Jennifer Stoltz Favus joins board and shares stories from the field

Jennifer Stoltz Favus is a psychotherapist in private practice in New York City. She has worked in community mental health since 1996 and previously worked at Bellevue Hospital in the psychiatric emergency room and on the psychiatric mobile crisis unit. She is a licensed psychoanalyst and holds a Masters of Social Work from New York University and a Bachelors degree in Human Development and Family Studies from Cornell University. She lives with her husband and two young daughters in Manhattan. This year, Jennifer joined the The Water Trust’s board of directors, and made the following remarks at The Water Trust’s annual event.

“My relationship with The Water Trust began as a donor. At the time I thought, of course I would want to help people have access to clean water. I thought that the work consisted mainly of putting wells in villages in western Uganda. I’ve come to appreciate the nuances, intricacies, and effort that The Water Trust brings forth.

In my initial discussions about potentially joining the board, what struck me were the measurable outcomes that had already been achieved in a relatively short period of time. In subsequent talks, it was less about what needs to be done, but rather here’s what we’re actually doing to make an impact.

In an impoverished country like Uganda, the government may be responsible for clean water and public health, but it lacks the resources and capacity to address these needs. I don’t believe it’s entirely the Ugandan government’s responsibility to address water, sanitation, and hygiene for people struggling with extreme poverty and poor health. We are all part of a larger community. It is our collective responsibility, whether we give our time, our money, or our ideas.

Prior to accepting a board position, I found a way to leave my young children and travel to the remote villages we partner with in Western Uganda. I saw firsthand our impact. I met every member of our staff in both Masindi and Kiryandongo. I saw and tried out some of the wells we built. I greeted smiling faces and got to observe a Village Savings and Loan Association meeting, where the participants took tremendous pride in being able to become self reliant – to be agents of change for themselves, their families, and future members of the community.

One memorable highlight was seeing the path to the old contaminated water source that was now overgrown and barely recognizable. That path was no longer being used because they now had a well that they could support with their own community resources.

Visiting Ogunga primary school in Kiryandongo was another inspiring opportunity. The 942-student school accommodates 100 students per small classroom. We got to meet with a handful of the School Health club students who sang songs about hygiene and who were able to teach their parents about the importance of using a latrine and washing your hands. Prior to The Water Trust’s involvement, the children did not have access to working latrines or water to wash their hands. Fast forward six months later and 79% of the students were observed washing their hands after using a latrine.

While I started focused on the water points, I saw that behavior change, such as washing hands, cleaning water containers, and utilizing drying racks were just as critical to impact in rural Uganda as it is in the lives of the people I have worked with here in the US. It’s not enough to just build a well and leave instructions. Breaking habits passed through generations is hard, and our programs understand that and engage with those challenges thoughtfully.

The Water Trust has empowered more than 130,000 people with access to safe water and sanitation. As I reflect on the families I met and the work I saw firsthand, I can tell you that the impact of The Water Trust’s work in rural Uganda is profound. And on that note, I want to conclude by saying thank you – for making the impact I saw possible, and for helping us partner with even more families in need in the future.”

– Jennifer Stoltz Favus, Board member