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Introducing Sandra Getuba - Director of Development for a Great Domain Industry Supported Charity Organization - The Water School

Sep 2nd 2010 at 11:44 PM

Introducing Sandra Getuba - Director of Development for a Great Domain Industry Supported Charity Organization - The Water School

As most of our regular readers know, The Water School has been "adopted" by many as the unofficial charity of the domain industry. The Canada-based non-profit organization has developed a cost effective water purification program that is saving lives in Africa and other developing nations around the world (see our February 2010 newsletter for an account of an industry supported climb of Africa's Mount Kilimanjaro that raised almost $200,000 for The Water School).

The organization was founded by Fraser Edwards and water scientist Bob Dell who have put together an energetic staff of impressive young people who plan to carry on the founders work for decades to come. One of
those young TWS leaders (whom I had the pleasure of meeting and talking with at the T.R.A.F.F.I.C. Vancouver conference last month) is the organization's Director Development, Sandra Getuba.
I wanted to give you a little more insight into what The Water School is all about, the caliber of people who carry out its work and why it has gained so much support with the domain industry. I decided the best way to do that would be to share a recent chat with Sandra Getuba with you.


DN Journal: Sandra, let’s start from the beginning. Tell us where you born and a little bit about your birth place and family growing up.



Sandra Getuba
Director of Development
The Water School



Sandra Getuba: I was born in Kenya in a little town called Kendu Bay located on the shore of Lake Victoria. Kendu Bay by the way is the birthplace of Barack Obama’s father! In those days, good hospitals were not common in Africa so my mother traveled to a little mission hospital on Kendu Bay. It was a difficult trip and unbeknownst to her, she was carrying triplets. Two did not survive. But I did and all my life I have always had the feeling that the circumstances of my birth indicate that I am here for a special reason. I don’t know what it is (still trying to figure it out!) but I know it’s definitely to do with helping those less fortunate than I am.
My parents were young university students when they had my younger sister and I. We lived in Nairobi (the capital city of Kenya) but we traveled to the village almost every school holiday to spend time with our grandparents, cousins and other relatives. Life in Nairobi vs. life in the village was very different. In the city we had access to all things modern. In the village, my cousins and I spent our days, fetching water from the river, collecting firewood, tending to the garden, picking tea and yes, grazing cows! It was important to my parents that we stayed in touch with the way of life of millions of Kenyans lest we take our own lives for granted. They wanted us to appreciate what we had and at the same time, be compassionate to those who had less than we did.


DN Journal: At what point in your life did you start thinking about what you might want to do with your life and how you could go about accomplishing your goals?


Sandra Getuba: Growing up, my friends used to tease me that one day I would be a humanitarian of some sort. I was a tiny little thing with a smart mouth who often rushed to the defense of kids being picked on by bullies. At the time, my compassion for those who could not defend themselves was the driving force behind my recklessness. That temperament diminished over time but I never stopped empathizing with the less fortunate. I have always known that I wanted to help them in some way. When I went abroad to study, I became even more aware of the injustices that people in developing countries face as they struggle to secure basic needs such as water, food, education and shelter. I knew that I was very lucky to have the opportunities that had brought me to where I was and I knew that one day I wanted to give back to my own people in some capacity, to give a voice to the voiceless. I had no idea how but I knew the first step was to finish my studies first then figure out the next step.

DN Journal: Cultures around the world vary greatly. Were there any particular obstacles in your country that a young woman has to pursue a career or particular goals?

Sandra Getuba: Even in these modern times, there are many obstacles that young women in Africa face when trying to pursue their careers. How they overcome them depends a lot on the level of education they have and the kind of support they get from their own families. Most obstacles pertain to the vulnerability of women in African societies which are structured in a way that prevent them from pursuing successful careers. For example, many communities (especially in the rural areas) marry off young girls before they have a chance to finish high school or even primary school in some cases. Once this happens, they have very little hope in having a career of any sort. Women are expected to play the role of wife and primary caregiver and which takes precedence over everything else. It is difficult to break this mentality especially in the rural areas.
Some career obstacles that young women face are similar to what we sometimes see out here in the west. Those who manage to pursue careers face significant challenges in the workplace with regard to advancing up the corporate ladder or even getting the same salaries as their male counterparts.



DN Journal: You wound up going to Australia for college. Tell us how that came about and what stands out in your mind about your years there.

