Buey Ray Tut left what is now South Sudan at age 8, part of a wave of refugees escaping civil unrest. He never forgot his homeland, however, or the difficult chores he had as a child, like fetching water from a river 3 or 4 miles from his village.
In 2011, the same year he became a U.S. citizen, the Omaha resident cofounded the nonprofit organization Aqua-Africa with two other South Sudanese expatriates. Within three years, Aqua-Africa had drilled 13 wells, serving a total of 6,500 people. And that’s just the beginning. Aqua-Africa’s five-year goal is to provide 200,000 people with clean water.
But Aqua-Africa does more than drill wells. It also teaches resource management and micro-democracy by creating a water committee, a local board that manages each new well, decides what to charge for the water, and ensures that everyone has equal access to it. To form a water committee, Aqua-Africa teaches villagers how democracy works, then runs elections—complete with secret ballots, term limits, and official announcements of the results.
Don’t be surprised if that sounds familiar. “We’re basically using the patrol method,” Tut says. “My Scouting experience is intertwined with what I do now. Everything I’ve done there, I’ve applied now in Aqua-Africa.”