From the village of Aleles in Teso, Uganda (click the images to enlarge and read the letter):
The Hole in Our Gospel, by Richard Stearns, President of World Vision (excerpts from pages 135-139):
I Was Thirsty…
“Water is life, and because we have no water, life is miserable”- a voice from Kenya
Most of you began this morning with a hot, clean shower. You brushed your teeth, filled a glass with water, and took a few vitamins. Perhaps you brewed a cup of coffee or drank a glass of juice with breakfast. And each day you run your washing machines and dishwashers and take your toilets for granted. You probably have one, two, or even three bathrooms in your home. You may also have a sprinkler system to water your lawn and garden. Your refrigerator is filled with cold drinks, bottled water, and maybe even ice-cold water dispensed from its door. If you have children, they probably haven’t spent even one hour of their lives fetching water for the family to drink or to bathe with. And I’ll wager that neither you nor your children have ever had a sick day due to unclean water–unless you have travel to another country and picked up one of many waterborne bacteria or parasites.
So now, I want you to imagine for a moment that when you wake up tomorrow, all of the water-related fixtures and appliances have been removed from your home. The sinks, toilets, bathtubs, and showers are gone. Dishwasher, washing machine, garden hoses, sprinklers–all gone. Let’s say, though, that everything else about your house remains the same. Still, how would your life change with just this one difference?
Where I live, we are fortunate to have a wonderful lake just about two miles away, so if I knew I was going to be without water, I could begin to plan ahead to organize some water fetching. On foot, it would take about two hours round-trip to go fetch water to use for drinking and some rudimentary bathing, but thirty gallons of water weighs about 250 pounds. I checked my water bill and learned that my family uses about 300 gallons a day. That would weigh more than a ton and would require 50 round-trips to the lake each day, so my family might have to reduce their water consumption a bit. Reducing to 30 gallons would be a 90% reduction, but carrying 30 gallons of water two miles would still take about five or six trips a day, carrying 50 pounds each time, consuming about ten hours of hard labor. If you think it’s inconvenient to go to the gym to work out every morning, try lugging 50 pounds of water back to your house so you can brush your teeth and have a sponge bath–then try making that trip five times. Now, if you had to work this routine into your schedule every day and still get everyone off to work on school on time, you would have to begin your treks in the wee hours of the morning. Washing your clothes and dishes, let alone your own body, would become an overwhelming task.
Women and children in developing countries invest 200,000,000 hours a day in fetching water. That’s equal to a full-time workforce of 25,000,000 people fetching water eight hours a day, seven days a week.
A few years ago, I was traveling in West Africa. We visited a village in Northern Ghana called Gbum Gbum (pronounced boom boom). As we gathered around the borehole well that World Vision had drilled several years earlier right next to the school, the school’s headmaster told us that before the borehole he had just 40 students. Now more than 400 children attended the school! The difference? Before the water came to Gbum Gbum, the women and children had to spend about five hours each day fetching water from a waterhole several kilometers away. They would rise early, before dawn, making several trips throughout the day; they had no time or energy for school. Another man told me that before the well, children and adults alike were riddled with Guinea worm disease (dracunculiasis) caused by parasitic nematodes found in contaminated water. These worms grow inside the body, sometimes up to three feet in length, and then when full-grown, burrow out through the skin, causing crippling pain and infection. Now the Guinea worms were gone.
As I continued our walk through the village, we met several dozen women working with great effort to make something called shea butter, an ingredient used in skin lotions and cosmetics, from a locally grown plant. To my amazement, they were selling this shea butter for a profit. In fact, I was told that it was even being bought by Bath and Body Works–in the U.S.! The only thing these women had needed to create this business was time and clean water, both of which were now available.
In Africa, they don’t say that water is important to their lives; they say that water is life. It is absolutely the foundation upon which civilization and human life is built, and the best news is that we have the knowledge and the technology to provide it. All we lack is the will.