Saturday, June 23, 2012
Welcome to Water Well Week here at OPOD. We start with this fine photo of a couple of guys installing a hand pump on a newly dug well. The picture was taken in Missouri in 1938.
I guess I had never appreciated how important water is until recently. When we think of poverty in Africa, I had always thought of it from the perspective of the need for clean water to prevent disease. As I have spent the summer here, I have learned that there is another critically important issue . . . how far you are from clean water. You see, the further you are from the well, the longer it takes to carry the water to your house (more accurately, mud hut), and the less time you have for other critical activities. If a woman has to walk 45 minutes to the well, and 45 minutes back, that is 1.5 hours consumed just to have water. If she has a well in her village, she could use that 1.5 hours to perhaps raise a few more vegetables, and instead of just barely having enough to eat, she might have a little excess produce to sell, hence obtaining a path to break the cycle of poverty.
Funny we should be talking about water . . . a few days ago I was in the market in town, and ran into a very poor local African guy who has started his own orphanage. The orphanage has 1/2 acre of land, a mud brick dormitory with tin roof and no doors (just openings). He has taken in 20 kids which he takes care of there. He has no support from anyone. The children survive based on the kindness of very poor neighbors. Perhaps a farmer drops off a cabbage for them, or someone gives them a bag of maze. He was eager to show me his operation, so I went with him to check it out.
I was happy to see that the children were relatively well nourished, and had reasonable clothes. The man who is doing this, Charles, told me that he and the children really wanted to support themselves, but that their biggest problem is that they had no water. They have a garden, but the garden does not produce, because they do not have water. The children have to walk a long distance and carry water, enough for drinking and a little cleaning, but not enough to operate a garden. He said that if they had water, the soil was fertile and they could produce much of what they needed to eat themselves. The children all get up at 5:00 AM each morning, and spend 2 hours reading their Bibles and in prayer. Then they walk to school. They attend a poor public school down the road a ways. In the evening, they go for water, and have a little time for play. Their rooms are completely empty. They each have a bed with a horrible rotted mattress. There is nothing else in the room except beds and mattresses. The food is cooked outdoors on a little jiko wood stove. It really does not get much poorer than this, but thankfully the children are getting food.
I am thinking someone needs to dig them a water well. Oh well, hopefully someone will come along and help these people.