When Siweh Harris started his capstone project as part of the master’s degree program in Organizational and Strategic Leadership (OSL) at Neumann, he never thought it would lead to installing the first hand pump and source of clean, running water in his village of Goahblee in Liberia.
“When the capstone project came up, they suggested using a real life situation that you are passionate about. I have seen the suffering of the people in villages with no water, bathroom facilities, or education. I thought I could use my leadership skills to help them,” he said.
Harris set up the Morweh Self Help Initiative (MORSHI) to raise the money needed to install hand pumps in five villages at a cost of $2,000 per hand pump. “When I went to visit, water was the main concern. One of the towns wanted a school first, but the water was more important. The water they had access to was unsafe, and they were drinking, cooking, and bathing in it. They did not realize it was unsafe for them,” he explained.
The first hand pump was installed in Goahblee on Friday, November 30, 2012. “The villagers celebrated with shouts of joy after the completion,” he said. Harris also explained that the cost of installation is high because there are no roads to drive the materials needed for the hand pump into the village. “The concrete pipes are very heavy to carry. That makes installing each pump more expensive.”
The first pump was installed sooner than he expected. “My daughter, Zoe Harris, is just as compassionate as I am, and she donated $1,000 towards the first pump. Three of us matched her donation and we were able to have the first pump installed before Christmas,” he said. “I didn’t think we would be able to have it installed so soon.”
“I think what Siweh has been able to accomplish really shows the power that one individual can have,” stated Dr. Sam Lemon, director of the OSL program at Neumann. “This is a dream he has had for 15 years, and he was able to connect what he was learning in class to what’s going on in the world. I think it really ties into the Franciscan part of our program, a way to make the world better.”
“The OSL program gave him leadership skills and the ability to be an exemplary leader. I also think it taught him the nuts and bolts of managing a complex project on two continents and two different cultures,” said Lemon.
After all of the water pumps are installed, with a goal of November 2015 as a completion date, he hopes to install a latrine in each of the five villages as well and then focus on education. “We hope to start an education program on health and hygiene; how to use toilets, how to wash hands properly. We have two health professors willing to go and teach,” Harris explained.
“I am very passionate about helping people who cannot help themselves,” Harris said. “I am asking well meaning people to help them. All donations go directly to the people. From inception until now, everything has mostly been done by me. I appreciate people coming to their rescue. They get sick and are poisoning themselves by drinking the contaminated water.”
“People can do great things in a short period of time. I think what Siweh has been able to accomplish really speaks to that. I think it also shows the value of getting perspective from students from other cultures. His work shows that our Franciscan perspective isn’t just a slogan, it’s something that is practiced here,” said Lemon.
Harris arrived in the United States in 2000 as a result of the Second Liberian Civil War. He is currently enrolled in the master of education program at Neumann. He expects to graduate this May and will visit Liberia this summer.
For more information on the Morweh Self Help Initiative or to donate, visit http://www.morweh.org. MORSHI is a nonprofit and prospective 501c3 organization. Harris also accepts used clothing, shoes, and books.
Back to News