Sandra Getuba: My parents valued education and they sacrificed a lot so that my siblings and I would go to good schools. My mother was the first girl in her entire village to go to university. When I completed my high school, they decided to send me to Australia for my university studies. Universities in Kenya at the time were pretty unstable. Riots were common and they often forced local universities to shut down such that a four year degree would take 6 years because of constant interruptions. Parents who could afford, or rather barely afford, sent their kids abroad to study in places like the U.S., UK, Canada, Australia or even India. Most would put their kids on a plane with the first semester’s fees and then it was up to them to take care of themselves for the rest of their studies. This usually has unfortunate consequences because it is unbearably difficult for kids to earn a living to pay for fees and living expenses all while studying. Most cannot cope and they drop out, go underground (because they violate their visa status) or go back home.
My mother traveled to Australia on business and was impressed by its people and beauty. She collected some brochures and application forms for me and we applied to at least 5 universities. University of Wollongong (located an hour and a half south of Sydney) responded with impressive speed so that is where I ended up. So at nineteen and never having left the country, much less my parent’s home, I was shipped to Australia to study. The deal was that I would work for my living expenses and my parents would pay my fees. My sister joined me a couple of years later and while it was nice to have family, it was a difficult burden on my parents. A few times,


One of The Water School's most
fervent supporters, Gregg McNair (PPX
International), with Sandra Getuba at T.R.A.F.F.I.C. Vancouver - June 2010



Sandra Getuba (at far right) chats with
guests at a dinner honoring The Water School
hosted by domain investor Richard Lau
in Vancouver, Canada - June 2010


they relied on the goodwill of relatives and friends to fundraise or borrow money to pay for our fees. In my final semester, they had just about exhausted every option. My sister suspended her studies so I could finish mine and my parents sold their last piece of land to pay my fees. I was still about $1,000 dollars short and was not going to graduate unless I paid the balance. A few amazing Australians put together a quick fundraiser and raised that money for me without my knowing it. I graduated knowing that it was the kindness and charity of a few human beings that made it possible.


DN Journal: After you completed college, tell us about the career path that led you to Canada and an eventual connection with The Water School?


Sandra Getuba: I studied Psychology in university which gave me insight into human relations but I knew it was
not going to solve the world’s problems. As soon as I moved to Canada, I enrolled in a postgraduate program in International Project Management at Humber College in Toronto. It was an intensive, practical program that focused on international development issues. I did a six month internship in Tanzania with a microfinance NGO which further opened my eyes to the issues that Africans face.

As soon as I came back to Canada, I was diagnosed with Lupus which forced me to slow down and focus on my health for a while. This setback prevented me from going back to Africa to work because I needed to have access to a good healthcare system. I fell into fundraising quite by accident after getting a job as a Project Coordinator with a leading fundraising management firm called Ketchum Canada Inc (KCI) based in Toronto. While there, Fraser Edwards approached me to draft a funding proposal for The Water School which he had just started with Bob Dell.

I moved to Edmonton shortly afterwards and continued to build my fundraising experience as a Fundraising Coordinator at Ronald McDonald House. I continued to maintain contact with Fraser Edwards and occasionally bugged him for a job with The Water School but the timing was never right. Eventually, the need for The Water School to expand its programs and increase staff could not be put off any longer. Neither could my desire to work for a charity that is involved with international development. On April 1st 2010, I started my role as a Director of Development for The Water School. In a nutshell, it is up to me to raise funds for The Water School programs in Africa (and wherever we expand to in the future) and to help raise awareness in communities across Canada on the work that we do and that impact that we are having.



The Water School's founders:
Bob Dell (left) and Fraser Edwards.


DN Journal: The Water School’s system for bringing clean drinking waters to developing nations is so efficient and cost effective and it is easy to see why anyone would want to get involved. Of course, you have a personal history with a continent where the Water School has been especially active so have a unique perspective. From your viewpoint, tell us what you thought about the program when you were introduced to it and the good you have seen it do first hand.


