Hygiene

A Day Without Water

Imagine getting up tomorrow and going to the kitchen sink for a glass of water...only nothing comes out. You shuffle to the bathroom sink thinking, "There must be something wrong with the faucet," but no water is flowing there either. After trying all of the taps in your home, you realize YOU DON'T HAVE WATER! What would you do? Call the water company?! You don't have a water company.  Go to the store? Stores don't carry clean water.

But you have to shower. You have to go to work. By 5pm your toilet is backed up and creating a health hazard for your family, no one has showered, you have dirty dishes in the sink that are attracting bugs and 5 loads of laundry are waiting to be done. Oh and you haven't gone to work yet because you've had to walk to the local lake for water. You've boiled it but still aren't sure it's safe to use. What would you do? Would you drink it? You would if that's all you had...and that's exactly the situation many Rwandans are in. 

Study after study shows that access to clean water increases health, provides better sanitation & allows kids to go to school instead of spending 1/2 their day collecting water. Water is such a primary need that everything you do depends on it.

Those of us who have, and have always had, easy access to water can't fathom what it's like to go without. But that's exactly what 1 in 6 people face EVERY day. On average, women and children spend 4 hours a day collecting water to clean, bathe, drink, cook and grow food. Many times from contaminated streams and water sources.

With YOUR help we're changing that! Due to your generosity, clean water, better restroom facilities and education as to why hand washing can prevent the spread of disease is happening in communities throughout Rwanda. Thank you for helping us give the gift that truly keeps on giving: WATER.

              Visit our "Donate" page to find out how to give clean H2O!

Kids, Sanitation & Education

Part of the 2011 Kicukiro Water Project was the installation of 10 Eco-San toilets, hand washing stands & rain barrel systems at the Gahanga School Complex. 3,256 primary & secondary students benefit from having access to water, safe bathrooms & learning how hand washing can be a life-saver!

We pull up and the kids immediately run to the truck. In fact, even the kids playing soccer leave the field to welcome us. They are beautiful, smart and kind. I'm overwhelmed by the love we feel...and they really don't even know the part we played in the water project. 

It doesn't matter where you are, kids are pretty much the same: They want to learn, play and feel secure. But these kids have to deal with a much harsher reality when basic necessities, such as water, are lacking. Or they don't feel safe going to the bathroom. 

Evelyn is in P-6 (or 6th grade.) When asked how she liked the new latrines she said, "There were demons in the old ones." We didn't know what she meant. Then we learned that during the Genocide of 1994 people were routinely thrown down latrines and left to die. We suspect these old facilities might have been used for this purpose. Another girl told us the old ones "smelled" and she didn't like going into them. But they both LOVE the new bathrooms and had a huge smile when talking about how much better they were. 

While our primary mission is to increase access to clean water, proper latrines are important as well, particularly for young girls. Having a safe environment when girls feel especially vulnerable and exposed can be the difference between them coming to school or staying home. And studies show that education makes a huge difference in not only the success of people, but in the future of a country. After all, these are the leaders of tomorrow's Rwanda, and with us being such an interconnected world it matters to ALL of us!

Meet our Water Partner

Day 2-

It's Day 2 and we're off to an orientation with our local water partner, Water for People-Rwanda, here in Kigali. The staff is warm and welcoming. While small in number, only 8 people, they have the huge task of overseeing all of the water projects Kicukiro and Rulindo Districts of Rwanda. Each staff member is very knowledgeable and excited to show us what has been accomplished. Also, they aren't afraid to tell us of the challenges they face...which I appreciate.  

For instance, we've been asked to help provide EVERY person in Kicukiro and Rulindo with access to clean drinking water and safe sanitation FOREVER. And for implementation to be complete by 2017. It's ambitious, but we think it can be done. We asked what the biggest challenge of this initiative would be. The local staff said, "The "forever" part is easy. It's the "everyone" that's problematic due to the topography of the land."  

The terrain is a logistical challenge. Rwanda is nicknamed "The land of a thousand hills." And Rulindo is proof of that. (In fact, after a 3 hour drive to one of the sites I was convinced it was home to ALL 1,000 hills.) 

Rulindo redefines "rural area". With its' extremely steep hills and rough terrain these people could easily be ignored. Many of the villages extend from a ridge top to the bottom of valley, making it more challenging to bring water closer to the people. In fact, we heard that our local partner, and us, have a reputation for "Going where no one will go to give water." That made me proud. We aren't forgetting about ANYONE, regardless of where they live or the added effort it takes to get there. 

Next up: A visit to one of our water projects and meeting the people of a Genocide Settlement in Kicukiro!

Finding Rwanda...

Day One- 

Three planes and 2 days later we finally land in Kigali, Rwanda. It's been a long journey, over 19 hours in the air, but we're excited to finally be here! 

The first thing I notice is that every Westerner in baggage claim seems to be here for some humanitarian purpose, as evidence by the large crates and boxes of goods coming off of the conveyor belt. It's easy to see how locals could view visitors from the "more developed" nations primarily as aid givers. I've been here less than an hour and that's my assessment. While I see the need for immediate and direct aid, long term solutions are important and at the core of what we're here to do. 

Very few people come to "holiday" in Rwanda and I understand that. But what concerns me is what I call "kamikaze aid", aid that provides a short-term solution but doesn't have lasting effect or get to the root of the problem. (Over 40% of water pumps implemented with this type of aid are broken within 3 years so I'm very sensitive to this idea and am excited we've taken a long term approach that empowers the local people and includes them in the conversation...but more on that later.) 

Tonight we had a quick dinner and met the rest of our group which includes 2 Engineers, one Winemaker (Environmental Engineer in another life), one Writer, a Finance Expert (our own Bryan Batson) and 3 Development/Fundraising Professionals (including myself). Tomorrow we'll have a briefing with our local partner, Water for People-Rwanda, and visit some of our water projects in the Kicukiro district. Stay tuned…exciting things are in store!