A decade of bringing water to the world

Cheru Lotuliapus, 9, wearing her school uniform, fills her kettle with clean water at the tap at her home. Cheru benefits from a 16-kilometer, gravity-fed World Vision pipeline that brings clean water to her community in Kenya. Along with other children, she used to walk more than 6 km daily to collect unsafe water from a dried riverbed for school and home use. Now the pipeline brings water to both places. (Photos courtesy Jon Warren/World Vision)
Jon Warren()

Wellspring of the Park Rapids Area has provided over $1 million dollars and given 82,000 people in Africa the gift of clean water in the past 10 years.

“Clean water is something most of us take for granted,” Chris Pope, a senior area director of philanthropy at World Vision said. “At my home, I have 12 faucets, and every time I turn one on, water that’s clean and safe comes out. For people in many parts of the world, that’s unimaginable. The money raised by Wellspring is helping change that in partnership with World Vision.”

Cheru is one of those whose lives has been changed by Wellspring. When she was 5, she walked several miles every day to help collect water for their family in Kenya. While her mother carried a five-gallon jerry can weighing 48 pounds, Cheru carried water in a teapot.

Pope said the water they walk so far to gather is often filled with parasites and bacteria that cause diarrhea and other diseases.

“Having clean water close to home eliminates those diseases and the long hours and energy spent hauling water,” Pope said. “The impact of clean water on girls is stunning. Going on these walks puts them in a vulnerable position. Now they can go to class. And having latrines at school means girls can still attend when they have their period. Before, they would miss a week every month and that would put them so far behind in their work that they quit school. The longer a girl stays in school, the better mother she’ll be and her children tend to be better nourished and become better educated. That has a ripple effect throughout the whole community.”


Pope said the small Park Rapids group has played a big part in the effort to get clean water to those in need.

“This group has raised $1,222,700 for clean water in Africa in just 10 years,” he said. “That’s stunningly successful given the size of the community. It’s a testament to what can be achieved when a committed group of people work together toward a shared goal and it’s also reflective of the generosity of the greater Park Rapids community.”

Jennifer Therkilsen-Gebhard is president of the Park Rapids Wellspring chapter. “We are closing in on the 1,000 well goal with 903 completed and 97 to go,” she said. “Every dollar donated gets turned in to clean water in partnership with World Vision, bringing new life to people around the world. With running water people can water their plants, feed themselves better, and have time to develop products to take to market. Water is such an amazing multiplier of good.”

Starting the Park Rapids chapter

Carl Wall and Steve Steinborn started the Park Rapids chapter of Wellspring in August 2011.

“I was on the board of Wellspring of the World in Fargo,” Wall said. “When we moved to Park Rapids, I talked with Steve and we began building a group of people who were willing to serve on our leadership council.”

Steinborn said the mission of Wellspring was quickly embraced by the community. “We met with service groups like the Rotary and the Lions, churches and individuals,” he said.

By the end of 2011, the Park Rapids chapter had already funded six wells.

Some Wellspring members have gone to Africa on “vision trips” to see the wells their donations helped build. “Going on one of those trips is one of the highlights of my life,” Wall said.


Steinborn went on a vision trip to Kenya in 2018 with nine other Park Rapids area residents. “We met the most beautiful, wonderful people living in homes that were huts made of sticks, mud, cow dung and weeds,” he said. “We met a lady who started walking at 1 a.m. and got back home at 11 a.m., walking 11 miles one way to fetch two buckets of muddy water. Wellspring is the most wonderful way to share God’s love with other people.”

Clean water for all by 2030

Wellspring is part of a much bigger goal for the next 10 years.

“There are still around 700 million people in this world who are drinking contaminated water every day,” Wall said. “The entire world has committed that in the year 2030 every single person in the world will be within 15 minutes of clean water for the first time in civilization’s history. My wife, Carol, and I were privileged to be in New York City when this was announced in 2014. The 192 nations of the U.N. General Assembly will work together towards this goal along with other private organizations.”

World Vision is one of those organizations. They provide more than just wells.

“When a person donates to Wellspring, there is sustainability of their gift,” Wall said. “It will help that village for 20-25 years. Just to drill a well isn’t enough. World Vision has an inclusive approach of teaching proper health and sanitation practices before the well is drilled. People take ownership of their wells and maintain them.

“We’re near the end of our 1,000 well campaign to bring clean water to 315,000 people in Africa. Even though we aren’t able to do in-person fundraising, generous donors are sending in money. These gifts go immediately to World Vision and out in the field to bring clean water to people who need it so badly.”

Therkilsen-Gebhard said gifts of any size are welcome.

“There is an amazing six-times match in place, enabling a $2,500 gift to multiply into a $15,000 well,” she said. “This gives your gift even more impact. During COVID-19. people are supposed to wash their hands frequently to slow the spread, so they need clean water more than ever. The need is so great and the opportunity to be able to address that need and make a difference is phenomenal.


“We are so grateful there are a lot of people in this community with generous hearts who are willing to make that difference."

Donations can be sent to Wellspring, PO Box 936, Park Rapids, MN 56470 or via the website

Lorie Skarpness has lived in the Park Rapids area since 1997 and has been writing for the Park Rapids Enterprise since 2017. She enjoys writing features about the people and wildlife who call the north woods home.
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