Saturday, May 10, 2008

Water, water everywhere but not a drop to drink!

Imagine having to travel everyday to gather the water for your family from a spring, a river, a stream or a water hole and then haul it back to your home. Now you must let the water sit so that the debris can settle to the bottom of the container and you can dip out water for cooking, bathing, washing your clothes and oh yes drinking. How much water would you have to gather? 5 gallons? 10 gallons? 20 gallons? Well actually you probably would only gather 5 gallons and try to make do untill tomorrow when you would trek again out to your water source with your 5 gallon container that weighs approximately 65 pounds. Mom and all the children have the responsibility for fetching water. Children often spend a good portion of their day helping mom get water. Here in Africa you would balance that 5 gallon container on your head as you climbed the steep embankments and traversed the trails back to your abode.

But what about the dry season when the rain doesn't replenish your water source and the water diminishes becoming acrid and muddy and unfit to use for anything, or until the source dries up completely. You may have to rely on someone with a vehicle to transport some water in to your area or you would walk to another source which may take you 2 days to bring back enough water just to survive, no water will be used for washing at this time.

I use to think that you may be poor but you can at least be clean. I have learned in the last year that this is not true. Washing from a bucket of warm water every day as we did in Luputa is a luxury and one that most villagers can only due by sharing the same water for the whole family and washing your clothes happens only once a week, if there is enough water. Clothes are washed in a bucket of soupy water and rinsed in another bucket of plain water. They are then hung in the sun to dry draped over rocks, bushes or hung from trees. (Sometimes even a piece of rope to make a clothes line is a luxury and not always available even if you could afford it.

Although it rains abundantly here in the Congo the rain runoff contaminates the water sources by washing dirt and sewage , etc, into the rivers and streams. The dry season reduces the water available in streams and wells and again they become contaiminated because of stagnant water, the animals and then comes the disease bearing insects.

Family wells that are often contaminated
Water is life! The church has concentrated its humanitarian efforts on helping people get access to water. It is such a basic need and yet so many people in the world do not have access to this life sustaining gift from heaven. The church just featured their largest water project to date in the Church news, Saturday, May 3rd. You can read the story at Luputa - Large Water Project You can read the full story here at this blog in the entry for Feb. 25th.

Water, water everywhere but not a drop to drink. People are resourceful though. If they have a roof they set up a collection system to divert rain water to a rain barrell which supplies a lot of water . But most homes in the bush have thatched roofs or tin roofs with holes and always home improvements are not priority when you are worrying about water and food for your family.

We have three new water projects we are looking at that if passed will bless many more people. There isn't a project that the church humanitarian funds support that is more important than this gift of water. So, when you donate your monies to LDS Charities be assured that every penny you donate is being sent somewhere in the world to bless the lives of those receiving service. There is a well organized system of checks and balances to determine the best ways to use these sacred funds. The church believes in a hand up not a hand out. If a project doesn't strengthen the beneficiaries and help them to become more independent it doesn't get passed.

Woman getting water at a distribution site at the church's water project in Laloux, DR Congo

So today when you throw those clothes in the washer, or when you take your morning shower and stand under it just a little bit longer than necessary, or when you turn on the hose to wash your car or water your garden, or when you go to your subzero refrigerator and fill your glass with crushed ice and then crystal, clear, pure water don't forget to say a little prayer and thank the Lord for the blessing of water and remember Water is Life and it is not a gift that all god's children are given..


Gaye Brown said...

I was thrilled to read about your project in the Ensign last week but even more excited about reading your personal experience on your blog! YES I DO say a little prayer of thanks about every hour for all my many blessings: clean water, clean air, a home that provides a refuge from the world, a family, loving cousins who set a great example of service and on and on and on....... Love you tons. Gaye

Aimee said...

Wow, this post really made me think. Thanks so much for sharing your experiences. I will try harder not to take water for granted so much.

Angela said...

Well Marilyn, you did it. You made me cry. I always feel emotional reading your stories about the Congo but this one sent me over the edge.