I was cozily sleeping on my mat when the old rooster crowed in its raspy voice. That old rooster never misses a morning ever since I was born. Mama said that without the rooster, I would sleep until the sun goes down. I suppose she’s right. Mornings are not my favorite time of day. Morning chores are even worse.
“Dalila, it’s time to get up,” Mama said in her groggy morning voice. I let out a moan and rolled over to my side with my back to her.
“Come on Dalila, you don’t want to be late for school again do you?” Mama was already beginning to fold her blankets and roll up her mat. “Hey, Jomo, you too.”
My little six-year-old brother rolled on his blanket. I let out a sigh and more groans while lifting my tired body up from my mat. My back was aching, and so were my arms.
“Come on, Jomo, we have to go get water. Don’t want Miss Abasi to yell at us again, do you?”
Jomo grunted as he kicked his blanket out of retaliation. He let out a loud sigh before getting up from his mat. I helped him fold his blankets. Jomo likes to rush through things. If I don’t help him, his blanket will be crumpled into a ball.
“I’m still sleepy,” Jomo said softly with his eyes half opened.
“I know,” I said. “The walk will wake you up.”
This was the fifth time that Jomo learned of his new chore. When he was younger, my mother and I were the only ones fetching water. Now that’s he’s older and a bit stronger, Mama said that Jomo could help me carry water from the stream. At first he liked the chore. For him, it meant more time that he could see his best friend, Chitundu. He’s only a few months younger than Jomo and I suppose that’s why they get along so well. Chitundu and his sister, Paka, would wait by our door so that we could all walk to the stream together. Whenever we were late to class, we were late together.
“Aren’t you excited to see Chitundu?” I asked Jomo, hoping that will cheer him up.
“Yes,” he replied, “but my arms and legs hurt.”
“Don’t worry. You’re new to the water chore. When you’ve gotten a lot of practice like me, it won’t hurt anymore,” I lied. I didn’t want to tell him that this will be his chore for many years to come. I didn’t want to tell him that his back and arms will ache even more when Mama tells him that he’s strong enough to carry five times the amount of water he carries now.
“Good morning, Dalila. Good morning, Jomo,” Paka greeted us when we opened the door.
“Good morning,” Jomo and I replied.
The cool early morning air lingered on the mountains and fields of Keiyo Valley of northern Kenya. The glossy black and blue starlings were making a racket with their sharp high-pitched calls in the nearby fields. I could smell the faint refreshing scent of purple orchids that grew near our home. Mama always thought that the orchids added a nice touch to our humble village. Paka and I walked together and were a few steps ahead of Jomo and Chitundu. She had a weary look on her face.
“What’s wrong, Paka?” I asked.
“Oh, I was just wondering if I will ever be taller than this.” Paka answered in a soft voice. Paka has been wondering about why she’s the shortest student in the class. She’s a year older than me, but I’m four inches taller than her. It is odd that a twelve-year old girl is only slightly taller than her six-year-old brother.
“Don’t worry, Paka,” I attempted to comfort her. “You’ll get taller. You have six more years to grow. Some doctors even say that you have nine more years to get taller.”
She gave me a weak smile.
“Mama said that it’s because of carrying the water all these years that made me short. She said she and my father were short, and so were my grandparents. So I’m destined to be short. But carrying the water makes me even shorter.” Paka’s voice was quivering a bit. I could tell that she was fighting back tears. “I asked Mama if I could stop carrying water, but she said no. She said that it’s important for the family and I’m the only one that can do it since she can’t walk much anymore.”
Sometimes I forget that Paka’s mother stayed home most of the time since she broke her leg a few years ago. Her mother was walking up a mountain during the dry season one day, to look for water in the spring. She came across a herd of cattle that were also making their way to the spring. Then something must have spooked them because there was a stampede. Paka’s mother was knocked down and trampled by the cattle. The villagers said that it was a miracle that she survived with only a broken leg. I remember Paka sleeping over at my house for two weeks when her mother went into the city to see a doctor. I heard Paka crying every night that she was there.
