20 laps, 30 miles, one well, many lives

Author: Carol Elliott

At 6 a.m. on May 3, Michael Meyer will start off on a 30-mile trek that will take him around the University of Notre Dame campus 20 times.

The reason for his trek, says Meyer, who teaches accountancy at the Mendoza College of Business, is part of a story that goes back four years and thousands of miles to a small, very poor country in equatorial Africa, Burkina Faso.

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“During the children’s Christmas service at my church, we were asked to contribute to help build a well for a village in Burkina Faso,” says Meyer. “So we did.” The next year, Meyer and others at Mendoza provided more funds to support a member of Meyer’s church who was traveling to the village as part of a mission team. The member was able to witness the building of three wells, and deliver essential supplies to several villages.

From there, the entire Meyer family got involved. Meyer and his wife Teresa, who also works for Notre Dame in the Office of Information Technology, decided to donate the full cost of a well themselves. Then his daughters – 8-year-old twins Lily and Addison, and 6-year-old Kelsey – ask for donations toward a well instead of birthday gifts.

“What kid would give up birthday presents to help someone they do not know in some place they've barely even heard of?” says Meyer. “Clean water has become a mission for my family.”

Meyer thought he was doing enough, until he recently heard a challenge from Pope Francis.

“The pope said, ‘Each individual Christian and every community is called to be an instrument of God for the liberation and promotion of the poor, and for enabling them to be fully a part of society. This demands that we be docile and attentive to the cry of the poor and to come to their aid,’” says Meyer. As he pondered that, he also began reading the commentaries on the life of Father Theodore Hesburgh, who passed away in February.

“I was humbled by his resolve to act and his challenge to all of us on this campus to do more,” says Meyer.  “These men have inspired me to do more than I have been doing.  My daughters have inspired me to do even more than that.”

Here’s where his 30-mile walk comes in. Meyer formed a plan to raise enough money to build one well in Burkina Faso at a cost of $2,000. He enlisted a team of about 60 students to collect money in the dorms. Another student created a crowdfunding page to accept larger donations at https://www.crowdrise.com/burkinafasowells.  Contributors also can purchase water balloons to throw at him as he winds his way around campus.

“For those villages without a well, women often walk up to 3 miles each way to get water, which is often from stagnant pools or other unsafe sources,” says Meyer. “This unsafe water has led to a staggering statistic where one in three children under the age of 10 die, often as a result of poor water.  One well can serve a village of 400 to 1,000 individuals and provide clean water for a lifetime. 

“I recognize that I cannot solve the problem for every village.  But in one week’s time, we can perhaps solve this problem for one village.”

For more information about his fundraising effort, contact Mike Meyer at (574) 631-4536 or meyer.96@nd.edu