Tuesday, February 8, 2011

We have the water, well…?

This afternoon I participated in one of my favorite activities here in Rwanda – traveling outside of capital of Kigali into the villages. After so many images of genocide in the morning at the Kigali Memorial Center it was refreshing to experience life in the majestic hills and see the impact of clean water.

We headed out with Phillip, Living Water International’s (LWI)#2 in Rwanda, to participate in a health and hygiene training the remote village where we saw the first water flow last week. Living Waters has committed to provide these trainings at the local community level for each well they drill.

The trip started like most African experiences…we were late and driving on a rough road in the middle of nowhere. After many kilometers bouncing around in the LWI’s four wheel drive, we came upon a large gathering on the side of a hill.  “We’re here” said Philip. There were no buildings, no seats, no classroom of any kind. Sitting peacefully on a shaded sloping hill were 50 or so villagers. At the “front of the class” was a  small table and four chairs, for who I was not sure. The setting was stunning. A true sense of community. There was no indication of how long they had been there, no frowns that perhaps we were late. I had to ask the village governor why here? Why not 300 ft down the road? The location appeared to be random. After the translation, he just laughed and kind of shrugged his shoulders. Apparently this was between a couple villages so it seemed to work out. Function over form…seems to be the African way.

I was totally unprepared for what health and hygiene training was. You see, digging a well is only half the mission of Living Waters. Their approach is a holistic education on sanitation and hygiene as it applies to clean water. They also incorporate a message of Gods love to the villages. As Phillip stood in front of the crowd, I was amazed at how attentive they were. As I scanned the audience I would have thought they were watching the latest Hollywood action film. It was clear that Phillip was very good as they engaged, hung on his every word and laughed with him often. No projector, no PowerPoint, no podium, not even any electricity. Phillip had a small bottle of water from the new well, a washing dish and a notebook. That’s it. His only teaching aids were some hilarious, yet informative hand drawn pictures which had no problem crossing any language barrier to reach my American sense of understanding. Don’t wash your hands in dirty water. Don’t pee in near a water supply. Don’t poop where you or your chickens walk. Pretty fundamental concepts to small percentage of us “enlightened” individuals, however to the majority of the world, these are issues. These are the issues that get them sick and these are the issues that cause them to die. That’s why these are the issues that Living Waters is committed to change.

As the training was coming to an end the children started appearing. I’m not sure if school had just been let out or word had finally spread to the far reaching villages that there were some “mazungas” (whites) in the area. Regardless of the cause, the effect was smiling faces and the beauty of the real Africa. As my time in Rwanda is nearing its close, I realize that one the last locations to shoot is one of the first reasons I came – increased awareness for clean water. Judging from the smiles on the kids faces here and at the new well from last week, this a true and just cause. Are you aware?

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