Well, my initial plan was to keep my blog updates short and consise, if they are too long people will stop reading them. Today however is going to be almost impossible to sum up in just one small blog post.
We left our hotel early (6am) and travelled around 1 hour to a local village called Ojalai. Ojolai is a community that has not yet had the benefit of WaterAid support yet, this trip would give us an insight into the challenges communities face without WaterAid’s (and other NGO’s) vital work.
Only a few years ago this town was war torn and the women of the villages raped and many killed, but on this glorious sunny day, you wouldn’t know that now. There is no power supply, no clean running water and no toilet facilities. I spent time with a young family, Agunti Agnes, her husband Essau Paul, and their two one year old twins, Opiya Brian and Acen Robin. Their other two children were not around, one four year old Obongo Calvin was hiding from the scary white folk and Apendo Marchelet and 8 year old girl was at school. Their compound area consists of three huts, one sleeping hut, where all 6 in the family sleep, one spare room and one kitchen. Their toilet facilities are in a small hut, and is essentially a hole in the ground.
Every day Aguti Agnes has to carry her baby twins to the water supply to collect water, the ‘well’ is 400m away and she has to travel around 6 times a day collecting 20 litres a time. The water is dirty and not suitable for drinking. During the dry season Aguti will have to travel 2.5 kms to a bore hole for her water. In this heat, I was struggling and felt awful drinking fresh bottled water while Aguti and her family are drinking dirty water.
Myself and two colleagues helped Aguti and Essou go around their daily chores, repairing the toilet, building hand washing facilities and cooking lunch. To repair the toilet we had to collect some cow dung, mix it with water and spread it around the floor of the toilet. After this I was the ceremonial opener of the toilet, lifting the brick from the hole.
We then helped dig the holes for the handwashing facilities and washed our hands using it.
For lunch we were having chicken, with no shops near by the only food is that prepared by the community and therefore, preparing a meal of chicken involves the slaughter of the chicken. After this rather disturbing event we went to the kitchen to watch preparations. The kitchen was a mud hut with a burning fire in the corner which they cook on.
We shared stories of home with the family and photos of loved ones, the men were particularly fond of the pictures of Barney and Bess, my two dogs, wishing they could have a dog themselves. It was difficult to get across that our process of getting food is vastly different from theirs, everything is packeted and done for us, their style of living is very much self sufficient.
We helped gather water with the family, a hot journey and although not desperately for was hard enough in the heat carrying 20 kilos of water.
As well as sharing their lunch with us we shared our lunch with them, for them it was their first taste of sausages and sandwiches, it felt great to be a part of that. When we packed away the rubbish it was amazing to see how greatful the villagers were with our left behind rubbish, each bit they will make use of, they thanked us and thanked god for us visiting them. Seeing how grateful they were for something so simple made me wish I had brought more things with me to give away.
After a moving and emotional morning, our translators helping us communicate amazingly, we headed to the school. A beautiful welcome song and some speeches. The school has 438 pupils and only three pit toilets, there are 22 disabled pupils at the school and they have no special facilities to help them use the toilet. It must be particularly hard being a girl as there is little facility for menstrual hygiene, if a girl is on their period they are allowed to go home to change. This fact was told to us by a male headteacher, and it was great to hear him talk open and free about the importance of menstrual hygiene, something which WaterAid really focused on in their recent ‘to be a girl’ campaign.
The school is not funded by the government but actually by the community, it was built and is maintained by the community, who each pay the teachers wage. Without this school a vital link with education would have been lost for the 438 pupils here.
The lasting memory of this community is how happy they all are, they are pretty much self sustaining but are greatful for any support that they receive. My lasting memory will be when I asked Paul if he had a message to send back to the UK...his only answer.... Thank you. From a man in a village where they still have no running water this spoke volumes to me.
So thats it for today, there was so much to convey no blog post will ever do it justice. Tomorrow we will visit a community which has been touched by WaterAids work, we will see the difference it has made to the lives of its villagers.
Thank you Southern Water and WaterAid for giving me the opportunity and the support to share your amazing journey.