Clean water, school aid among goals for Saturday 6K at IPFW

A villager in Kenya collects water from a well provided through the group Come Unity.

When Kristin Scott walked miles with women to gather water in Africa, she was shocked by what they found.

The river water typically would be dirty or cloudy with silt, she says. But they filled their water jugs anyway, because it was the only option.

“We take for granted that we turn on our tap and we have clean water. … It’s such a simple thing,” she says.

Inspired by that two-month trip to Kenya, Scott, a Fort Wayne native who lives near Philadelphia, wanted to help the people she met there.

So she founded an organization that builds wells, Come Unity, which is applying for non-profit status.

On Saturday, Come Unity will have its first fundraising race at IPFW.

The 6-kilometer run/walk represents the average distance that the African women she met walk daily to get water, she says.

Scott, who will be in town for the race, hopes the fundraiser will become an annual event.

She grew up here, dancing with Fort Wayne Ballet and graduating from Concordia Lutheran High School in 1996, before heading to Indiana University.

It was during her summer break from the company in 2007 when she decided to make that first trip to Africa. She spent some time living with a family in Nairobi and working with orphans.

“I witnessed firsthand the way these people live. … I got to know the kids and their stories,” she says.

She had seen poverty before, while traveling in New York, Peru, Belize and Mexico, but she wasn’t prepared for what she found in Nairobi.

“ You just can’t walk away from that not wanting to respond.”

In the past two years, Come Unity has built five wells, or boreholes, in Africa and India that provide unlimited access to free water, she says.

The cost of each varies – from $3,000 to $10,000, so far – depending on their depth and location.

Come Unity works with another organization, Help a Child Africa (, to oversee the well projects and provide the training for locals.

“Unfortunately, everything is on Africa time,” she says, adding that the first well project was completed about 18 months behind schedule.

“We drilled once and the well came up dry. It’s just the way things go.”

The first one was dug in Ilbissil, Kenya, on the grounds of two schools and near a church. The second one was dug in a rural community near Gulu, Uganda. Three more were created last year.

Come Unity is still searching for the next location, so Scott will travel to Ethiopia and Kenya in June on a scouting trip.

She’s amazed by the effect the wells have had on the villagers who use them.

“Their lives have been completely changed. They walk a short distance to the borehole. The quality of the water is tested. They say it’s ‘so sweet,’ ” she says.

“Some wells do sell the well water, but that’s not the way we wanted (ours) to be set up. Our well is governed by a local committee. That provides accountability for the community; everybody’s interested in making sure everyone has access,” she says.

The wells are just one of the group’s projects.

Since Kenya’s boarding-school system isn’t free, Come Unity also sponsors girls – who are less likely to be educated than boys – by paying for at least two years of high school.

The sponsor fee ($500 a year) pays for a student’s room and board, supplies, books and uniforms.

A related “cattle campaign” provides dairy cows to families to help them become self-sufficient and generate income for their children’s education. The families jointly own the cattle, working together and sharing resources, she says.

At the end of the two-year program, those families get to keep 90 percent of the cattle (or generated revenue) and give 10 percent to new families, the next class of sponsored children.

“We want to provide a holistic approach to bringing aid to communities.”

Girls’ education is crucial because it can affect everything from a village’s economy to its birth rate, she says.

“We believe that (educated) girls have such an impact on the families. They know they can make something of themselves. They have an invested voice in the community,” Scott says.

That’s probably not something that everyone in this country could say. She still remembers a conversation she had with a woman during her first trip to Africa.

“She said, ‘What about you people? You have everything you want and you’re still not happy,’ ” Scott says.

“From their point of view, we have everything we need. It’s crazy, the abundance that we live in.”

She hopes more Americans will use “surplus” in their lives to help others who lack the basics, she says.

“I believe that what people need is to be generous. We get so much out of giving. There’s a unity in it,” Scott says.