By Laura Acuff, Opinion Editor
Lack of access to clean drinking water causes 5 million deaths each year worldwide, according to the Wishing Well Web site at www.wishingwellafrica.com, and some African women spend more than six hours a day walking to water sources, which may be dirty or parasite-infested.
With conditions so dire a world away, junior sociology major Ben Fulfer of Cordova, Tenn., and junior accounting major Stephen Powell from Abilene knew they could not comfortably sit by at ACU.
Last semester, the students approached associate professor of Bible Dr. Curt Niccum, who prior to working at ACU, had sponsored an organization called Wishing Well at Oklahoma Christian University. The boys knew of the organization’s goal to fund water wells in Africa and, with the help of Niccum as sponsor, wanted to start an ACU chapter Wishing Well.
“We just looked at each other and said, ‘We need to do this here,’ because we wanted to change the face of ACU’s campus to make it an action-oriented campus, to do something tangible,” Fulfer said.
Now, the organization has a Facebook group, conducts a small group Chapel on Thursdays and hopes to add $3,000 more to the $1,000 already collected to build a well in Africa.
Niccum said while other campus-based social justice organizations engage in philanthropic activities, the single-minded goal and fundraising strategies of the ACU chapter Wishing Well separate it from other campus social justice organizations.
Devoted totally to raising money to construct water wells in Africa, Wishing Well strives to utilize student ability to earn money. Past fundraisers have included musical shows by local talent and the sale of crafts and art by ACU students. So far, 100 percent of raised proceeds support the goal of well construction, Niccum said, although he hopes eventually the group will attract big-name performers like Derek Webb and Caedman’s Call, in which case, some profits might cover costs.
“I think that’s what makes this a very, very special type of program,” Niccum said. “We are purposefully getting people who typically haven’t had the opportunity to contribute using their talents. This is very much of, but it’s not limited to the artistic realm. That has been what has been very powerful because artistic expressions provide sort of a catalyst for change in very expressive ways.”
Although government funding already is diverted to African countries for AIDS relief, Niccum said the need for clean water presents another deserving cause.
With some African governments facing lack of means and others corruption, many find well construction an unreachable goal without aid. But in addition to practical reasons for global philanthropy, Niccum said he views the work as a moral obligation.
“Of course, I take it from a Biblical perspective,” Niccum said. “I believe we’re supposed to be continuing the ministry of Jesus, and Jesus was certainly focused on social justice. The mission was to spread the kingdom of God here and now. The question is how many children must die while we wait for the governments to act while American Christians are so wealthy and can help solve the problem right now.”
Students interested in contributing to or helping with ACU’s chapter of Wishing Well may attend the Thursday chapel in Biblical Studies Building Room 112 or contact Fulfer or Stephens. The chapter’s Facebook group is called “Wishing Well @ ACU.”