Union students and alumna ride to raise funds for Maasai wells

Janelle Churchill has never been one to say, “oh well,” when she sees someone in need. So when the senior social work major had an opportunity to help her classmate’s “Not Oh Well” project to raise $1 million to drill a well for the Maasai people of Kenya, Churchill decided ride her bicycle 1100 miles to raise awareness and money.

“The 1,100 miles are actually symbolic, they represent the length of Kenya,” explained Churchill. She and fellow Union student Santiago Fernandez and his wife, Kelly Fernandez (class of 2011) will depart on Sunday from Grover, Utah, for the three-week journey back to Lincoln. “This is just one small thing that I can do to raise awareness and get sponsors for our cause.”

Helping out people in need comes naturally to Churchill. “When I was in high school, I had the opportunity to participate in different mission trips and my family was also very involved with helping out in the local community,” said Churchill. She arrived in Lincoln with the same helpful mindset. “I got to be involved with many non-profit organizations such as the Good Neighbor Center and the Corn Husker Place,” explained Churchill. “One of my favorite organizations was Tiny Hands International.” Churchill traveled Nepal for six weeks, helping Tiny Hands, the Lincoln-based organization dedicated to stopping human trafficking in the country.

Churchill hopes to arrive back in Lincoln on August 21—the first day of classes for Union College. “We have a lot of money for these wells to raise and we really need sponsors to achieve our goal,” said Churchill. “After living in Lincoln for the past few years I know how the community comes together to help and it would be cool to get people involved by either giving us support or, in the future, by participating in the cycling trip.”

About “Not Oh Well”

“Not Oh Well” was conceived by 2012 Union College graduate Cassi Fitzpatrick after she spent two weeks with the Maasai people while teaching at a school in Africa.  “The women of the tribe walk long distances to get water, which is usually unclean, if even available,” said Churchill. “People are dying of simple things like diarrhea and dehydration.” The cost to drill a well in Kenya is around $1 million and the drilling process would take about four months to complete.

“This trip is to raise money, of course, but we'd also like to be an example,” explained Fitzpatrick. “It’s okay to take a chance to help others.“ It’s been a year since Fitzpatrick first was able to get the organization started and she knows that more hard work is ahead. “Every year I cringe when I hear the news. The same story—droughts plague Africa again, thousands are dying. I know with the economy here, it's easy to say ‘oh well.’ As a newlywed and recent grad, I understand the struggle, but helping Africa is still worth the risk. I'm refusing to stand on the sidelines and watch the world fall apart. If we all took the time to show love to others, we wouldn't see our current living conditions as bleak, but filled with rays of the rising sun. There is hope.”

If you would like to sponsor Churchill’s ride or the “Not Oh Well” project, you can reach them by calling (253)508-2515  or sending an email to cyclen.o.w.4wels [at] gmail.com. For more information Cycle NOW Facebook fan page.