What happens when you cross a high-powered, Ohio business woman and socialite; who has a heart to save the world; with a hardworking, immigrant, determined to achieve the American Dream and help his family back in Africa? Well, you get the kind of dramatic story that Hollywood movies are made of.
Not only is it a first class rags-to-riches fable (in the vein of the classic movie, Coming to America) but beneath the pathos and the drama, you will also discover one of the most amazing and heartfelt stories of love, sacrifice, dedication, commitment and generosity that has ever been witnessed. You get Drill4Life!
Meet Stacey Lambright! She is the president and founding member of Drill4Life; and Simba Maswela, he is a founding board member and the dynamic young man that caused her to put everything on the line to help a village in a country halfway around the world.
Together, they are a powerhouse duo, and the brains and passion behind the non-profit organization, Drill4Life; whose sole mission is to provide sustainable, freshwater resources to the rural areas of Zimbabwe.
The odds that these two diverse characters would connect on any level are one in a million. The idea that this unlikely pair would join together to form a charity that will change the face of a nation is one in 100 million. Their story is the stuff of dreams, tailor made for a Hollywood script; except it’s all absolutely true! Here it is in their own words:
In the Beginning: Stacey and Simba
Stacey: I first met Simba Maswela in the summer of 2011, when I responded to a Craigslist ad, while searching for a company to clean the carpeting in my home. Something in his voice inspired trust in me and soon, there he stood at my door; with a handheld carpet cleaning machine in one hand and a Million Dollar Smile on his face. It wasn’t long before we were deep in conversation; he talking about his tiny village of Rushinga in Zimbabwe and me, listening in fascination to the story of his life.
Simba: I am the second to last of eleven children, three of whom had died from the AIDS virus. At that time, I was the only member of my family here in the United States and I was solely responsible for taking care of many nieces and nephews back home. I worked very hard to send money back to my homeland to take care of my family. At times, I even found myself faking illnesses so that I could send much needed medications to my Mother back in Zimbabwe. It’s hard for most Americans to understand what it’s like to watch children die of illnesses that would not be serious to children in the United States. But when your water sources and subsequent food sources are tainted, your immune system cannot fight off even the simplest and most harmless sickness.
Stacey: Although the appointment to clean my carpets had turned into hours, I knew within the first few minutes of our conversation that I had made a lifelong friend.
Simba had left his own large and loving family behind in order to come to America so that he could take care of them and that by itself broke my heart. I couldn’t imagine the pain and the courage it took to move to a foreign land, leaving behind all that is familiar to take a chance on a dream. It broke my heart to learn that his son, who was the same age as my son, was less than a year old when head left Zimbabwe! I knew right then that I had to do something — Now — to help my new friend’s family! But more than that, I felt compelled in my spirit to try and find a way to help his entire village.
Simba: From that day forward Stacey and I were friends. She single-handedly changed my entire life! Every chance she could, she would refer me to her friends and family members for work. I not only cleaned carpets but I was willing to do anything; any job that was available. I worked hard and I tried to leave every job more perfect than before. Stacey called me, the hardest worker that she’d ever met. I was grateful to have steady work that allowed me to take care of myself and my family back home.
Stacey:Â I was overjoyed when Simba was finally able to bring his family to the United States to live with him! His son, Cay, and my son, James, became instant friends. I remember taking Cay to his first big Arcade and being amazed watching him and his excitement.
Simba: In August of 2012, I was finally able to go back to my village and visit the rest of my family and friends. Zimbabwe is a rough land and no stranger to drought but what I found was a land devastated by years of dry skies and scorched earth.
Children were sick and dying not only from diseases caused by the lack of fresh, clean water but there were no crops. What little livestock that was left was skin and bones; barely alive themselves and unable to work the land. I was so distraught and upset that I immediately messaged Stacy to tell her of the horrible conditions I was seeing in the land of my birth. I had to do something to help.
Stacey: I was beside myself trying to think of ways to get help to the village. I got on the phone and began talking to business contacts, friends and family members. Every time Simba texted me or sent photos from his village, my heart broke just a little bit more. I wracked my brain trying to come up with solutions.
Simba: I needed to experience, firsthand, the journey that my brothers, male family members and the other villagers endured each and every day to provide our village with water. On the first day, we walked about seven miles one way through a barely passable path filled with rocks and brush. The oxen we led on that journey were so weak and frail it seemed they could fall over dead at any moment.
When we reached our destination, it was not a creek but a dried bed where the men villagers had dug a hole that was 15 feet deep and wide enough to fit a car into it. Although there was no scaffolding or bracing to hold the sand back, men and even small boys were risking their lives by descending into this dangerous abyss.
Stacey: I couldn’t believe what I was seeing on the video. To say that I was shocked would be an understatement! Through my tears, I watched as these men and boys painstakingly used a large metal drum to separate the water from the sand at the bottom of this pit. Then one cup at a time, they would take the water from the drum and put into a bucket that went from hand to hand until it reached the guy at the top of the hole.
Simba: I could barely contain my sorrow. This is what my people did every single day to bring water back to the village. Not clean or fresh water. Not even purified water. This water was just as likely to bring about death as it was to sustain life. And they told me that it was never enough! They couldn’t even bring back enough water to drink and bathe, let alone for the crops and animals. This was a never ending cycle of death and despair. This was my village and they needed a better source of water or no one would survive! They needed a water well in order to live.
Stacey: The idea to hold a fundraiser to raise money for a Borehole (water well) for the village was the only logical way to proceed. Because of my contacts in the community, I knew we could easily raise the money but we needed to find a non-profit organization to funnel funds for us. I spent more than a year trying to partner with several organizations that gave us false hopes and either over promised or under delivered. Finally, we made the decision that the only way to get this project completed, the way we wanted, was to start our own non-profit agency. Thus, in January of 2014, Drill4Life was born!
