Mulcahy family sets out on another clean water mission in Africa
After success in 2012, the Mulcahys are aiming to build four more water wells in a remote region in Kenya
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With no clean water for local schools near the town of Sotik, Kenya, Sandy and Lee Mulcahy are hoping to raise enough money to construct four more water wells in 2020.
These clean water projects were identified during a 2019 fact-finding mission in which the Mulcahys witnessed children across five schools struggle with a lack of access to clean water.
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In 2010, an African safari led to a clean water project that essentially rescued an entire village, and in 2019, a fact-finding trip to the same region is leading to more projects that aim to leave life-saving impacts.
Sandy Mulcahy, who splits her time between Aspen and Arlington, Texas, traveled to Kenya in 2010 with her late husband, Bud, to celebrate their 50th anniversary. Their son Lee, of Aspen, had insisted they go on the trip for years, remembers Sandy, and little did they know that it would be the African people, not the wildlife, that would leave the most lasting impressions.
The Mulcahys struck a friendship with Yegon Richard, a waiter at their camp who told them about the dire conditions back in his village of Kapkesembe. With no clean water source or electricity, there were health hazards in simple daily tasks such as bathing and cooking, Sandy said.
The Mulcahys were moved and felt compelled to help.
“When we were flying from Naroibi (Kenya) to London, Bud said, ‘we’re going to build them a water well,’” Sandy said. “My husband was an engineer and one of his side businesses was irrigation, so he was very familiar with water.”
A dream becomes reality
Sandy said too often, people become inspired by a cause while traveling the world, only to return back home and slowly forget about it. She, Bud and Lee were determined to not let that happen.
“He could always see the possibilities in a project — that’s just the way his mind worked,” Sandy said of Bud, who died in 2015.
So with Bud’s engineering background — he worked at the Los Alamos nuclear laboratory and in the aerospace industry — and tenacity, combined with his family’s collective philanthropic hearts, they got to work.
They created Africa Water Wells and began collecting donations through their church. For roughly $16,000, they were able to get a hydrologist, secure the proper permits, and hire a contractor to drill the well and install a hand pump, Lee said. In 2013, they added a water tower and tank to the initial well project.
“My father spent the first seven years of his life on a farm in South Texas, without electricity and without indoor plumbing,” Lee said. “Not a lot of people in the United States experience that. This project was especially meaningful for him.”
Bud recalled to The Aspen Times in 2013 that 200 local children were running behind the drilling trucks and cheering the day the drilling began. What was more astonishing, though, was what the well did for the village’s collective purpose and motivation.
Not even a year after the water well was built, Sandy Mulcahy said the village had constructed a primary school and hired teachers — and it was all thanks to the potential that a new, clean water source opened up.
“They named the school after my husband — the Clean Water Bud Academy,” Sandy said.