WATER for Africa 

began as a study abroad experience for nursing, engineering, and liberal arts studentsat Gonzaga and James Madison universities. Since 2007, over 85 students and 6 different faculty have taken part in these efforts. We have worked with the Songhai Centre in Porto Novo, Benin, to develop the capacity to manufacture and sell ceramic water filters; provided basic health and first aid education to students and workers at the Songhai Center; and worked with Centre Afrika Obota, the village of Zoungbomey, and Songhai Centre to acquire palm oil processing equipment for Zoungbomey to support its social and economic development goals. We began WATER for Africa as a means of providing financial assistance for projects like these. If you can help us With a Donation to WATER, please complete our contact form.

The Republic of Benin is our specific geographic area of focus, but we also will work with other countries in west Africa when needs are identified. We have a particular interest in Benin because of the relationships we have established there with the Songhai Centre, a United Nations Center of Excellence for Sustainable Development, and Centre Afrika Obota, a west African non-governmental organization that works with communities on social, health, and economic development projects.

We view technology and education as complementary interventions for addressing health and quality of life issues. Culturally appropriate and sustainable technology can provide the “how-to” for solving community-identified problems, but education is also required to help empower a community to sustain the technology that supports better living. We believe that the best solutions require the expertise of committed individuals with diverse backgrounds. We especially see value in linking knowledge and skills from engineering, nursing, education, business, and the liberal arts.

“Reciprocity” is a part of our name because we believe that sustainable relationships require an exchange of knowledge and partnerships. Reciprocity emphasizes our goal of supporting two-way interaction:  west Africans coming to the United States to study and learn and teach, just as we travel to west Africa to do the same. 

Our Values and Philosophy --

We believe that problems can only be solved, and needs can only be met, if a community is actively involved in identifying its problems and needs, and its desired outcomes. A community’s priorities become our priorities.

We believe that our participation must fit with the culture, values, beliefs, and economic and environmental realities of a community if it is to be meaningful and sustainable. The assistance we provide is guided by ethical principles such as respect for human dignity and self-determination, beneficence and non-maleficence, and justice. 

We value partnership, collaboration, and empowerment. We recognize that, in the end, only Africans can solve Africa’s problems and achieve its goals. We view ourselves as consultants and assistants, and our intent is to turn the long term maintenance of any project over to community members.

We believe that creating awareness and providing education – to American students, to the general public in the US, and to African citizens – are fundamental to improving health and quality of life in Africa.

Our Partners --

Songhai Center

The Songhai Center is a United Nations Center of Excellence - a model of sustainable development that is being replicated in 17 countries throughout Africa. The vision of the Songhai Center is to establish an entrepreneurial platform of integrated development, an enabling environment to find social, economic, technical, and organizational solutions that will take Africans out of poverty, pulling them towards autonomy and sustainable socioeconomic development. 

The Songhai centre in Benin: Entrepreneurship development in Agriculture

Center Afrika Obota

Centre Afrika Obota (C.A.O.) is a non profit, non-governmental organization that aims to contribute to African unity and development through research and indigenous resource mobilization, education, promotion of democracy and human rights at the grassroots, solidarity and panafricanism. 

The WATER program is working with CAO on improving resources at CAO organized health clinics. In 2010, the WATER program helped to install palm oil machinery in the village of Houezounme Kpevi. This support in the words of project manager, Marino de Souza, will bring a revolution in development, allowing women in the work cooperative to afford school and health care for their children.

Our Faculty--

Professor Susan Norwood

Dr. Susan Norwood is a Spokane native, having lived in Spokane since she was two:

I earned my Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Pacific Lutheran University and then returned to Spokane to work at Sacred Heart Medical Center as an obstetrical nurse for just over two years. I then earned my Master’s in Nursing from the University of Washington and a certificate as a Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner from Harbor-UCLA Medical Center. Once again I returned to Spokane – this time to work as a women’s health care nurse practitioner. My first teaching position was with the Intercollegiate Center for Nursing Education (WSU) – and I soon became hooked on teaching! Reflecting back on my years of doing direct patient care, though, I realized that patient teaching had always been my favorite part of any position. I earned my Doctorate in Educational Leadership from Gonzaga and have been teaching at GU since 1991. I have taught a wide variety of courses to both graduate and undergraduate nursing students. My favorite content areas to teach are population-focused health, health care systems and health policy, and research – topics that are a great fit for the WATER program!

I believe my role as a teacher is to facilitate students’ learning – to uncover knowledge and understanding, rather than merely cover content. Sometimes this means asking students to get out of their comfort zone of thinking a bit. Always, in my classes, this means a focus on hands-on application of the content. My goals are to make course content seem immediately useful and relevant to students and to stimulate life-long learning.

Professor Bradley Striebig

Some of Dr. Striebig’s earliest and fondest memories are of exploring the streams and mountains along the Appalachian Chain and in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. What he now calls experiential learning, but previously called play, has greatly influenced his choice to obtain a Ph.D. in environmental engineering and work to promote sustainable development and engineering practices. 

Dr. Striebig is a founding engineering faculty member at James Madison University which accepted in first engineering students in 2008. Dr. Striebig came to the JMU School of from Gonzaga University where he developed the WATER program in cooperation with Dr. Susan Norwood and other faculty members. Dr. Striebig is also the former Head of the Environmental Technology Group at Penn State’s Applied Research Laboratory. In addition to Dr’ Striebig’s engineering work, he is also a published freelance photographer who has works with local and international NGOs. Dr. Striebig is the founding editor and current assistant editor of the Journal of Engineering for Sustainable Development and an assistant editor for the Journal of Green Building. His engineering and photography work has been published in numerous book chapters, journals and magazines.

Dr. Striebig has offered students the opportunity to study international sustainable development in Benin since 2004. He has also assisted with projects in India, Kenya, Malta and Rwanda. 

Dr. Striebig feels very fortunate to be friends with my colleagues at James Madison University, Gonzaga University, and in Africa who share the same passion for sustainable development. He feels particularly grateful to Father Nzamujo Godfrey. It was Nzamujo’s vision and endurance in creating the Songhai Center that has inspired and served as a role model for my own scholarship since 2004. Dr. Striebig feels fortunate to have been a teacher, and in that role his students have taught him how to approach engineering from a humanistic perspective. With the help of these colleagues and students, he was awarded the EWB 2010 Outstanding Faculty Advisor Award. He is particularly proud of his student’s work in Benin, where students have helped to develop a water filter manufacturing center, water quality laboratory, and health clinic.  

He feels incredibly lucky to be able to work each year with dedicated students and faculty in the pursuit of living more sustainable lives. He has been blessed with two children who bring home the importance of pursuing sustainability. They also serve as a constant reminder that the pursuit of ones curiosity can be a fun, exciting and sometimes downright silly pursuit - and also a meaningful journey. He is indebted to his wife and family for helping and encouraging him to pursue his work and dreams.

Listen to Dr. Striebig's inerview with international photographer Martin Bailey about the WATER program

Below are links to interviews with Dr. Striebig about his work in sustainable development:

NPR interview with Dr. Striebig about initiatives to develop sustainable health centers