Sandra Getuba: Back in 2007 when Fraser Edwards approached me for help with a funding proposal, I began to research on solar disinfection (SODIS). I was completely blown away by the whole concept and the potential impact it could have on my own people. I had seen firsthand the effects of drinking contaminated water. I have numerous little cousins and relatives that suffer untold misery as a result of waterborne diseases and I could see how an organization like the Water School could change their lives. I have an eleven year old cousin out in the village called Moraa. We share the same name because we are both named after our great grandmother. Her father (my uncle) died of HIV/AIDS about 3 years ago and my grandmother helped their mother look after Moraa and her siblings until she died last year. Ever since Moraa was a little girl she was always home sick with diarrhea and stomach pains. It was discovered years later that her symptoms were related to Typhoid, a serious waterborne disease that plagues thousands of people in Africa. Moraa, a very bright girl, had missed so much school that she had to repeat a couple of grades.

A few of the many people helped by
The Water School's efforts in Kenya.



The Water School program significantly impacts the lives of families and school children like Moraa. Most families are too poor to afford firewood to boil water or buy chlorine tablets or filters to treat their water. Children miss countless of days of school because they are too sick from diarrhea to attend school. The program that we run at The Water School ensures that children like Moraa do not have to miss school. It gives people an alternative method of treating water that is effective, simple and affordable.
My dream is that The Water School program will reach every village in Africa. People need not suffer and children need not die because of preventable waterborne diseases. We at The
Water School look at the work we are doing as a movement, an organized effort to bring about positive, lasting change in communities which do not have access to clean drinking water.


DN Journal: Fraser Edwards has said that you are part of a team of young people that he and Bob are mentoring so their work will continue after they have gone. Tell us about how the relationship between Fraser, yourself, James and Brad and what you have learned from the Water School founders.


Sandra Getuba: Fraser and Bob (I, respectfully, call them the old guards!) have always had the vision that The Water School movement would be carried forward by young people who are committed to issues the organization is trying to address. Bradley Pierik is studying his Masters in Chemical Engineering at the University of British Columbia and the idea is that he will continue to keep The Water School at the forefront of cutting edge research where water treatment technology is concerned. He is developing a relationship with Eawag, a Swiss federal water research organization that is the world leader in SODIS research and that implements SODIS projects in 24 countries. James Morfopolous, also a Masters student, recently came on board to assist with our marketing and communications efforts. He is focusing right now on the promoting and coordinating the Mount Kilimanjaro climb that will take place in March 2011.


The three of us bring a youthful and fresh perspective to The Water School that Bob and Fraser find very valuable. On the other hand were learning a lot from Bob and Fraser who have many years of experience in doing what they do. We have to sustain the vision and put measures in place now that will make sure that The Water School vision outlives us all.

The Water School staff members (left to right) Sandra Getuba,
James Morfopoulous and Brad Pierik with Water School Co-Founder Fraser Edwards.

DN Journal: Many people in the domain industry have begun supporting Water School efforts. Tell us a little bit about how much good even a small donation can do. Also, how can those who want to lend a hand best support the effort?

Sandra Getuba: At the recent T.R.A.F.F.I.C. conference in Vancouver, I got to meet and talk to a few of people in the domain industry who are supporters of the Water School and I was amazed by their level of commitment and dedication. They have a sincere desire to see The Water School grow and impact more people. For most of them, it took a trip to Africa to visit our projects or to participate in the Mount Kilimanjaro Climb for Clean Water (or both) for them to be convinced that the need is real and the impact of our program is profound.


The Water School relies on donations to carry out our mission. Every dollar helps. $50 will provide clean water to an entire family of five. For life. For a lot of people $50 is nothing. But for thousands of people in Africa, it is a matter of life or death. It is everything. It means that a mother does not have to worry about her children getting sick from drinking contaminated water. It means that a child does not have to miss school.


There are several ways in which people in the domain industry can lend their support to The Water School. They can participate in next year’s Mount Kilimanjaro Climb for Clean Water that will take place in March 2011. If they are unable to do so, they can sponsor a climber or they can make a direct donation to The Water School through our website or by mail. Please visit www.waterclimb.com for more information. Alternatively, they can get in touch with James Morfopoulos at James@morfopoulos.com or by phone at 778-829-0073.

We welcome and are always thankful for donations (no matter what the amount is). Donations can be made directly on our website www.thewaterschool.com or by mailing a cheque to 112 Lakeside Views Strathmore, Alberta Canada T1P 1Z7. Charitable tax receipts are issued with every donation.
Thanks to a very generous donor, our 2010 administrative expenses are taken care of so 100% of the donations go directly to The Water School projects

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