Dunmurry man helps bring clean water to African villages

John Bedford, Financial Services Director at Willis Insurance and Risk Management. Pic by Ricky Parker
John Bedford, Financial Services Director at Willis Insurance and Risk Management. Pic by Ricky Parker

Money raised in support of an attempt by Dunmurry man John Bedford to windsurf from Northern Ireland to Scotland in record time, has helped remote communities in Madagascar gain access to clean drinking water for the first time.

Staff at the Belfast broker Willis Insurance and Risk Management, where John is Financial Services Director, helped raise more than £15,000 to fund the installation of five fresh water wells in partnership with the Adsum Foundation charity. Boreholes were dug and handpumps installed at Tsarakianja, Kivala and Tsirihimbolamena, providing clean water to around 700 people.

John Bedford taking on his Northern Ireland to Scotland windsurfing challenge.

John Bedford taking on his Northern Ireland to Scotland windsurfing challenge.

The majority of money was raised in support of John’s bid to windsurf from Northern Ireland to Scotland in less than 90 minutes.

Although unsuccessful due to unfavourable weather conditions, the attempt still allowed Willis IRM to raise valuable funds for the project.

John commented: “It was disappointing not to break the record for making the crossing as intended, but it was never really about that.

“The waters were warm and the wind was blowing in the right direction as I left Donaghadee for Portpatrick but the challenge was aborted with 18 miles gone due to some extreme weather.

Villagers in a remote area of Madagascar express their thanks to Willis IRM and the Adsum Foundation.

Villagers in a remote area of Madagascar express their thanks to Willis IRM and the Adsum Foundation.

“It is extremely gratifying however that we managed to raise such a huge amount of money nonetheless and I take great personal satisfaction from seeing the wells finally installed in Madagascar.”

Prior to the building of the wells, staff fundraising had already helped fund the building of a new cyclone-proof school in one of the poorest communities in Madagascar, enabling children to have a better education.

The project has benefited more than 100 households, with the local community heavily involved in helping bring the wells to fruition.

John added: “While we can raise the money, it was only through the determination of those benefiting from the new wells that the project reached completion.

“In one case, villagers transported the 200 bricks required for the well by foot across 17km.”

Willis IRM Managing Director Richard Willis commented: “As a family firm, in business for almost 40 years, we take our corporate social responsibility very seriously.

“There was a tremendous level of enthusiasm among all staff for the borehole project, and they can all take great satisfaction to see how their efforts have literally changed the lives for hundreds of people.”

Gavin Lonergan, from the Adsum Foundation added: “We were delighted to partner with Willis Insurance and Risk Management to help bring clean water to villages in Madagascar.

“For the families that live in these rural communities, finding safe, clean water was a daily chore involving arduous round trips, often on foot, before the building of the new wells.

“We offer our sincere thanks to all the staff at Willis Insurance and Risk Management and their families and friends who helped make this project happen.”