Community Improvement, Capacity Building

Wash Project



The Wash Project is a community-driven public health initiative based in Ouelessebougou, Mali. We are building a healthier, more resilient community through education about hand washing with soap, providing better access to safe water, and hosting events throughout the year that foster community engagement, wellness and fun.

Ruling Year



Barclay Martin

Main Address

2201 W 50TH ST



health, education, sports, hygiene, gender equality, clean water





Cause Area (NTEE Code)

Community Improvement, Capacity Building N.E.C. (S99)

IRS Filing Requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990-N.

Programs + Results

What we aim to solve

For generations, there has been a negative perception toward the practice of washing hands with soap. Some say it has to do with socioeconomic class, differentiating those who work indoors to those who work in the fields, etc. Whatever the root causes, the practice has contributed hugely to the devastating rates of infant mortality in Mali. In addition, it exacerbates the rates of easily treatable diseases such as diarrhea and pneumonia, which is one of Mali's largest killers of children under the age of 5. We began The Wash Project with the intention of treating the problem at the root: by engaging children and young people, they have become the champions of a new culture of hand washing and hygiene. Working in 18 local schools in the community of Ouelessebougou, Mali, The Wash Project also hosts sports tournaments for boys and girls, to promote healthy habits, and strengthen one of the most effective and efficient life-saving practices on earth: washing hands with soap.

Our Sustainable Development Goals

Learn more about Sustainable Development Goals.

1 2 3 4 5 6 10 12 15

Our programs

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

The Wash Project

Where we work

Charting Impact

Five powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What is the organization aiming to accomplish?

What are the organization's key strategies for making this happen?

What are the organization's capabilities for doing this?

How will they know if they are making progress?

What have they accomplished so far and what's next?

Because of our focus on hand washing with soap, The Wash Project has suddenly taken on a leadership role in the community of Ouelessebougou as the COVID-19 pandemic reaches Mali. Where the core of our mission has always been to promote this healthy habit, we are now moving into to an emergency service to help equip health care workers in the area with the equipment and protective gear they need to be safe on the job. Because of the prevalence of malnutrition and respiratory diseases like TB in the community, Ouelessebougou is in an extremely vulnerable position as COVID-19 encroaches. We have shifted our efforts to direct community outreach, equipping the most vulnerable with soap and clean water delivered to their neighborhoods and provided free of charge. This effort is hugely dependent on the network of volunteers that we have built over our last 10 years of service to the people of Ouelessebougou. The next six months of our work will be to launch a comprehensive information campaign, with our network of local volunteers and partnerships with media. In addition, we are committed to investing deeply in the local community, which is why we are employing local seamstresses and soap makers to increase their production sharply to make thousands of bottles of soap and protective face masks for those most in need.

Because of the emergent nature of this moment, we are moving quickly to mobilize a network of neighborhood ambassadors to represent every single neighborhood of Ouelessebougou. Through their local leadership, we will be coordinating deliveries of soap and clean water for those who do not have access, or are unable to reach safe water sources. Mali has one of the world's most vulnerable health systems, so before the first reported case of COVID-19, we launched a fundraising campaign to provide the most critically needed equipment and protective gear for the health care providers. As scarcity for this protective equipment increases in even the most wealthy nations, we have moved quickly to secure the highest quality support for the local health care providers that our budget could manage. Through our support of the Ouelessebougou Hospital, we have also earned the support of the health care professionals there, who are collaborating with us to do interviews and record public service announcements to create reliable and trustworthy sources of information for the community to depend on to keep their families healthy. Our partnerships with the local media are also playing a critical role to fight the spread of misinformation and to clearly articulate the serious nature of COVID-19 and how it differs from other illnesses that have ravaged the continent, such as Ebola. In the coming months, we will continue to raise money to produce and deliver locally-made soap and protective masks, and invest in local food producers to keep the food chain as resilient as possible as uncertainty begins to overtake the country.

