Early History of HAVE

Early History of HAVE – an article written by Gerard Feltham in September, 2006


Gerard (Gerry) Feltham

During my summer holidays as a teacher (July and August) in 1981, I travelled (mostly via train) alone throughout much of India, where I was practically overwhelmed by the sight of poverty, the excessive heat, and the apparent lack of suitable drinking water for its population of about one billion people. Particularly in South India, it was a summer when the land was scorched, with little to no vegetation, and numerous farm animals were dying along with some people, due to severe heat and drought conditions. I’ll never forget the dryness, too, in my mouth and throat, with a thirst that the many bottles of soft drinks (kampa cola and limca) and my boiled water could not quince.

In Madras (now Chennai), Tamil Nadu, I met by chance a Baptist minister, a Rev. Victor (of Indian parentage) who invited me to see his mission work, primarily in the villages of Warangal District of Andhra Pradesh, with the Word Ministries of India (W.M.O.I.). A few weeks later I did make a quick visit to the W.M.O.I. Headquarters in Hyderabad but I had insufficient time to go into the villages. However, Rev. Victor did impress upon me at that time that the villagers, whom he and his pastors were serving, were in desperate need of chapels, and water for themselves, their farm animals, as well as their rice paddies and vegetable plots. I learned, too, that other than its effort to propagate the Christian Gospel, the W.M.O.I. was also trying to attend to urgent medical, social, and other humanitarian needs of numerous neglected villagers. (When I first met Rev.Victor in Madras, he was there to obtain a Visa, to go to the USA in 1982. Apparently certain Southern Baptist churches, which were supporting the W.M.O.I., had invited him to be a guest speaker; to raise money for his mission.)

Later, in that same initial trip to India, I spent 2-3 days with a friend (Keith Jamieson and his wife, Jo). I had known Keith several years before at Emanuel Theological College (University of Toronto). Keith was a “water engineer” and Jo an accountant. Both were serving as United Church of Canada missionaries; and resided in Pune, a city just beyond the Western Ghats, east of Bombay (now Mumbai), in Maharashtra state. Upon expressing to Keith my concern re: the urgent need of drinking water in India, he provided me with specific names and addresses of persons and agencies in India (both governmental and private) that were already somewhat involved (in a limited way) with drinking water problems. In particular, Keith informed me about an evangelical church group, known as EFICOR, based in Bangalore, Karnataka, which has high speed well drilling rigs, and an excellent well drilling record in South India. Also, he told me about another agency called WDS (Water Development Society), located in Secunderabad, near Hyderabad, which manufactured high quality well drilling rigs and equipment. WDS provided, too, reasonably priced well drilling services. Also, Keith directed me to a Girls’ Private School in Aurangabad, Maharastra state, which urgently needed a bore drinking well. Before leaving that area I managed to visit that school; and discussed with the principal the possibility of supplying the funds for the school’s well. Months later, after H.A.V.E. was formed, I continued correspondence with the principal until final arrangements were made for H.A.V.E. to fund its first well. Fortunately, before the money was sent, the principal notified me that the city council had managed to extend its water main (in the area of the school), making a bore well unnecessary, since a branch line would connect the school with the city water supply.

In 1982, during Rev Victor’s visit to the southern USA, he came to my home in Ingoldsby, near Minden, Ontario, Canada. Shortly after his arrival in Toronto, we had a meeting with my friends at Grace United Church in Brampton, Ontario, before proceeding to Ingoldsby. During his brief stay in the Haliburton/Minden area, the Rev. Victor spoke to small groups of interested persons in 2 United Churches (in Haliburton and Lochlin). At these meetings he emphasized the urgency to provide the massive poor (in the villages of India) with chapels, and safe drinking water. With respect to solving the water problem, Rev. Victor requested a well drilling rig for his W.M.O.I. mission; to drill village wells in his large rural area.

Later, weeks after Rev. Victor’s visits, and arising out of our initial Brampton meeting, a Brampton friend suggested that I should initiate a WALK in the beautiful Haliburton County, for the expressed purpose of raising money for a well drilling rig for India. However, considering that Haliburton County is rather sparsely populated, with quite limited financial resources, the WALK idea (for such an expensive item as a drilling rig) appeared ridiculous. At that same Brampton meeting was a close friend of mine who apparently was afflicted, at that time, with a form of emotional illness. She was touched by Rev. Victor’s remarks. Later, while in hospital, she appealed to the United Church Women (at Grace U. Church, Brampton) to give money for one bore well, in one village where Rev. Victor was ministering. To my astonishment, shortly afterwards my friend sent me a cheque for $650.00 in support of her idea. Apparently her thinking at that time was simply that even though we could not supply a rig to drill many village wells, we could provide one well to many families in one village.

