Sunday, August 17, 2014

Stories from Ganda Boya, Part Four: My Story

Over the course of my visits to Ganda Boya, I always heard the same difficult chorus: “Our lives are very difficult.” I heard it from men, women, children, and translators who had the same longing look in their eyes as the people whose words they were speaking. When I filmed of the villagers for the interviews, some of them looked directly into the camera and cobbled together a plea in the best English they could muster for the people of “America” (anyone, really) to bring them water.

But I still did not understand exactly what it meant to not have water security. I wanted to know.

With only the aid of direction from a Haramaya University employee, I walked 30 minutes downhill to a pond in the flood plain of Lake Haramaya with a plastic yellow 20-liter (5 gallon) jerrycan and dunked it in the water. It was quite hot out, and I could already feel myself getting sunburned. The pool of standing water was rife with mosquitoes and algae, and I realized yet another unfair advantage I had in having had already taken a malaria prophylaxis. Once I had the water, I allowed myself to drink from the water bottle in my backpack, not wanting to get sick from the pond water. Ganda Boya villagers also usually do not drink the pond water, but current access to the single village sink tap of relatively clean university water that’s turned on a few hours per day is extremely competitive, sometimes to the point of violence.

Collecting water at the pond to carry back to Ganda Boya.
I tried to balance the 20kg (45 pound) jerry can first on my shoulder, then on my other shoulder. I also hadn’t had breakfast, as most people in the village fetch water before eating. Then I let the jerrycan swing on my left, then on my right. I was walking uphill with enough water to sustain one person for one day. Before even exiting the floodplain, I was parked under a tree, gasping, sweating, and dizzy from the heat. I continued on, determined to even once make the trek that Ganda Boyans make every single day.

When I finally reached a house in the village, I dropped the jerrycan off with some kids, made sure they knew the water wasn’t for drinking, and hobbled my aching body home. I was now badly sunburnt, shaky, and dehydrated, and subsequently slept for over two hours in the middle of the afternoon before taking a shower that even that evening felt as damning as it was cleansing of the mud and sweat I’d accumulated over the course of the trek. All told, I’d walked over three miles in the midday sun just north of the equator, and for
half of which I carried the filled jerrycan.

Granted, I’m not used to this sort of thing, but I also wasn’t doing much that Ganda Boyans do not. With even just a morsel of just how “very difficult” these lives are, I began to unravel the ugly truth of what stops them from having much of any opportunity in life. Every morning, I turn on the water for any number of different reasons, and waste no time doing so such that I can proceed with everything else I do during the day. They, on the other hand, waste an incredible amount of time just satisfying a basic necessity.

With that in mind, I again ask you to financially support my organization of dedicated volunteers to forever change the lives of everyone in Ganda Boya by providing them with clean, safe drinking water. Their lives are plagued by a lack of access to safe water, and their community can flourish if this need is met.

Already this summer, individuals have contributed in amounts ranging from $5, which buys a meter of pipe for the well, to $500, which buys nearly two solar panels to power the pump we’ll use to get the water to the village. Others have held fundraisers (even a lemonade stand) that have often yielded over $1000 each, and still others have contributed their professional talents for the sole purpose of righting this wrong. You can do it. We can do it.

We will do it.

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