charity: water stories

“Something Magnificent”

On a recent trip to Senegal, an engineer’s passion inspires our team

by Mercy Weaver

Julia Gallus and Shannon Wheeler have a combined 12 years at charity: water between them. Recently, they traveled to Senegal to visit our existing partner, ACRA, and meet other organizations working to bring clean water to communities currently living without it.

After seeing their work and having partnership planning meetings, one person stood out for their professionalism and insight: Charlotte, ACRA’s hydraulic engineer.

“Charlotte came alive in the rural villages that we visited. Her passion is clearly in working directly with remote, rural villages,” Julia said.

Charlotte has always been interested in making a difference in people’s lives. As a child, Charlotte considered becoming a doctor, but she eventually decided to pursue civil engineering instead. She worked in topography for a time before realizing it wasn’t her true passion. When she began working in hydrology, everything changed. She’s been working with ACRA since 2018, and she vows to spend the rest of her life serving others.

Charlotte told our team, “Giving clean water to others is the most humanitarian action you can take.” We couldn’t agree more.

But Charlotte’s love for others went beyond words. When she visited rural communities, she greeted everyone as though they were her dear friends. She radiated passion for her work and care for others, and Shannon and Julia were struck by how much the team admired her.

“Everywhere we went, they all knew Charlotte. Everyone was saying hello to her,” Shannon said.

“Whenever you give someone clean water, they’re deeply grateful. Every time I’ve traveled to the field with our local partners, community members have been deeply grateful to our local partner staff who work with them on a daily basis. But I’ve never experienced anything like the way communities reacted to Charlotte. It was like she was a celebrity!” Julia joked.

Charlotte’s love for others had deep roots. She became emotional describing her experiences seeing people finally have access to clean water.

“When you put a tap stand there and the person opens it for the first time, it’s something magnificent to experience. It’s as if you’ve given all the gold in the world to them,” Charlotte said.

As if you’ve given all the gold in the world to them.

ACRA has made incredible progress in the Ziguinchor region of Senegal. They’ve provided 3.9 million people with clean water since we partnered with them in 2017. Their vision to give every household their own tapstand is the highest possible level of service on the water access ladder. But the need in other parts of the country is still great.

“In one of the communities we visited, we had to drive across a dry river bed. During the rainy season, it’s completely cut off from the main road,” Shannon recounted. “This means it wouldn’t be possible to connect the people living there to the existing piped system, built closer to the main road”

Development organizations are facing similar barriers throughout Senegal. The people who still lack access to clean water often live in the hardest-to-reach places, making building waterpoints increasingly difficult. But the areas that face the most significant challenges also are those with the greatest need.

And yet, Julia and Shannon returned home with a sense of hope. Throughout their visit, they were surrounded by people who were willing to sacrifice to change the world. People like Charlotte—and supporters like you!—inspire us on the journey to create a more sustainable, equitable, and just world.

As Charlotte said, everyone deserves clean water: a resource as precious as gold. Every person deserves to experience something magnificent.