. She explained to me more of how the charity works, its current progress and a description of the projects in the various countries it works with.

"Ultimately, their aim is to ensure a community’s relationship with the sand dam is stable, before being confident that they can leave knowing the development will continue to run smoothly."

Georgia Hale, Excellent Development volunteer.

Through the assortment of tasks I was set, I was able to learn more about how the sand dams are built and work and how they impact the community. I was amazed at how simple (but effective) the technology was. I also hadn’t realised the great effect the water source (which is kept protected by the sand and replenished by the rains throughout the year) could have on the community. Not only does it free up more time for women and children (having had to walk miles to get water every day) to go to work or school, it also allows more vegetation to grow, soils to become replenished, livestock, wildlife and people to drink as well as permit better hygiene practices.

The charity also supports local ‘self-help groups’, groups of willing farmers to set up drought-resistant seed banks and tree nurseries; empowering farmers who go on to see increased crop diversity and yields.

Through the time spent here, I was able to understand more and more of the charity’s aims and objectives. To me, it seems like a particularly progressive charity in the sense that its overall focus is the sustainability of the development. They feel it imperative to get to know what people living in drylands need before using this information to support each community into working together effectively to produce their desired outcome (clean water can transform lives in many ways, from decreasing the time it takes to fetch water, freeing up time for children to go to school, to saving lives from waterbourne diseases).

It appears that the money (sourced chiefly from fundraising) or support is never used unnecessarily or given as a handout - it being a cost-effective technology and the labour coming from the willing community.

Ultimately, their aim is to ensure that a community’s development will continue to run smoothly.

I am grateful for the experience I’ve had here and am optimistic that Excellent will continue to grow and help provide more and more people with access to safe water.

Volunteering can make a huge difference – helping Excellent to progress important projects that our small team would otherwise struggle to find time to take forward. If you have any time you can offer, please get in touch for a chat at: [email protected]

£10 a month could provide safe water for life for one person, every month

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