“Well, Paka, it doesn’t matter if you’re short or tall when you’re a doctor.” I didn’t know what else to say. All I knew was that whenever I talked about her growing up to be a doctor, she feels better.
“That’s true, I suppose.” Paka’s mood seemed to be lifted. “It doesn’t matter how you look when you’re a doctor, it only matters if you know what you are doing. Besides when a patient comes in with an illness, they don’t care if you are short or tall. They just care if you can help make them get better.”
“That’s right!” I gave her a slight nudge on her arm. “And you’re going to cure me of my illnesses for free right?” Paka and I burst out laughing. Talking about what we wanted to be when we grow up always cheered us up. I wanted to be an architect. I saw some pictures of tall buildings and beautiful houses in some books and just fell in love with the idea. I would tell Paka that when I’m an architect with lots of money, I’m going to come back to the village and make it beautiful. There would be little gardens for every house, each house would be painted with bright colors and have clean windows with new roofs, there will be parks for kids to play in. The school will have many classrooms, where the younger kids are separated from the older kids by grades. The classrooms will have lots of windows and desks that don’t squeak and chairs that don’t wobble. Miss Abasi will also have a big desk in the corner with a small plant on it. It’ll look just like the drawings of an American classroom in my textbook.
The cool air vanished as the sun came up from the horizon. My dress was sticking to my back as beads of sweat rolled down my face. The sand under my barefoot was getting warmer and I could feel the coarse grains sticking between my toes. Jomo and Chitundu were far behind us, walking slowing. I could hear the clank, clank, clank of Jomo’s empty plastic canister lazily hitting Chitundu’s aluminum jug. Jomo wiped sweat from his neck and face with his already dusty shirt.
“We’re almost there!” I yelled at them. Jomo looked at me and pouted.
The stream flowed softly with brown water that barely lashed at the shore. A long legged secretary bird stopped drinking as we approached the stream. He flapped his black wings and within moments, he flew out of my sight.
“The water is lower than yesterday,” Paka commented. “The dry season is coming soon.”
“I hope that this year won’t be too bad.”
Paka and I laid down our 5-gallon plastic jugs and unscrewed the caps. I tipped my jug so that its spout just skimmed the water surface. Mama said that water on the surface doesn’t have as much sand as the water at the bottom of the stream. It takes longer than just submerging the jug, but I wanted clean water.
“Jomo, Chitundu, what are you doing?” I yelled. Paka stopped filling her jug and walked over to her little brother.
“Chitundu, Jomo, get out of the water!” Paka yelled as she grabbed Chitundu by his arms.
“No!” Chitundu yelled back and wiggled free as he ran upstream, splashing water at me. Jomo was giggling uncontrollably.
“Jomo! You’re getting your clothes wet.” I raised my voice.
“I want them wet!” He yelled back. “It’s too hot. I want to take a bath.”
“We don’t have time for a bath. Besides, we didn’t bring soap. We need to get water and bring it to Mama then go to school, remember?”
Jomo pouted again and crossed his arms.
I walked over to him and tried to pull him from the stream, but he was being stubborn.
“Come on, we don’t have time for this.” He stared at the ground. “Okay, why don’t you fill your can up? Yours will fill up before mine because it’s smaller. And when you’re done, you can splash around all you want while you wait for me.”
Jomo sighed and picked up his canister and dunked it in the water.
“Now, Jomo. You know that’s not how we’re suppose to do it.”
He squinted at me and pouted some more before letting out a sigh. Reluctantly, he skimmed the water with his canister.
Paka and Chitundu returned and we filled our jugs. Chitundu and Jomo were done before we were and started to splash in the water around us.
“Not here!” Paka yelled at them. “You’re making the water dirty and getting sand in our jugs. Go a bit downstream.”
