I don’t want to look back on my life and say “Oh I wish I’ve done that or why didn’t I do that or I have regrets because I think sometimes people don’t take opportunities and they go “Why didn’t I do that?” – Susanne Wilson.
Today I would like to introduce you to somebody who has already changed so many lives. The one who knows how to love life, appreciate and be thankful. The one who saw poverty, death, and hope. The one who makes this world a better place. A strong woman, adventurer, friend, lifestyle coach and motivational speaker, inspiration, and an incredible human being. Her name is Susanne Wilson and she is an executive director at “Water to Thrive” – a faith-based non-profit that focuses on bringing clean safe water to rural communities in Africa, primary Ethiopia, Uganda, and Tanzania.
I met Susanne right after I moved to Austin, TX: optimistic, beautiful and kind she always has a positive attitude. She is one of the people that truly love life and appreciate what they have. And it took me over a year to realize what a big heart I met. Her story is one of a kind and I want it to be heard because there are so many great women that the world doesn’t know about yet!
Before we begin, you should know some facts about Susanne: she grew up on the farm in Kentucky, she wanted to travel and explore the world. Susanne always knew she could make a difference, and after 15 years of teaching, it was time for a change.
And this is how her incredible journey began:
Susanne went to Cameroon as a part of Indiana University Grand as a teacher to create a curriculum around Africa and be able to teach about it. And then, a couple years later, she saw a GSE ad in the paper about taking young professionals to Nigeria and she decided to apply. Susanne was selected, so there were 4 of them who were selected to go along with a team leader who was a Rotarian. The trip made such an impact on her life, that she decided to join Rotary club. And when she was asked if she wanted to work for the nonprofit organization that would bring clean for people in El Salvador, there were no doubts!
“Because I always wanted to do something more globally, something that would have impact”
While Susanne was doing water projects in El Salvador, she found this job for “Water to Thrive”. Her friend convinced her to apply for it. If you meet Susanne, you know right away that this job is perfect for her: not only because of her experience in non-profit work, master degree in business and certificate in fundraising and water projects but also because of her desire to help.
“I knew in my heart it was the right job for me: so, I sold the house, I gave away a lot of stuff, sold a lot of stuff, packed up my stuff and drove for two days.“
During her trips to Africa:
Susanne works with partners which are non-governmental organizations that have the equipment and the expertise, so they are able to put the water wells in. She helps to fund them and when she visits the wells that were funded, she makes sure that the construction is good, the water is clean, that the people are getting water because they don’t just give people a well, they train women to take care of it. Susanne tells me how incredibly happy she is when she hears that her job makes a difference for people in Africa. She celebrates with them, asks them for their stories, how was their life before they had a well, how their lives changed. And here are some of those stories Susanne shared for all of us to understand how life-changing it is for these women:
One woman said: “Now my husband doesn’t beat me as much.” Because she couldn’t get food fixed because she was carrying water back and forth. It might be 6-8 hours a day they are carrying water.
Another woman said ““Before you guys put a well I had two daughters that were 14 and 15 years old and because they didn’t do very well at school because they had to collect water, they dropped out and married farmers. My youngest daughter now is I the university, because she didn’t have to collect the water all day because the wells are here in the village. She did good at school, got high marks and got to go to the university.“
“People always ask me if it’s hard to go there and I say it’s hard to come back. Because going there is quite challenging, the conditions are difficult. People ask me “How was your vacation? “I am not on vacation. Sometimes it’s dirty, and it’s hot and it’s 10 hours in a truck, no air conditioning and you get to some places where there may or may not be food. I don’t really think about, because, you know, I am a privileged American and I am not going to complain. Because how do you feel sorry for somebody when they have everything in the USA, you know. “
To be honest, I found out about Susanne’s job accidentally during the class we take together. I guess that’s because in our society we are so concentrated on our own well-being that we do not bother to really learn the people we see so often. And this is one of the reasons I decided to start sharing the stories of people that inspire me in so many ways.
Susanne: I’d walk in the store and people would ask me “How are you?” And I am like “I am great! You know what? It’s a beautiful day, we have clean water to drink, we have food to eat. Life is good!” So some of them look at me like “Yea, right!” And some of them look at me like “You are a weird lady!” And I think about it and I think life is good. I have a job to go to. How many people would like to have a really nice job? I sit in nice office, I have coffee to drink, I look out at a beautiful view. Life is good.
None of these people have a bathroom in their homes. That would be their dream. In one village people were like “We want water for each of our houses. That is our dream.”
In Africa, if you are a child and your parents die, you’re left on the street to beg. Children die because there is no clean water, they get all kinds of diseases, they get blind with no clean water or emergency rooms to go to. Many times, schools don’t have bathrooms and if they do – they do not have doors, for example. And there are hundreds of stories Susanne hears from women there. And, every time, she tells me a new one, she asks “Can you imagine it?” And I am terrified and at the same time ashamed to admit that for me it’s hard to even imagine it.
Susanne: The boy was digging a hole in the sand on the street and I am watching him and I was like “He is not playing, he is working, what is he doing?” He digs down so the water starts coming up in the stream and he waits until the mud settles, so he can scoop and put into his jug to take home to drink. When I first came, the kids would yell in the car “Highland, Highland!”And I was wondering what they were saying. Highland is a brand of water over there and what they are asking for is an empty bottle so that way they can put in water and take it to school.
As our conversation comes to an end I ask Susanne if there is anything she would like to say to the world. And here is what she says: “Women are still treated as second–class citizens that don’t have a lot of rights so I think it’s about justice. If we are not part of the solution – we are the part of the problem. And having clean water is about justice: it’s not just about health or anything else, it’s about true justice in the world. It’s like “Why do we have clean water to drink and they don’t?”
And while we are all focused on our own lives, now you know the story of another great woman Susanne Wilson who makes the world a better place. Now you know that there is an incredible woman who lives in Austin and works hard for other people to have a chance: a chance for a better life, a chance to survive.
If you would like to be a part of the solution, click on the image below to know how you can help:
I hope you liked this post. There are so many talented women around us. Let talk about them! Let’s celebrate them. And, finally, let’s never be shy to ask for their stores, let’s learn about people we meet because every person has something to tell. 😉