ATA, AGOH partner for major water project, latest step in pattern of giving back

The Austin Tennis Academy (ATA) and A Glimmer of Hope Foundation (Glimmer) recently completed a project that provides the largest solar powered water supply development in the entire region of Tigray. The project, unfolding over about 3 years, delivers 9 water points and 3 cattle troughs to the Ethiopian villagers of Gonok who previously spent hours daily collecting only contaminated water.

This is the latest from a longstanding partnership between ATA and Glimmer. Since 2005, the ATA community has contributed more than $500,000 to AGOH towards a $1 million pledge.

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Above is a picture of the solar panels that power the submersible pump that pumps the water that is 90 meters below the earth up to the reservoir.

“One of the founding principles when laying the framework for the Austin Tennis Academy was that students would be exposed to a series of life lessons,” ATA CEO Jack Newman said. “One of the most important life lessons is giving back to your community and giving to those less fortunate than yourself.”

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Above is the Gonok reservoir that stores and distributes the water that is pumped from the deep borehole.

The latest water supply project made an immediate impact on the lives of the local community members in Gonok. Abeba, pictured below, used to spend approximately two hours per day fetching contaminated water from an unprotected spring at the bottom of a gorge. Now, one of the 9 water points is less than 100 yards from her home where she lives with her husband and children.

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Above is a photo of Abeba (“Flower”) at her water point that is located 100 yards from her home. Abeba helped Breck Spencer on his “Walk for Water” in Gonok in the summer of 2010.

Another access point brings water to the Gonok Complete Primary School (Grades 1-8).

“The water point at the school is a game changer,” said Eric Schmidhauser, Director of Philanthropy at Glimmer. “Instead of students having to bring small water containers to school filled with dirty water from the unprotected spring about 1.5 kilometers from the school, they now have clean water available at the water point with its six faucets to accommodate hundreds of thirsty students.”

Beyond clean drinking water, the students are also able to practice proper hygiene that they learn in school at the hand washing station. In addition, female students now have more time for school since they no longer have to join their mothers on the walk for water to the bottom of the gorge and back in the mornings or afternoons.

Overall, the ATA community contributed about $150,000 to this project, with nearly 2/3rds coming directly from the ATA business. While that money could have gone towards any number of upgrades in the facility, ATA’s dedication to those founding principles makes giving back a continues priority.


Above is the exterior wall of the Gonok School, which has been decorated by paintings made by the teachers to serve as educational tools.

“The most powerful way to teach someone something is to show them,” Newman said. “By making a donation to A Glimmer Of Hope we not only talk the talk but also walk the walk of that life lesson of giving back.”

For Newman personally, much of the inspiration behind this value of giving back comes from a couple of trips to Ethiopia, one before starting ATA and one a few years after.

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This is the handwashing station in front of the building that houses toilets on the Gonok School campus.

“Each of those trips resulted in a greater appreciation for all of the material and immaterial benefits that I enjoy being a citizen of this country,” Newman said. “It struck me as the greatest luck of the draw to have been born here rather than there.  By making a commitment to Glimmer and by helping our students understand they’re lucky place in the universe, I hope to be a part of the balancing of the universe. By helping those with the least amount of resources, basic things like water, education and basic health care, it resonates with me that I am doing what I can.”

Many ATA students have felt compelled to contribute to this and other Glimmer campaigns, starting with Josh Hagar’s launch of Playing For Glimmer in 2008. More recently, Breck and Katherine Spencer raised awareness and funds through the Walk For Water and Bake For Gonok campaigns, while many other student-athletes continue to raise money and offer support in their own creative ways.Newman is currently preparing for his third trip to Africa in the coming weeks, when he will have the chance to visit the

Newman is currently preparing for his third trip to Africa in the coming weeks, when he will have the chance to visit the Gonok village and see first hand the global change to which ATA has contributed. Fittingly, he will travel with Ryan Berber and Santiago Montoya, both ATA alums who were there over 10 years ago when the founders set this lofty goal, and who are now past tennis and focused on their own ambitious goals.

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The elevated pipeline in the photo is the beginning of 8 kilometers of pipeline that brings the clean water from the deep borehole well to 9 different water points that are spread out in the communities that make up Gonok, as well as 3 cattle troughs.

“When we started the Austin Tennis Academy we made a pledge to raise $1 million over 20 years on behalf of Glimmer. Big, hairy, outrageous goals like the million-dollar pledge also says something to our students about their own goals:  SHOOT HIGH.”

To those who know him best, Newman displays a steadfast focus on what is best for his students and lives that out in every aspect of his life. Maybe nobody on the planet knows him better than Donna Berber, CEO and Founder of A Glimmer Of Hope.

“Coach Newman’s continued dedication to supporting the needs of the most vulnerable in our world is integral to the community he has built at ATA emphasizing the importance of giving back. Jack’s focus on giving has been steadfast since the early years of ATA, inspiring his students to become global changemakers who have compassion for those living in abject poverty in rural Ethiopia.”

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