28-year-old Benedictine priest from Engelberg, Urs Egli, travels to tropical Cameroon to strengthen the Benedictine mission in the region. He initially works as a teacher and school principal, then as head of the mission in Otélé, which is where the drinking water project, “Water is Life” (locally known as “Projet Eau Potable”) is now based.
Alfred Müller-Stocker travels to Cameroon for the first time, where he pays a visit to a carpentry project of the charity organisation, Caritas, and meets Father Urs Egli.
Time and again, Father Urs Egli has to bury children as well as adults who have died from preventable diseases, and he finds this deeply troubling. He is aware that contaminated water can cause a variety of diseases and decides to construct wells in order to enable villagers to pump clean water from below the ground. His plan is to install 44 wells – two in each of the 22 villages in the Otélé region.
Misereor, a German aid organisation, agrees to finance Father Urs Egli’s well construction project, though only if the agreement is concluded with the support of a bishop. Jean Zoa, the Archbishop at that time, informs Father Urs Egli that 400 wells are required throughout the diocese, not just 44 for Otélé. 14 years after their initial encounter in the rainforest, Father Urs Egli asks Alfred Müller to help him find a technical manager for the project.
Father Urs Egli initiates the “Water is Life” project, and is able to count on the support of Louis and Heidy Stadelmann-Graf, a married couple mediated by Alfred Müller. Together with their three-year-old daughter Carla and six-month-old son Manuel, they arrive in Otélé on 20 June. The first well is handed over for operation on 24 November
In order to secure the financing of the project, Alfred Müller-Stocker sets up the St. Martin Foundation in Baar and endows it with 2.5 million Swiss francs. The hundredth well is inaugurated in Abom in the presence of Alfred and Annaliese Müller-Stocker and leading clerical, political and diplomatic figures.
Conclusion of a tax exemption agreement with the government of Cameroon.
- 1994 and 1998
The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) supports the project with a contribution of 2.85 million Swiss francs.
Inauguration of the five-hundredth well by Michael Müller and his partner, Claudia Wettstein, together with the inhabitants of Mu-Yamakouba.
On 21 May, the Swiss electorate vote in favour of bilateral negotiations with the EU. On 23 May, an initial agreement is concluded between EU institutions, the government of Cameroon and the St. Martin Foundation regulating participation in the costs of a hundred wells.
On 2 December, Archbishop Victor Tonyé Bakot hands over the thousandth well to the villagers of Ngon. The government of Cameroon honours Alfred Müller and Louis Stadelmann with a knighthood (Chevalier de l’Ordre de la Valeur).
Publication of “Tausend Brunnen” by Rosemarie Keller, which tells the story of Father Urs Egli and the drinking water project. To order this book, click here
The St. Martin Foundation concludes important agreements with the dioceses of Yaoundé and Eseka and consolidates its position as an autonomous non-governmental organisation (NGO). Renewal of the tax exemption agreement with the government of Cameroon
On 24 September, the St. Martin Foundation celebrates the twentieth anniversary of its “ Water is Life” project. Premiere of the 13-minute documentary about the project during the anniversary celebrations in the Lorzensaal in Cham. To order a copy, click here
A Swiss TV crew travels to Cameroon during the football World Cup in South Africa, and films a report on the drinking water project. To view this report, click here
From typewriter to computer network: the basic computer infrastructure that has been developed over the course of many years needs to be professionally updated and secured. Replacement of the entire hardware, and installation of wireless LAN and satellite Internet in the rainforest.
After 57 years in Cameroon, Father Urs Egli returns to Engelberg as the last white Benedictine priest, and the project management prepares for a change of personnel. The St. Martin Foundation resolves to continue the project under new Swiss management and to retain Otélé as its base, since this is where the infrastructure is housed and the project is already well known and enjoys the confidence of the local population. “Water is Life” has evolved into one of the most important employers in the region, and is recognised to an equal extent by both the church and the government of Cameroon.
After 24 years at the helm, Heidy and Louis Stadelman-Graf hand over to their successors and return to Switzerland. Peter Rey takes over the general management and administration, and Rolando Palladino is the new technical manager of the project. Peter Rey travels to Otélé with his wife Karina and daughter Pamina, and Rolando Palladino is accompanied by Karin Suter. Both Karina Rey and Karin Suter are entrusted with important duties associated with the project
Federal Councillor Simonetta Sommaruga pays a visit to Otélé on 27 September.
On 24 November, the “ Water is Life” project celebrates its twenty-fifth anniversary. The festivities are reported on Cameroonian radio and television.
Father Urs Egli, initiator of the drinking water project, dies in Engelberg Abbey on 27 March at the age of 87. The fifteen-hundredth well is handed over to the inhabitants of Ekoumdoum on 16 April.