Fundraising was not a central aim of the Pilgrimage – above all it was an experience to be enjoyed. However, participants were given the option to raise money for a charity of their choice or for Priory 900’s chosen charity (Excellent, Pioneers of Sand Dams).
Nancy and John Eckersley (who began their Pilgrimage at Carlisle Cathedral as described here) were fundraising for Christian Aid, as they have done before on previous long-distance walks (please see the Christian Aid website for further information).
Excellent, Pioneers of Sand Dams and the Africa Sand Dam Foundation
The charity selected specifically for the Pilgrimage is Excellent, who work with the Africa Sand Dam Foundation to support rural development in semi arid areas through the construction of Sand Dams and self-help schemes for sustainable farming. Please see the Excellent website for further information about what they do. You can also download Excellent’s fundraising guide and ‘Pioneering sand dams’ brochure here.
What exactly is a sand dam?
A sand dam is a steel reinforced concrete (or technically speaking, rubble stone masonry) wall built across a seasonal sandy riverbed. During the rainy season, a seasonal river forms and carries soil (made up of sand and silt) downstream. The heavy sand accumulates behind the dam, whilst the lighter silt washes downstream over the dam wall. Within one to four rainy seasons the dam completely fills with sand. However, up to 40% of the volume held behind the dam is actually water stored between the sand particles. The water can be abstracted from the sand dam in three main ways: From traditional scoop holes; piped through the dam leading to a tap; a sealed shallow well in the valley side – topped with a hand pump.
Sand dams are not only cost-effective but last at least 30-50 years and along with the virtually zero operation and maintenance costs make them a remarkably low-cost, sustainable solution to rural water supply. From the Excellent website:
‘When asked what Excellent does, our answer is very specific: “We support communities to gain access to clean water and grow enough food to eat and sell”. This is indeed what we do – but is in fact only a part of it.
In June I visited the Wumiisyo wa Kiumoni self-help group. I had visited them five times over the last two and a half years already, but this time they looked different: unburdened by the drudgery of water collection and buoyed by the income from vegetable nurseries. They were bright and alive; confident and assured in their plans for a goat project and a fish farm.
Sand dams create potential. These communities are living it and grasping it at every available opportunity. They are the very embodiment of strength, pride and independence. That is what transforming lives is all about – creating opportunities for people to fulfil their potential.’
– Simon Maddrell, Executive Director of Excellent