Because we are a small organization, we are hugely dependent on the strength of the community. There is simply no budget for a large staff, so we rely on the hearts and hands of local volunteers who see this moment of crisis in their neighborhood as a moment to be of service. Our project coordinator, Tieblecoro Samaké is a native of Ouelessebougou and thus has very specific knowledge about how to get things done as efficiently and as well as possible. Over the past several years, we have also maintained the Wash Club, which consists of students from participating schools, as well as adults who see this mission as important to their community and want to help. This organization has always been driven by the community. We have learned over the years that the community knows what they need, and have lived the challenges that we from afar are trying to imagine and anticipate. This creates a sense of ownership over The Wash Project that is one of our organization's greatest strengths. By creating opportunities and initiatives that the community wants, we have a resilient culture of volunteering, which leads to very specific and relevant help to this one community of Ouelessebogou.

In this present moment of crisis, our progress will be measured by how well our network of community ambassadors are able to understand the needs of their neighbors, and to communicate those needs to us. In more direct terms, the numbers of confirmed cases of COVID-19 will be an obvious marker of progress, but there are also many others we will be monitoring. For example, we will be working with our neighborhood ambassadors to identify those families who have been particularly affected by either a disruption of the food supply chain, or have fallen ill due to the virus, or are struggling with malnutrition due to crop failure and acute poverty. All of these elements factor into a community's ability to stay healthy. From a community standpoint, our educational campaigns are being targeted at solidarity and collaboration. Because of the insidious nature of the spread of this virus, we are truly interdependent, and the more successfully we communicate accurately and clearly with the community, the better our chances will be of having maximum participation. For example, the inclusion of a regular habit of hand washing with soap, and using face masks when appropriate will still be a very new practice for most people. Observing the culture of these two habits will also be a clear signal of our progress toward supporting a more resilient community.

The beginning years of The Wash Project were fundamental to simply establishing our organization as one that is trustworthy and focused on the needs of the community. Through popular activities such as the boys' soccer tournament and the girls' basketball tournament, we have encouraged thousands of community members to gather, learn about our message of hand washing and experience the joy of such celebrations. As our need for soap grew, we established a women's soap making cooperative, giving some women their first opportunity to make their own money in their lives. This has only deepened our investment in creating opportunities for women and girls in Ouelessebougou, and we're expanding our program to include women who are learning tailoring to make protective face masks for people who most need them. During the first years of our work, we had great interest from schools, but we were increasingly confronted with the reality that many schools did not have access to a safe or reliable water source with which to support our program. So last year, we commissioned our first well, which was installed to tap into the lower water table, providing roughly 15,000L of water per day, year-round. This is a critical asset to the community during the dry season, where many of the hand-dug wells run dry. We will continue to invest in safe water in combination with our programs. But we are also making steps toward further investing in local talent, and to support their training and development. With a focus on girls and women, our longer-term dream is to establish a Wash Project office, which will also offer office, meeting and workshop space which will be accessible to the community. Through our partnerships with the local health system, we are working toward developing more public awareness campaigns to help locals address the greatest health challenges, and in turn, keep people healthier and out of hospitals. What began as a simple hand washing initiative is quickly evolving into a discovery of the interconnectivity of all the moving parts of a community. By addressing this once-in-a-century pandemic of COVID-19, we are revealing the strength and capacity of a community that has always been there. It is our privilege to continue to cultivate this, even as we face this great global challenge together.

External Reviews


Wash Project

Need more info on this nonprofit?

Need more info on this nonprofit?

FREE: Gain immediate access to the following:

  • Address, website and contact information


The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

Need more info?

FREE: Gain immediate access to the following:

  • Address, website and contact information

Board Leadership Practices

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section, which enables organizations and donors to transparently share information about essential board leadership practices.

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization


Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations?

Not Applicable


Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year?

Not Applicable


Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year?

Not Applicable


Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership?

Not Applicable


Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years?

Not Applicable