Tuesday, 18 November 2014

What a difference taps and toilets can make!

Wow, what an inspiring day! Despite another very early start, my excitement in anticipating meeting more lovely people and hearing their stories gave me huge amounts of energy. After a dusty drive of an hour we arrived in the friendly village of Bogol of 83 households. This is a community which had a new water pump installed with help from WaterAid and partners 2 1/2 years ago. And what a difference it's made to the lives of the people living there!

Like yesterday we spent most of the day with a local family, helping them with their typical daily activities. Our family of 14 members were a father, Osuban Glasio aged 63, and a mother, Lucy Alayo 56, with 10 children aged 10 to 26, plus a grandmother and her sister. Two of their daughters, Robin 24, and Mary19, acted as our interpreters. They could not have made us feel more welcome and very much treated us as part of their family. We helped weed their cassavas with hoes, collect sweet potatoes, prepare bean leaves and ground nuts for lunch, wash dishes and spent time chatting with them about their lives. I really admired their hard work, enthusiasm, strong sense of family values and community spirit.

Their appreciation and thankfulness to WaterAid and partners for installing their new pump and for our role with WaterAid was so uplifting. Before the water pump their had to walk a round trip of 2 hours to an unclean spring carrying heavy jerry cans 3 times a day. They were sick often with diarrhoea, other illnesses and some member of their community even died.

Since the pump was installed they save over 5 hours a day which they can spend caring for their family, crops, animals, travelling to market and going to school. They are also a lot healthier and therefore happier too. You could actually feel the positivity radiating around the people gathering by the water pump to collect their water and meet us.

The family's latrine was so clean, with a smart 'tipi-tap' constructed outside for hand washing, I quite enjoyed using it, and didn't miss my western style toilet at all!

We shared a delicious breakfast of sweet potatoes and fresh warm milk just milked from their cow, and later a lunch with cassava, bean leaves in a ground nut sauce, (and a freshly slaughtered chicken for the non-vegetarians).

We enjoyed ourselves so much, I felt really sad to leave. Before we did we were presented with a kind and generous gift of a bag of ground nuts each, and took some lovely photos with the family.

In the afternoon we were greeted with an enormous amount of enthusiasm from the wonderful children at Wera Primary School. There are over 800 pupils and 14 teachers at the school and it felt like they all ran out of the buildings to greet us at once when we arrived! The children sang us a lovely welcome song and we sat to listen to a prayer, plus speeches by the headteacher and chair of the Parent Teacher Association. I felt overwhelmed by emotion when 2 children performed poems about clean water, and HIV sanitation with real feeling. Another song, and then suddenly to my surprise we were all up dancing!

I was really impressed by the latrines installed in partnership with WaterAid, including one with disabled access. Colourful murals by the children with hygiene education messages were really eye catching. We watched the children do drawings with hygiene messages, and the girls make sanitary towels out of reused pieces of materials. The awareness level about sanitation and hygiene was outstanding. It's great that both girls and boys seem comfortable talking about menstruation - somewhat of a taboo subject in most of the world.

Today has been such an amazing positive, first hand experience of how WaterAid, their partners and supporter's make a huge difference to many communities, schools, families and individuals' lives. It's a privilege to have been able to experience this and it has made me feel even surer of the importance of my ambassador role for WaterAid.

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