Split Chef Mario Mandarić Fulfills Promise, Brings Water to Ugandan Villages

Daniela Rogulj

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One well has already started to come to life, and clean drinking water has brought indescribable joy to the village. Residents of another village, where the construction of another well under his direction is nearing completion, will soon experience the same, reports Slobodna Dalmacija.

Mario is in Uganda accompanied by his girlfriend Matea Krištić, a 25-year-old student at the Faculty of Law in Split and native of the Imotski village of Zmijavac, who also embarked on an adventure of a lifetime. According to the latest news from Africa, Mario has plans to build another well from donor money. 


“Matea and I financed the first well; the second was built from donations collected at three charity dinners. And along the way, we raised money to build another one. As donors continue to respond, some more villages will receive water.

Building a well does not just mean bringing water to those people, for whom it has been a pure luxury so far. It means changing their lives. There are no fathers in the villages we visited because they died while trying to pull the liquid that means life to them, from the swamp, in buckets. That makes this action even more significant. Fills you with happiness. It is amazing to see their explosive happiness as they play under the drops of water coming from the well,” says Mario.


At one point last summer, Mario read about thirst in Ugandan villages and decided to help. After three donor evenings, they were greeted by a long flight to Uganda and a mountain of paperwork.

His only connection was Amar, a man who owns a well construction company. Immediately after their arrival, they went into action, and they were lucky to find drinking water in the first village, after drilling the ground for 15 meters, both by hand and with a drill.

The well that has already been put into operation has a plaque next to it with the names of the donors, Mario and Matea, with the inscription – water is not for sale.


“Yes, the message ‘water is not for sale,’ says a lot because water is a treasure here, and we do not want anyone to trade in it. We want it to be accessible to all, free.

The inhabitants of these villages have never seen a white man before. They are shocked by Matea’s green nails. After a while, they put babies in our arms because they think they will be blessed if white people hold them.

They have an immeasurable temperament, dancing for hours, singing, thanking, thrilled to finally have what they need so much. Before we left for Africa, they sang ‘Welcome to Uganda’ for us.

And now the song carries the words – ‘we have no water, you will give it to us.’ Most of the children in these pictures are fatherless. They drowned as they went into the swamps to get the liquid that literally means life here. And it hurts because Uganda has exceptional underground river flows,” says Mario.

Mario said that great corruption, restrictions, and poverty rule the state. So they found accommodation in a small town four hours away by car from the capital. They sleep in a hotel with water and electricity, but goats are also a common sight and are free to meet in the hallways in the morning.


The city is full of old Toyota vehicles. People are otherwise very kind and constantly stop them because of their skin color and because of Mario’s tattoos. They say they only saw something like that on TV.

And what does Matea think of Africa? Before she left, she had to overcome a terrible fear of locusts, so she is happy that it is not their season, although she admits that something is constantly flying around them. She also said that there is a lot of chaos, and she continually wonders where everyone is running as if they were in a state of war.

They have also adapted to the Ugandan diet, on bananas in all forms, and were even served pasta and fried eggs for breakfast. They were delighted with the natural juices.

“Passing through the villages, we give the children sweets, lollipops. You have the impression that you are watching a scene from a popular movie about Africa. Everything is somehow on the verge of survival, crowded with many people in the cities, crowded on the unpaved streets. At first contact in the villages, the kids marveled at my nails.

At first, they were very careful, then she would start touching us, then they would give us a high five, and after a while, they would begin shaking hands. We later became friends. These children are so wonderful, happy, even in all their poverty. Water is a gift from heaven to them,” says Matea.


Other donors joined Mario’s well-building action in Uganda, and among them is Toni Raguz, a Croatian businessman who has several exclusive hotels in Zanzibar.

“He invited us to celebrate Christmas and New Year with him, and when he heard about our action, he decided to donate to construct several wells. So we are happy,” concludes Mario.

To read more about lifestyle in Croatia, follow TCN’s dedicated page.


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