Also, at the time when Rev. Victor’s was visiting our County, the final meeting of the Haliburton United Church’s Vietnamese Refugee Fund (of which I was a member) was held. Our “refugee family” had moved away, and was no longer in need of financial support. (The Vietnamese family had actually settled in Hamilton, Ont.) With a balance of $200.00 still in the Fund’s account, it was decided that $100.00 would go to assist the charitable work of the YMCA in Brazil, working with the street children; and the other $100.00 would be given to the Rev. Victor’s mission in India. Out of curiosity, I questioned Rev. Victor as to how he may use our gift to him. To my surprise (and, somewhat, disappointment) he suggested that he would apply it towards the construction of a new chapel in a village where W.M.O.I. was serving. (I was hoping to hear that it would go towards some specific humanitarian need.)

Consequently, now we were confronted with 2 challenges, both in India, namely (a) to fund the drilling of a well at a “school for girls” (as mentioned above); and (b) to contribute towards the completion of a Baptist chapel (as proposed by Rev. Victor). My Haliburton/Minden friends and I quickly realized that a committee needed to be formed, to attend to these challenges. Also, some of our thinking then (as now) was that villages here in Canada could make an effort to help with the desperate need of “drinking water” in the villages of a Developing Country, such as India; and that, wherever possible, communicate with those villages in a “twinning” relationship. (The idea and practice of towns and cities in Canada twinning, with similar communities in other countries, was not uncommon in the 70ies and 80ies.) The idea evolved, too, that we (the “haves”) could do something to assist particularly needed villagers (the “have-nots”), especially outside of Canada. We began to really appreciate that we were living in a county (Haliburton) and country (Canada) where there is an abundance of fresh water; and that the only way to share our “water” was to provide them (“the needy”) with the financial means to enable them to “tap into” (to develop) their underground water supplies and other suitable water resource in their rural areas. Therefore, the thought of providing “bore (drilled) or artesian wells” arose. As our thinking evolved, so did a name for our “committee”. It officially became the Help A Village Effort Committee or simply H.A.V.E.. In turn, our Executive officers (Keith Hill, vice-chairman; John Stouffer, treasurer; Wendy Gamble, secretary; and me as chairman) and a small membership soon drew up H.A.V.E.’s original “Statement of Purpose”, and its “Constitution”. In order to provide official receipts to donors (for income tax purposes) and to obtain matching grants (for its eligible projects) from CIDA, H.A.V.E. was registered (in 1982) with Revenue Canada as a Canadian Charitable Non-Governmental Organization (NGO), in international development efforts.

From its very beginning H.A.V.E. has remained strictly a voluntary NGO, with no paid personnel, and no budget for office space, equipment, etc. Its meetings have been held in private homes, church, or other community facilities. In more recent years H.A.V.E.’s main expenses have been a minimal cost for book-keeping service, auditing fee, brochures, and other coping materials. As a consequence, typically about 95% of H.A.V.E.’s funds go directly into the provision of safe drinking water to those in special need, particularly in India. It may be noteworthy that although H.A.V.E. had its start in a particular church setting, it immediately took on a characteristic of being an inter-church and inter-faith and/or simply a community based organization. Consequently, and quite incidentally, at one point in its history, H.A.V.E. had, serving on its committee, persons of the following major Faiths: Baha’i, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, and Jewish, and persons of no known Faith. From the stand point of its committee volunteers and its projects in the field of operation, H.A.V.E. continues to recognize specifically only the basic humanitarian needs of people, immaterial of their beliefs and Faiths.

H.A.V.E.’s first fund-raising effort was a 32 mile WALK FOR WATER in Haliburton County. (I should add that the idea of a WALK came out of my familiarity with the OXFAM Walks which we held in the Brampton, Ont, area in the 1960ies and 70ies, when I was chairman of OXFAM’s first Branch Committee in Brampton as well as a board-member of the first OXFAM Committee in Canada, based in Toronto.) The goal of H.A.V.E.’s first annual WALK was to raise $300.00. With that amount and the $650.00 (mentioned much earlier), we planned to supply one well to a needy girls’ school (note its earlier mention) in India. To our absolute amazement, through that first annual WALK FOR WATER (with 50 walkers) about $10 000.00 was raised; and with our first matching grant ($10 000.00) from CIDA, H.A.V.E. was able to provide (via an EFICOR drilling team from Bangalore, India) its first batch of 20 bore wells, to as many needy villages in the state of Karnataka, south India. Now (Sept., 2006) 24 years later, through H.A.V.E.’s efforts (and, somewhat, CIDA’s matching grants) at least 600 safe drinking water systems (mostly artesian wells) have been supplied primarily to particularly needy villages in 6 Indian states (Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka, Orissa, Tamil Nadu, and West Bengal) as well a 4 ½ km pipeline spring water supply to 3 small villages, near Mussoorie, Uttar Pradesh (now Uttaranchal) in the Himalayan foothills.

