Chalmers-Wesley well project in Togo gets flowing

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Photo: Ruby Pratka

Rev. Éloi Gunn (wearing cap) and his son Loïc Gunn (back row centre) pose with local volunteers involved in the Lankui well project.

The water is flowing in Lankui, central Togo. After more than a year of fundraising by Chalmers-Wesley United Church, a congregation-wide effort which netted more than $15,000, a well has been dug and a 12-metre water tower built to provide drinking water for residents of Lankui and two nearby rural communities. Residents say the well has been in operation for more than two months.

Rev. Éloi Gunn, the supervising minister at Chalmers-Wesley United Church in Quebec City, spearheaded the well-building project as part of a larger initiative called Agu ye dze (The Sun has Risen), which sponsors impoverished schoolchildren in the cities of Lomé and Agbodrafo, runs a cybercafé for students in Lomé and is working toward the development of a sustainable co-operative farming project near Lankui. Gunn explained that the project is mainly financed by his own family – he and his wife each donate 10 per cent of their salaries – along with cash and supplies donated by well-wishers and members of Chalmers-Wesley and other congregations where Gunn has been minister over the past decade.

“It doesn’t take millions of dollars to have an impact,” said Gunn, a former chaplain at CFB Valcartier. “I asked for old computers from Valcartier, they gave me 12, seven worked and that’s how we built the cybercafé.”

For Gunn, who grew up in Agbodrafo, being able to support schoolchildren and provide clean water to a rural community in his native country is a personal victory. “Since my mother was a teacher, we were more fortunate than a lot of families,” he said. “When I was growing up, my dream was that all children would go to school, and I promised my mother that when I finished [university], I would help children in need.”

Gunn explained that primary and secondary education aren’t free in Togo, and school fees, uniforms and supplies often represent a huge expense for families living on a few dollars a day.

“Having school sponsorships changes a lot for us, because we don’t have much here and there are a lot of difficulties in [our children’s] future,” said Comlan Akadja, a fisherman in Agbodrafo whose sons are sponsored by Agu ye dze. “I only went to school until Grade 4; now my eldest is in Grade 3 and he wants to be a doctor.”

In 2008, Gunn launched the school sponsorship program with $35,000, fundraised by a congregation he ministered to in Drumbo, Ont. While following up on the children who were sponsored, Gunn noticed that the families had other needs. “I bought land so people could grow food and feed their children better. I visited with [two people from the Drumbo congregation], and when one of them had to go to the washroom, we realized there was no water.”

More than a decade later, thanks to the donations of Chalmers-Wesley parishioners, the Lankui water tower is finally there. “You can’t just dig a well, it has to be very deep,” Gunn said. Cement, gravel and equipment had to be bought and then driven from Lomé or from neighbouring Ghana into the deep bush around Lankui. A local person has been hired to maintain the well.

“Now we’ll be able to keep water around so we can raise vegetables and irrigate out of season,” said local farmer Linus Ati Kossi. “Once we start the sustainable farming program, it will really help our daily lives. I can’t keep sending my daughter to school if I have no way to pay for it, but with the project, we can invest the money into helping our kids stay in school so they can have better jobs and better lives.”

 

If you are interested in helping support this project in Togo, please visit the Chalmers-Wesley United Church website at www.chalmerswesleyunited.ca and click on the DONATE link. You can specify exactly how you want your donation used, for the Togo well project and/or for the Agu ye dze (The Sun has Risen) school project. 

 

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Rev. Éloi Gunn (right) and his16-year-old son Loïc (left) distribute school supplies to students in need at the Agu ye dze cybercafé in Lomé. Photo by Ruby Pratka

 

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The 12-metre water tower rises above the village of Lankui. Photo by Ruby Pratka