Saturday, June 28, 2014

Stories from Ganda Boya, Introduction and Part One: Fayo's Story

On my first day in Ganda Boya, I had the opportunity to meet the people who will benefit from our work and your donations. Personally, I didn’t expect to hear anything that our blog posts haven’t already said before: the villagers are getting sick from the water, the villagers are missing school and don’t have jobs because they have to get water, the work is very hard for the villagers.

Until I met the people and shook their hands, I did not realize the power of the first person over that of the third person.
Three young Ganda Boya villagers pointing to where they have to walk to
fetch water – just before the hills in the background.

Consider how different these words sound, coming from someone with whom you have shaken hands:

“I am getting sick from the water I drink.”

“I miss school in the morning because I need to get water.”

“I am unable to work because my family will not have anything to drink if I do not fetch them water.”

“This work is very, very hard for me.”

In four parts, I will post the stories of three individuals, Fayo, Hindia, and Menuit, who carry five-gallon (20-liter) jerrycans of pond water uphill a mile and a half (2km) every day, and one of myself when I decided to evaluate just how difficult this chore was by trying it myself. (Spoiler alert: it wasn’t a walk in the park.)

So without further ado, Part One: Fayo’s Story.

***

Fayo is what you might expect of any young girl in any country: a little bashful, firm in the things she understands of the world and spooked by those she does not, and with a strong heart to care for her baby brother. When I arrived at the village, everyone ran out of their houses to see the newcomer, and Fayo was the first person I picked out of the crowd of excited children to tell me more about what it’s like for a kid to grow up in a village with no electricity and no running water.

Fayo with her baby brother.
When I moved closer to her and squatted down, I saw that Fayo was carrying an infant wrapped in a white linen blanket on her back. The infant was her baby brother, who she takes care of while her mother, Hawa, does other chores during the day. Each morning at five o’clock (well before sunrise), Hawa and Fayo start walking to a pool of standing water to carry yellow plastic jerrycans, five liters for Fayo and twenty for her mother. I asked Fayo how old she was, but she seemed to think such a question was silly, and guessed that she was eight.

She couldn't say exactly how long the chore of getting water every morning took, but one leader from the village estimated that the walk to the pool took about half an hour, and carrying the full containers uphill back to the village took a full hour.

The economic impact of this activity on her is clear: such work cuts into her Grade 2 school day, and she reported that there were several days per week when she missed some of her classes in the morning to get water. The lasting effect of this will be that she will likely end up like many Ganda Boya villagers, with a perforated education through her elementary years and a return to subsistence agriculture in her teenage years. Not only that, but she told me that this chore often prevents her from having anything to eat until lunchtime at school.

Perhaps the most surprising thing about my short chat with Fayo was that she didn’t seem to see anything extraordinary in the fact that she carries water uphill twice per day every day, or that she had never in her life had access to running water. She became even shyer when I told her that people in America and all over the world would hear her story. Are things somehow different there?

Together, we can prevent Fayo and all of her fellow villagers from spending such valuable schooling and work hours collecting unsafe water for their households. The world is becoming a smaller and smaller place: it only takes one person like Fayo to speak and one to post on the web for a story to come alive and to make an impact for a village of 2,000 people.

You can bring safe running water to Ganda Boya. We’re all in this together.


Check back soon for Part Two: Hindia’s Story.

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