In 2005, as freshmen in college, my friends and I heard about the water crisis. We heard that over a billion people still lacked clean water. We also heard about the solution - that wells and other technologies could provide clean water to those who needed it most. The only thing missing was the creativity to connect the two so we decided to do something about it.
The numbers of the water crisis are daunting. Its hard to conceptualize what unclean water for one billion people looks like. In the spring of 2009 seven of us decided that we needed to see and know the stories of those who lacked clean water and what it took to get it to them. We thought that if we could tell their story, our friends would join us in helping. It is hard to love a statistic, but very easy to love a person.
The people we met in Rwanda might not have had access to clean water, but they were some of the friendliest people we had ever met. There was very little difference between us. Every one we met was eager to share their names, stories, and try and teach us a few words in kinyarwanda. They loved dancing, soccer, and school just like we did. Only in their lack of access to a clean drinking source was a disparity painfully obvious.
Meet Jean Bosco
During our third week in Rwanda we met a boy named Jean Bosco. His job in the family was to fetch water for the cattle and his younger brothers. We quickly became friends. We asked if we could join him on his walk to know what it felt like to go a mile in his shoes.
Early the next morning we met Jean Bosco at his home near the top of one of the large hills surrounding the valley. The water source, he informed us through our translator, was in the valley bellow.
The Walk (continued)
We set out into a warm Rwandan morning. The small dirt trail led us through small groves of banana plants, fields of sorghum, and past many other children carrying yellow jerry cans just like Jean Bosco.
Almost an hour later we arrived at the water source shared by Jean Bosco and 1,500 villagers.
The Water Crisis
This was the truth behind the statistics. Here was 80% of the worlds disease burden and over 3 million deaths a year held in the hands of a 15 year old boy.
What used to be an abstract static had become a personal reality. We knew, and it now made sense to us, that Jean Bosco's situation was not unique. Water like this was responsible for the woes of over a billion people.
The Walk (continued)
After filling our jerry cans with the murky water, we began the long walk back to Jean Bosco's home. Only this time we were walking uphill with the equivalent of ten 2 liter soda boodles on our shoulders. Thats over 45 pounds of water.
Every day, the average person living in sub-saharan Africa spends 4-5 hours walking to get water. Just the time spent walking accounts for more than 443 million missed days of school and an economic loss greater than all charitable donation to the continent (around 40 billion).
The Walk (continued)
Round trip, the walk took nearly two hours. We were exhausted. Jean Bosco, and many others like him, made this trip four times a day. Thats 8-10 hours that he should have been in school. Instead, he walks. No holidays. No sick days. No vacation. This is his delay reality to survive.
The good news is Jean Bosco's story didn't end there. Within the week a team from our partner organization, Living Water International, arrived in the village with a drilling rig.
Wishing Well works with groups like Living Water to implement the solutions funded by student initiatives. The more money we raise here, the more water they can focus on providing clean water.
Setting up a well drilling rig in a place without electricity is sure to grab some attention. Water is at the heart of every community. Shortly after this shot, a small crowd from the village had already joined us to watch and wait for water.
After hours of preparation the moment had finally come. At 20 meters underground, the rig broke through a shelf of quartz and pyrite and into an abundance of clean water.
Pressurized by the air from the drilling rig, the water came blasting out of the hole, showering all of us with a rain of gold sparkling water.
The process of water slowly being absorbed into the earth is actually what filters it. Layers of dirt, sand, and permeable rock help to remove all the impurities from the water. As one of the Rwandan drill works explained, "it is God's filtration system."
Upwards of 90% of the earth has water within the first 200ft of soil.
The next day Living Water sent a team to create a foundation, purify the borehole, and install a hand pump.
Our partner groups, like Living Water, use this time with the village to teach about hygiene, sanitation, and how to care for the well as well as contact them if something should need maintenance.
"Amazi" is the kinyarwandan word for water. We heard it through the smiling faces of Jean Bosco and his friends as the first trickle of clean water soon turned into a life giving current pouring out on the Rwandan soil.
Aside from rain, this was the first time many of the children had seen clean water.