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SWAMPSCOTT — The phrase “service above self” came full circle for the Swampscott Rotary Club on Wednesday.
The group met for a luncheon at Mission on the Bay to honor the BARKA Foundation, a 501(c)3 non-profit charitable organization that provides clean, purified water by drilling wells in African villages and creates jobs for the people of the village. For more than six years, the Swampscott club, in collaboration with the Marblehead Rotary Club, has organized several efforts to raise money for the foundation, including the annual Blessing of the Fleet’s Duct-Tape Regatta race.
“The Rotary is an international organization,” said Swampscott Rotary President Debra Goldberg. “We raise funds for projects that intend to help people. It’s all about service above self.”
The foundation was established in the U.S. in 2006 by co-founders Ina and Esu Anahata. BARKA is an African term that means thank you, blessing and most importantly reciprocity, said Esu Anahata. Their work to provide jobs and purified water is in the African nation Burkina Faso, where they spend most of their time, he said.
“It’s not about the work,” said Ina Anahata. “It’s about the connection we made and the fact that our roots now run very deep within their culture.”
The “20-year story” on how the foundation came to be all started on a spiritual search that brought the couple to Burkina Faso, said Ina Anahata. The two ended up in the city Fada-N’gourma, she said. They fell in love with the natives and immersed themselves into the culture.
After living with them for a while, Ina Anahata said she and Esu learned how humbled the natives were, and how willing they were to share their food despite their nation’s major lack of resources. The couple came back to their home in Maine and founded the organization.
When they reached out to the United Nations to learn how they could help their newfound second home, Ina Anahata said they learned a lot. They got back to Burkina and asked the natives what their greatest need was and the answer was water, she said.
The newly-founded organization found its mission: provide clean water to the African nation. Esu Anahata said they got to work on finding companies that could drill wells inside the villages, at the cost of $10,000 per well. Thankfully, the Anahatas found plenty of willing donors back home in the states, he said.
“It’s not just about drilling a well,” said Esu Anahata. “It’s about creating sustainability within that community. We have the natives charging small mico-frees for water use, so when a well breaks, they have their own funds to fix it.”
Soon after the drilling of the first well, the foundation suggested the Burkina natives establish a governing water committee to maintain the well, which is what created a slew of job opportunities, said Esu Anahata.
Anita Balliro, Swampscott High School retired art teacher, and Chris Ratley, a current math teacher at the town’s high school, both saw the foundation’s work firsthand. The two educators heard about BARKA during the Duct-Tape Regatta and decided to travel out there in 2014, said Balliro. They stayed for one month.
“The women in the village walked seven miles back and forth every single day to get water out of the closest, broken well so they could provide for their families,” said Balliro. “That really got to me because we have so much of it here and we don’t even need all of it. That whole trip changed my life.”
The foundation has a new project underway, said Esu Anahata, with a goal of drilling 20 new wells in Burkina Faso. They are hoping to find more donors willing to help make their goal a reality. At $10,000 a well, the project will cost about $200,000.
At Wednesday’s luncheon, the Swampscott Rotary Club gave BARKA a check for $2,800 toward the project.
“We want to thank you from the bottom of our hearts,” said Ina Anahata.