Miracle at Jericho

Jericho, in Bophuthatswana, was in the grip of the fourth year of drought. Animals and people shared the same source to seek what little water there was - yet the children were always beautifully turned out and the school was well-run and spotless.

Len Apfel, armed with the Wilmslow Wells promise of funding, went to see for himself. There he found Brenda's former housemaid, Emily Maloka. Her home was a one-room mud-hut home and Len was struck by the presence of a drum of water, which Emily had had to buy and then roll up from the river.

It had to serve her family, for as long as they could make it last - just 30 litres. By comparison, the average family of four in Britain uses 500 litres of water a day. Nor is that the only stark contrast.

Sam Kwape, the head teacher of the village school, wrote: "I saw your beautiful countryside in the snapshot you sent. I so wished we had a green like that - we are hit by a now four-year-old drought this end so I am sure you can appreciate a person writing thus."

Len wrote to Brenda, 6,000 miles away in Wilmslow: "It is difficult to sum up the poverty of these families and I wonder how they live, but they do. The greatest need is for water. There is a terrible shortage and it has to be transported long distances. A lot of what is available is brackish and unfit for drinking."

It was 1984. Len set up an account - Imqualife (Water Project) - using the infrastructure of his milk distribution scheme to administer the water project. In October he and the field manager of World Vision, the American mission, select a site for the first borehole.

But in April the following year - tragedy! The first borehole was dry; three others offered little hope. Tests seemed to show that Jericho had virtually no underground water. Len left for home, despondent. But at 11.00 o'clock that night, his phone rang. It was Norman Holford, a director of water affairs for World Vision:

"For a grown man, he cried tears of joy," wrote Len, "as he told me that they had struck water in the third hole. This was nothing short of a miracle - Jericho had been reported dry."

By May the borehole was producing 16,000 litres an hour - more than enough for the population of 20,000.

In June, Len reported: "The funds from Wilmslow Wells have been fully utilised. No overheads or expenses, travelling etc, have been levied against the fund. The entire amount has been used for the purpose for which it was given. One of the outstanding features was the team effort of ourselves, World Vision and the Bophuthatswana government."

By the late '80s, the population had grown to 30,000 and the flow of water increased to 68,000 litres an hour. Local people decided a 150,000 litre tank was needed and that, as this was the water supply for generations to come, they must finance it themselves. And, despite difficulties, the people of Jericho took control of the supply through a new water board.

Len returned to see the fruits of Wilmslow Wells' first project. He wrote: "I went to Jericho and attended a meeting of the Tribal Council. Water from the borehole came into operation at 60 different points in the village. This is truly a miracle to see such a volume of water available to the whole community."


Conditions in which women had to collect polluted water

Emily Maloka, whose plight was the catalyst for Wilmslow Wells for Africa, outside her home with daughter Anna and granddaughter Gladys