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Water Overflows in Gonok

how a community inspired us to do the impossible

Story by A Glimmer of Hope March 22nd, 2017

They Said It Couldn't Be Done

Ending the global water crisis takes a dedicated global community. Nowhere else in our work have we seen people come together to solve a water crisis as we did for Gonok Village. When others said it couldn't be done, the Glimmer community stepped up.

Today, Gonok has clean water. This story fuels our hope. One day all people in every corner of the world will have clean water.

Here is the story of how Gonok inspired us to do the impossible.


Abeba has lived in Gonok Village in rural Ethiopia for her entire life. Because of where she lives, she shared the burden of millions of girls and women across rural Africa – spending hours each day collecting unsafe drinking water, instead of going to school or earning an income.

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Three times a day, Abeba descended into a gorge, collected water shared with animals and carried a 40-pound jerry can back up the steep mountain pass. She brought home water contaminated with disease and feces that threatened the lives of her children. As did the other women and girls in Gonok, Abeba had visible wounds on her shoulders from the weight of carrying a jerry can for four hours every day.

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Like all the women and girls in her village, Abeba had little chance to thrive and change the course of her children’s lives without clean water. She would have to do what many parents do here – marry her girls into families outside of Gonok. No one wants this life for their daughters.

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For years, Abeba advocated for clean water for her children and community. Abeba’s voice became louder and began to reach beyond Gonok. More and more people heard about the treacherous walk for water.

Yet, everyone who visited told the people that clean water in Gonok is impossible. The village is too remote, the complexity of a deep well is too much.


In 2011, Abeba met Glimmer’s founder, Donna Berber.

Abeba stepped through the crowd around Donna that day and challenged her, which broke cultural norms and expectations of women in Ethiopia. With pain and anger in her voice, she asked Donna:

"What is the day like for your children? Why is it this way?"

Together, Donna and Abeba gathered water. They talked about their love for their children – and the great injustice of the different worlds in which they lived. Donna told Abeba that no woman, no person should ever have to bear this burden. Then Donna promised to work with Abeba and her community.


The Most Difficult Project

The solution for clean water in Gonok posed a huge challenge. It would take creative thinking (and camels) to bring in materials across rough terrain, a deep well to reach the water table, miles of hand-dug pipeline to distribute water throughout the community, and solar power to pump thousands of gallons of water in an area with no electricity. This was an expensive, challenging project that needed steadfast support.

We worked hand in hand with the people of Gonok and tackled every challenge that came our way. Together, we were constructing the largest solar-powered water project in the entire region.

A drilling rig hits water deep below the surface.
Camels bring in supplies when delivery trucks can't get through the narrow path into Gonok.
The reservoir overlooking Gonok holds 13,000 gallons of clean drinking water.
Solar power pumps water from the reservoir to the local school, health clinic and nearby homes.
Community members dig deep trenches for pipes that will carry water to nine points.
Five miles of pipeline traverse the mountainous terrain to bring clean water to the entire community.

Communities Come Together

More and more people heard about Gonok. High school students led fundraisers after visiting Gonok and experiencing the difficulties of living without clean water. Families set up campaigns that brought in hundreds of small donations. Our supporters from around the globe stepped up to ensure this project happened.



As the sun rises, Abeba wakes to the sounds of a new day in Gonok Village. Before school and work begin, early morning is a time of cooking and cleaning. With safe, clean water. Now, just steps away from Abeba's front door.

Abeba's life is already easier. The wounds on her shoulders have healed. She does not have to leave the house at 3 a.m. to gather water before her children wake. She even has enough water for her garden. She tells us that daily life has been truly transformed in Gonok.

"Now everything is changed for the women and girls."
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With the turn of the faucet, clean water flows. For Abeba and her children. For her neighbors and her community. Today and for years to come.

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Today, Abeba welcomes Donna back to her village to celebrate this triumph for this community that she envisioned years ago. What seemed impossible to many has become a story of what is possible when we come together. The people of Gonok now call Glimmer, and all who joined in this effort, Moses. Because together, we did the impossible.

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Abeba sits on the local committee that manages the new well in Gonok. After advocating for years, she celebrates her role in accomplishing this feat and all that is now possible for her family and her community.

Thank you from Glimmer and the people of Gonok TO everyone who made this project happen.

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Glimmer is building on our progress with more life-saving projects across rural Ethiopia.

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