Phase Two: Journey to the Center of the Earth
For one full year, the Drill4Life team and its amazing Board of Directors, raised and establishing positioning their organization for its first project.
In March of 2014, Simba made the trek back to Rushinga to visit his ailing mother. But even during a most stressful time in his life, he still made the time to interview drilling companies and record the meetings for the Board in America to review.
The villagers rejoiced but there was still a great deal of hard work to do before the drilling company could begin work. The heavy drilling equipment had to be transported across nearly 300 miles of thick bush and brush. It would be up to the villagers to clear the way. Even with the help of several other surrounding villagers, it was no easy task. They worked from sun up to sun down, every day for three weeks to clear that path. The idea of having fresh water, which many had never even tasted in their lifetime, was enough to keep them singing, dancing and working to make this miracle happen!
Stacey: My plane had just landed for a layover in Atlanta. After months of working round the clock, I had finally taken a much needed family vacation and cruise. As I walked through the airport my phone alerted me that there was an urgent message. It was from Simba. My heart skipped a beat when I read the simple text: Stacey, call me. We have a problem.
Simba: After all of the work we’d put in; after all of the clearing and digging that hundreds of volunteers and villagers from across the region had done; after all the money that we’d raised had been spent on hiring a drilling company, I heard the words that tore into my heart, We’ve hit a dry hole!
Our team back in America was devastated. The villagers and volunteers were heartbroken. So much hard work had been done to make this water well a reality and still there was no fresh water for Rushinga! A dry hole is a very rare occurrence but we certainly had one on our hands. There was sorrow on two continents. The villagers were openly and tearfully in mourning and there was nothing we could do but pray. The drilling contractors don’t guarantee they will hit water. They get paid whether the drill is successful or not. So, not only did we have a dry hole, we did not have the funds to drill another one!
Stacey: Time was of the essence, so we called an emergency phone conference with both teams; America and Zimbabwe, at midnight. It was time to figure out our next steps. The call began with a mixture of disappointment and even anger but everything quickly turned to disbelief! How could we have not foreseen the possibility of a dry hole?
It’s crazy how one question can change the entire direction of a thing. We were all depressed and our situation felt completely hopeless. But something made me ask the drilling contractor one simple question: What are our options? Brian, our contact with the Contractor (Tandamanzi Drilling) paused and then said On your word, and in writing, if you promise to cover the cost of next borehole, we will try again.
My stomach was in my throat. I felt sick. It was almost 2 AM in the morning and I needed some time to think. I had a huge decision to make. We still owed $3,000 dollars on the current dry well. Could I seriously commit to an IOU for an additional $8-10,000 dollars? What if we ended up with another dry hole? Do I let the rigs drive 300 miles back to the city and start the process of raising money all over again? Could our dream of providing life giving water to this village be over? Everyone was waiting on MY decision. Do they take the rig back to the city or do they dig? I squeezed my eyes shut, swallowed hard and said, Dig.
Simba: I was so nervous. I couldn’t even call Stacey because I knew she was staying up hoping to hear that we hit water. We were all nervous. Had I failed my people? Did I promise them more than I could possibly deliver? If we couldn’t pull this off, people were going to continue to get sick. Children were going to continue to die. It was going to be a long, long night for the American team. No one was resting. It was daytime in Zimbabwe but there was no laughter or joy as we all waited to hear the word that water had come to Rushinga. Everyone was praying to the sound of the rig digging in the background.
Stacey: I stayed awake into the dawn hours, pacing and praying for good news but none came. I was sick to my stomach. I finally went to bed, just after daylight without hearing a single word but I was simply too exhausted to stay awake any longer. The moment my head hit the pillow, I passed out.
On January 6, 2015, I awoke to the insistent sound that my phone emits when someone has texted me or sent me photos. I immediately grabbed my phone and prayed, begging God to please make it some good news! As my eyes peered into the phone my heart swelled with happiness! Simba had sent me photos from Rushinga! We had hit WATER! Not only had we hit at 250 feet, we hit a very healthy vein that was capable of supplying a great deal of water for a very long time!
I can’t put into words the feeling and emotions that were bombarding me. I had gone from hopeful and optimistic about this project to disenchanted and desperate and come back again full circle to encouraged and upbeat; all in a 24-hour period. The closest other feeling that I can relate to when I got that wonderful news is the way I felt the day my son was born. The tears came and my facade of composure I had managed to keep during this whole process crumbled away. I found myself crying like a baby.
Simba: The casing of our borehole took a few days. Once things were complete, I sent Stacey this iconic photo that captures the kind of exhilaration and enthusiasm that only a child having her first cup of fresh, clean, uncontaminated water could get!
Stacey: This is my favorite photo from our incredible journey thus far. I keep it close to my heart and I pull it out whenever I am telling the story of Drill4Life. So, I ask you:
What if this was the first time, you had ever tasted a cup of fresh, clean, life-giving water? How happy would you feel?
So, this is our story of Drill4LIfe! Thank you for taking the time to live the dream with us! The need for what we are doing is without doubt one of the greatest in our world today. This well is only one of many that we want to bestow upon the people of Zimbabwe and as we grow, we’d like to take our gifts throughout the world.
Our primary mission is to keep providing fresh water to the villages of Zimbabwe. The spark and desire to make a difference in the lives of those villagers is now embedded in all of us at Drill4Life. Â But we can’t do it without You!
Won’t you join us on our journey? You can donate directly from this website or you can pop onto our Events Page and how you can join us at one of our many fundraisers in cities across the United States.
4434 Pond Lily Court
New Albany Ohio 43054
Or simply hit the Donate Now below!