A personal note from Executive Director James Nardella… With both sadness and joy, I am writing from Kenya to tell you that this will be my final season as Executive Director for the Lwala Community Alliance. My full-time employment will end in September, but Lwala will remain an active commitment for my family and me. [...]
Nashville, Tenn. — Blood:Water Co-Founder Jena Lee Nardella made her first visit to Lwala, Kenya, in 2005, bouncing along an unmarked dirt path in the back of a pick-up truck. Now, 10 years later, she’s sharing this story of partnership between Blood:Water and what would become Lwala Community Alliance in her new memoir, ONE THOUSAND WELLS: How an Audacious Goal Taught Me to Love the World Instead of Save It.
Jena will share these stories with listeners on a nation-wide book tour, starting Monday, Aug. 24, at the Nashville Public Library, 615 Church St. Dan Haseltine of Jars of Clay will join her on the 10-city tour including:
- Aug. 26: Knoxville, TN
- Aug. 27: Charlotte, NC
- Aug. 28: Raleigh, NC
- Aug. 29: Atlanta, GA
- Sept. 1: Denver, CO
- Sept. 2: Colorado Springs, CO
- Sept. 10: Seattle, WA
- Sept. 11: Portland, OR
- Sept. 12: Bay Area, CA
At the age of 22, Jena was fresh-out-of-college with the lofty goal of truly changing the world. Armed with a diploma, a dollar, and a dream to build one thousand wells in Africa, she joined forces with Grammy Award-winning band Jars of Clay to found Blood:Water and support Africans in addressing HIV/AIDs and water crises. In her memoir, she shares how her passion for saving the world grew into a humbler long-term calling of loving the world in all its brokenness. She also walks her readers through her initial meeting and deepening relationship with the Lwala community as well as her first encounter with James Nardella, her now husband and executive director of Lwala Community Alliance.
“This place was something special,” Jena writes during her first visit to Lwala. “I could feel it. I didn’t know it then, but the bed of that truck included the community of my future. The road we were taking, I would take a hundred times again. I was coming home.”
On that first trip, she met future co-founders of Lwala Community Alliance, brothers Milton and Fred Ochieng’ whose parents had recently died of HIV, and remembers sitting in the living room of their parents’ home when Milton pulled out a set of blueprints for a clinic saying, “This was my father’s dream.” During that same visit, he also took Jena to an expanse of barren land showing her where the clinic would be built.
“We could see the clinic that would bring hope to a community wrought with loss,” she writes. “A place that would save lives and equip men, women, and children with knowledge, health care, and life-saving medicine.”
Now, eight years after Blood:Water’s initial investment in Lwala, nearly 200 Kenyans work together daily to break down the barriers of extreme poverty and HIV/AIDS in this rural place. What was once an empty lot of ambitious dreams is a project reaching 20,000 people.
Jena’s dream for her nonprofit turned an initial $1 into $20, and then $100, and today into more than $25 million. Working throughout 11 countries in Africa, Blood:Water has served more than 60,000 people with HIV/AIDS and has partnered with communities like Lwala to provide clean water for nearly one million Africans. Along the way, she faced harsh realities of corruption and brokenness that tested her faith and taught her that wishful thinking will not get you very far. Jena discovered that true change comes only when you stop trying to save the world and allow yourself to love it, even when it breaks your heart.
ONE THOUSAND WELLS, published by Howard Books, an imprint of Simon and Schuster, will be available August 25, 2015, and a portion of the proceeds will support Blood:Water. Books are also available for pre-order and can be purchased here.