In September 2005 Amman Imman founder and Executive Director Ariane Kirtley began her work in the pastoral region of the Azawak, Niger as a Fulbright Scholar conducting public health research. There, she witnessed children traveling up to 30 miles a day searching for water, often in vain. She met with families who had spent their life resources hand digging over 300 feet into the ground, yet never reaching water despite the many years of labor. She spoke with fathers who had lost their traditional way of life as herders because the rainfall had dwindled from five months to one month annually in just a decade, all of whose animals had perished from thirst and hunger. Her research indicated that among the region’s 500,000 inhabitants one out of two children die before the age of five, mostly due to dehydration and water-related illnesses.
Perhaps even more alarming than their distressing living conditions, the communities of the Azawak were receiving little or no assistance from the rest of the world to help them adapt and survive. Yet to Ariane, their need was so simple and obvious: every mother, father, child, and local government official she talked with asked for her help in bringing water to their land. Seeing this as the responsibility of experienced development organizations, she set out to bring the plight of the Azawak to their attention and to request their assistance.
The organizations she pursued did not respond favorably. Ariane heard excuses for not working in the region. It was too poor. There was no infrastructure. At the same time, Ariane had a profound and moving experience: there were several new deaths within her new community of friends due to the encroaching dry season and the profound lack of water. Yet, there was water in a huge aquifer just beneath her feet, plenty of it - and it was pure and sweet water. But there was a major obstacle, the water source lay at a minimum depth of 600 feet and it was not just under the sand – there was also solid African bedrock to drill through. Undaunted, Ariane was determined to bring water to these great and ancient people. But not only would it take money, it would also require the courage and skill know-how of many different people. So, with the untiring help and encouragement of loved ones --primarily Ariane’s father, Michael Kirtley; husband, Denis Gontero; and dear friend, Dennis Hamilton – Amman Imman : Water is Life was founded in February 2006. Upon hearing of the Azawak’s beauty and calamity, Reverend Janet Cornelius provided seed money for Amman Imman to begin operations drilling water wells in the Azawak.
Amman Imman’s Origins as a program of the Friendship Caravan
For the first four years of existence, Amman Imman: Water is Life operated as the humanitarian program of the American 501c3, The Friendship Caravan. In this short time, Amman Imman established flourishing operations in America and in Niger.
Program Amman Imman’s first successful
project was to construct a water bearing borehole for 25,000 people and
animals in the village of Tangarwashane. The organization also the
instigated getting the borehole of Tchinwagari built. After
construction of these wells, program personnel provided extensive follow
up and guidance in order to ascertain proper management and sustainability
of the boreholes.
In the United States, Amman Imman
established administrative, fundraising, and awareness-raising
structures while operating as a program of the Friendship
Caravan. The program grew to have its own office and small
staff, as well as a blossoming service learning program entitled Wells of
Love, directed by Amman Imman’s current Associate Director, Debra
Amman Imman: Water is Life Today and its Vision for the Future
As Amman Imman: Water is Life has
proceeded to bring water and hope to the Azawak of West Africa, the
organization’s vision has blossomed. We plan on creating fifty or
more “Oases of Life” across the Azawak. Life there begins and ends
with water or the lack thereof. With Amman Imman’s construction of
water-bearing boreholes all other forms of development can sprout (such as
schools, health clinics, opportunities for commerce, appropriate
agricultural and livestock technologies and environmental protection
programs). Furthermore, through the provision of sustainable and permanent
water sources, Amman Imman will continue saving thousands of
lives and providing hope to the half-million people of the Azawak
region. Once Amman Imman is successful in planting firmly rooted
oases of life throughout the Azawak, it will seek out other abandoned and
extremely vulnerable populations of the world to help establish stability,
life, and hope in these communities.