In 1999 I moved with my family to Glovertown, NL, when and where H.A.V.E.’s first WALKs FOR WATER began outside of Ontario. To date (2006) our annual WALKs, thanks particularly to a U.C. minister, the Rev.Bob Crosbie, are now being held elsewhere in Newfoundland as well as in areas of British Columbia. In 2002 H.A.V.E.’s first Branch was formed in Glovertown with Stanley Sparkes as its chairman. Early in 2006, a group of 6 persons (1 man and 2 women in BC; and 2 men in Ontario) accompanied me on an “adventure tour” to many villages where H.A.V.E. has funded wells, via our Indian NGO partners, in Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, and West Bengal. The tour was a tremendous eye-opener into the needs of rural India; and largely as a result of our visit, and the tremendous dedication of concern expressed by all of us on that trip, H.A.V.E. has managed to raise within its 2005-06 fiscal year the minimum $50 000.00 requirement , to obtain matching grants for new H.A.V.E. projects in 2006-07. However, needless-to-say, such an accomplishment this year and all the previous years would be quite impossible without the very generous voluntary help and financial contributions of numerous helpers and donors (individuals and groups) now across Canada and, to a little extent, beyond.

Additional points of interest re: H.A.V.E.’s History:

  1. Early in H.A.V.E.’s history, drinking water systems were successfully established in other Developing Countries, namely, The Gambia, West Africa; Nicaragua, Central America, Thailand, S.E. Asia, and, quite recently, Nigeria, S.W. Africa. In keeping with H.A.V.E.’s history, these projects arose mainly as a result of H.A.V.E.’s members doing voluntary services in these particular countries. For instance, re: The Gambia: my very close, retired teacher friend, Clarence McInerney and his wife, Jean, spent 3-4 years teaching teachers in The Gambia. During his years of service there, Clarence arranged, via H.A.V.E. and CIDA, for the provision of 10 drinking water wells as well as a special wind-mill (from Canada) to pump water to a school and to irrigate vegetable fields. Also, Clarence introduced a new English curriculum to the elementary school system along with the provision of the necessary student/teacher materials all of which were funded through the Ontario Retired Teachers’ Association and directed through H.A.V.E… Upon his return from The Gambia, Clarence was H.A.V.E.’s chairman for a number of years before his death.
  2. Also, David Phillips, another H.A.V.E. chairman, was instrumental in organizing a group of men to assist Habitat For Humanity in the building of houses for the needy in Nicaragua. Into one of the villages, he arranged, through H.A.V.E., for the funding of a drinking water pipeline from a water spring. Recently, David initiated, too, the idea of the “Tour” (Feb. /06) of 6 volunteers to some of H.A.V.E.’s project sites in Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, and West Bengal.
  3. No doubt, over the years H.A.V.E. has had many other capable, dedicated chairpersons and committee members each of whom has contributed enormously in keeping H.A.V.E. “alive and well”, enabling it to accomplish far beyond its original goals. Here are the names of the other chairmen: Neil Hutchinson, Eric Lilius, Fred Elson, Kathy Sweeney, and Lynn Duncombe. (H.A.V.E.’s current chairman is Ron Reid.)
  4. Oh yes, “Rev. Victor’s chapel” (mentioned earlier) was finished within 2-3 years but not through funds raised for wells’ projects. Actually through a contribution from the Haliburton Anglican Church choir (under Bill Gliddon) and a substantial amount from the “will” of a deceased member of the Carnarvion United Church, a beautiful little chapel was built in the Village of Ibrampuram, in Warangal District. I was also able to take “exchange Greetings” from/to the respective reeve of Haliburton and the village chief of Ibrampuram. Around the same time, too, the Rotary Club of Haliburton provided a well to Ibrampuram which is, as far as I know, still working. Also, over the years, about 70 bore wells have been supplied to as many villages through H.A.V.E./CIDA funding, via W.M.O.I. and WDS, in northern Andhra Pradesh.