At the end of a day of asking questions, taking photos and being inspired by the great work of our partner in Northern Uganda, I was about to get in the car when this young one was smiling from here eyes straight into my heart. In the background you can see part of a family compound. To me, she shall be known as ‘her cuteness’.
At one of the many roadblocks I went through in the last week in the Central African Republic, I saw these two young boys making some of the most incredible lorries, or trucks, out of scrap wood. I jumped out of the car and was blessed when they agreed to let me take their photo. If you have a moment, take the time to admire the detail they have put into these lorries from the awning on the back (on the finished lorry rolling down the road) to the moving wheels to the lights and decoration on their front. These children were made to create beautiful things.
These schoolgirls recited a poem and performed a song about water for us yesterday. Although our time with them was brief, it was a joy to be with them as their bright uniforms and vibrant voices lit up the field
This past week my computer was in the shop, and the week before that I was happily living without electricity. I like it when I can unplug and disconnect from the world… but when I am supposed to be plugged and connecting, it is amazing how hard it can be to only have partial access to things through a loaned computer. But I should not complain – my computer now is fixed for the moment and a new one on its way to the office. My work is piled up a bit, but I am fully plugged in… just in time to get on the plane tonight.
When I was in Western Kenya, I was exploring a possible school water project. Kids need water at school. They need to drink, wash their hands, have water too cook food, and wash the classrooms. Watering plants and gardens is an added benefit. While this seems like such a need should be assumed to be filled, it is, unfortunately, a poor assumption. Some schools have some water, others have none. The reasons for the situation are variations on not maintaining or simply not having. Regardless, something needs to be done. I will let you know more details if this project comes to fruition.
Today I join more than 4,200 bloggers around the world talking about water. Why is this important? Because water, safe water, is the foundation of health in so many ways. It is needed for human health and for environmental health – so intertwined they are inseparable. Today there will be enough facts and statistics tossed around to make numerical salad to feed a small army. I love it all – all the numbers and ideas and the health that we hope for and work towards. But here I want to step away from that numerical salad and tell you about the Community Primary School in Mackenzie, Zambia.
Every time I have been to Ndola,I have visited the Mackenzie Community Primary School. Ok… let me rephrase that… every time I have been to Ndola, I have visited the well at this school. Each time, children have been gathered around pumping and collecting water in buckets and jeri cans. There is talking and laughter fills the air. A scene not that different than many I see across Africa.
I see similar things all the time. And when things become common, we forget (excuse me… I forget) that they are important and transformative. This week while we talked around the well, the people I was with reminded me that it is often the young girls’ work to collect and carry water. Does that prevent them from going to school? No – but it used to prevent them from going to school when they had to walk a long way to find water.
In addition to the well, their community has nearly full coverage of biosand filters – meaning that nearly each home has a filter providing them with safe water. Again, I have been into a lot of homes with biosand filters, and so it is easy to forget that they are transformative because I see them often. But then I hear again how a family – children and parents – no longer suffer from diarrhea and illness regularly because of safe water provided from the biosand filter. A simple, affordable technology that transforms lives.
The story of the Mackenzie Community Primary School is one of a peri-urban community that does not have a government school, but pooled their resources to create a community school. It is a story where the young girls can now attend primary school because they do not have to carry water. And a story where biosand filters in the children’s home keep them well enough to attend school. This is a simplistic look at a community’s transformation, but these are key elements to that transformation.
Safe water saves lives and gives children a chance at health and education. Sometimes I forget how things have changed, how they have improved, as I stretch for the next step of development. Because this level of transformation somehow becomes normal. But there are so many places that are not like this. So many places where children die from diarrhea and skip school to carry water. And so today, as bloggers around the world talk about water, I want to celebrate the progress that has been made as we rally together to do more.
If you want to be part of the solution, go to Blood:Water Mission’s website and donate – right now there is a dollar for dollar match that will go to support our work in Northern Uganda and Rwanda. And, like our work here in Zambia, this water work will transform lives. It’s why I do my job.
One of the beautiful things about children is that no language is required for fun to occur. And so, when children are gathered and not much seems to be going on, I take up simple games of “Simon Says” minus the “Simon Says” part of the game. Just simple old imitation. It is magic. Every time. Here we were acting like trains and saying, “Chugga chugga choo choo.” The building next to us is the location of a mobile medical clinic where people were being treated for ailments and tested for AIDS in Northern Kenya. Serious, important stuff. But at that moment, none of it mattered – we were playing and everyone watching was smiling and laughing. Just one of those happy moments from days spent in the field that do not occur when I am back in the office.
Photo by Barak Bruerd.
This little girl had just been given a bath. Mom had mostly dried her off and the final drops of water were disappearing to the afternoon sun. And, like always, it is her smile the caught me.
I promise that under her hand is a huge smile. I promise. A little while later she was leading the other children in games and, more than once, threw her head back as her laughter filled the air. I love smiles and laughter, and Nabopu was no exception.
Author: Heather Armstrong
Recommended: yes – for all those people who have or are considering having children or who deal with depression in yourself or loved ones
Thoughts: Heather writes her autobiography much like how she writes her blog – candidly, verbosely, and full of humorous images. Nothing is off-limits, everything is worth discussing, and humor is found in the smallest moments. I found that I devoured the first half of the book and then took the second half much slower as her writing style is one better digested in small pieces. I love her honesty about life, children, and depression. All three are much less intimidating when approached openly. Read it with a drink in hand while laughing a loud, honest, and obnoxious laugh.