Wow! What a contrast to yesterday’s visit to the health clinic. Today we visited two villages where WaterAid and its partners have worked with the communities to totally transform their lives.
The welcome we received at both villages was colourful, musical and, above all, warm-hearted. But it wasn’t always like this for them. For one village in the remotest part of the bush, they had to get their water from a small river. It wasn’t always clean and they also had no latrines, so the surrounding area of the village had a certain aroma (to put it politely!) They also had continuous cases of diarrhoea and cholera, which meant constant trips to the health clinic, which is miles away. Interestingly, they also said the village used to be a really unhappy place, with lots of community and marital disputes over water.
The transition to what we saw was led from within the community, by passionate villagers and community leaders who were prepared to embrace change and make sure things happened. Just seeing the difference that securing safe water, good hygiene and building a latrine for each house has made makes all the fundraising we do really worth while. Just look at today’s pictures to see…
Finally, one thing I’ve seen so far this week is the critical importance of good strong leadership at all levels to make change happen and, more importantly, to sustain it in the long term. The communities we saw have made the change, but it’s the young parents in the village who are really driving the important step of keeping it there. I’ve never before seen such pride, which is a reflection of what they have achieved in transforming their village. In a way, it’s such a pity that it’s in the middle of nowhere so others can’t see what they have achieved, and their commitment to maintaining it. As the village chief said of their new well: “We need to treat this well as our mother – it will care for us if we look after it.”