A small group people are saving lives halfway around the world in an office near the Four Corners in Penfield.
While many people have heard the story of the Lost Boys of the Sudan, and even of the Water for South Sudan initiative, they may not realize that the office is close to home and how far their reached has grown.
The story of Salva, one of the Lost Boys who ended up in Rochester after most of his family was killed by the war in South Sudan, is known to many in the area. The story of his journey, “A Long Walk for Water,” by Linda Soo Park, is required reading in many middle schools across the country. And from that story, fundraisers have sprung up to raise money to dig wells in South Sudan. Each well costs $15,000. Schools that raise at least $1,000 are entered into a drawing to win a visit from Salve, who is welcomed like a rock star by these students.
At the head of this organization is Lynn Malooly, a native of Chicago, who came to Rochester with her husband after graduating from the University of Notre Dame. After homeschooling her children through their teens, Malooly took a job as the office manager at this nonprofit. Her enthusiasm and dedication for the mission of this organization led to her rise to executive director in 2010, and the organization now boasts 4 1/2 employees in Rochester and 30 in South Sudan, including two country directors.
With additional support from other organizations, including St. Paul’s and Downtown Presbyterian church locally, Water for South Sudan is able to build about 40 wells a year.
“U.S. dollars go very far in Africa,” said Malooly. “We are able to do so much with a very modest amount of money.”
Over 335 wells have been built to date.
In developing countries, women and children spend much of their days collecting water from streams and rivers that are often polluted and carrying disease. Wells in the villages can change the dynamic of the community and keep the residents more healthy. Clean water also promotes less unrest in the area. Water for South Sudan expanded to providing toilets for schools and teaching hygiene education and water sanitation.
With such a demanding job, Malooly finds ways to recharge through her membership at Penfield Sport and Fitness on Panorama Trail. Her favorite class is group centergy, taught by Bonnie Sunderville, general manager and fitness consultant.
“It’s just such a great overall workout,” said Malooly. “It puts me on track for the entire week. I even set my alarm on Saturday so I don’t miss it.”
The members of the Penfield fitness club also have held fundraisers for Water for South Sudan, raising $2,500 through their “Dig a well, Dig into Fitness” campaign. Another fundraiser is planned for this fall.
“Lynn is an example of members who make a difference,” said Sunderville. “Most of our fundraising is for local organizations, such as Golisano Children’s Hospital. But everyone understands the importance of water to health and life, and it’s great we can make a difference for those on the other side of the globe.”
Water for South Sudan will celebrate its 15th anniversary this October with a brunch. Salve will be there. Visit WaterforSouthSudan.org for more information. Volunteers are welcome, and there is a special need for engineers, who can offer their advice and experience to those working directly on the wells.
“We’re easy to find,” said Malooly. “In the yellow building right across the street from Dunkin’ Donuts.”