Paka and I looked at each other and shook our heads. Little brothers can be annoying sometimes. By the time our jugs were full and we hoisted them up to our heads, the sun was well above the horizon. I suspected that we only have an hour before school starts.
“Looks like we’re going to be late again,” Paka sighed.
“Come on Jomo, Chitundu. We have to hurry back,” I shouted at them. They had big smiles on their faces now that their clothes were soaked.
Walking back with a full jug of water on my head hurts my body. I could feel the weight of the water crushing my skull, neck, back, and legs. Paka and I usually hum a tune whenever we go back to the village. It kept us focused on walking and balancing at the same time. Jomo was having difficulty with his canister. He kept shifting it from his right side to his left and back again. The two boys drifted behind us.
The sun was beating down on us mercilessly as the land remained quiet. Even the birds seemed to have stopped their singing and found shelter underneath some trees. I prayed for there to be a cool breeze but it never came. I was walking in front of Paka when I heard two loud thumps behind me. When I turned, Paka was on the floor and her jug was rolling away from her.
“Paka!” I yelled as I dropped my jug and ran towards her. Jomo and Chitundu also dropped their canisters as they ran.
“Paka! Paka!” I kept yelling as I shook her still body. I reached for her jug and tried to pour some water. But it was too heavy for me to lift. Jomo came and tilted the jug as some cool water filled my cupped hands. Chitundu was shaking his sister’s body and yelling out her name. I splashed some water onto her face. Nothing.
“Some more water, Jomo.” He obeyed and poured some water in my hands. I splashed it on her face and neck.
“Paka! Paka!” Chitundu was yelling.
Paka lifted her hand to her head and let out a soft groan.
“Paka!” I yelled. “You okay?”
“Yeah,” she whispered as she tried to pull herself up. “What happened?”
“I think you fainted,” I answered her. “Can you get up?”
“I think so.” She took my hand as I pulled her up. Chitundu held on to her arms hoping that would stabilize her.
“You need to get home fast.”
“Okay,” Paka whispered.
“Jomo, Chitundu,” I turned to them, “go on ahead and tell Mama what happened. I’ll walk with Paka.”
Jomo and Chitundu ran back to grab their canisters and quickly walked pass us. The excitement of the morning must have made them forget how heavy their canisters were because they went out of my sight within minutes.
I hoisted up her jug on my head.
“Wait, what about yours?” She asked.
“I’ll come back later. You need the water more than I do.”
Paka slowly stumbled next to me. I could tell that she was not yet ready to walk home, but she needed to be in the shade soon and the sparse thin trees nearby would not have relieved her of the morning heat. I offered her to drink some water from the jug but she refused. She said that she will need to make that jug last for the whole day and evening for her family because she doesn’t think she will be able to fetch any more water later.
We were near the edge of town when Mama swiftly walked to us. Mama held on to Paka’s shoulders and looked into her face.
“How are you feeling?” she asked.
“A little light headed. But I’ll be okay,” Paka replied.
“Dalila, walk Paka home and then go to school.”
“Okay, but I left my jug on the road. I couldn’t carry both at the same time.”
“It’s okay, I’ll get it.”
Paka was about to apologize to Mama but she had already started walking towards the stream.
“I’m so sorry,” Paka said to me.
“Don’t worry,” I said, “You’re my best friend. Of course my family and I are going to take care of you.” I smiled at her as she smiled back.
I dropped Paka and her jug off at her house and told her not to worry and to rest up. She smiled and gave me a nudge on my arm. It’s one of our ways to let each other know that we can always depend on each other. I ran to my house to change into my school uniform. Mama was not home yet, but I supposed it would be a while before she gets there.
When I got to school, Miss Abasi had already started on the second lesson of the day. She usually gives the latecomers a stern look and talk, but today, she just nodded at me. Chitundu and Jomo were sitting on the far side of the room and they looked at me with concerned faces. I smiled at them to let them know that Paka was okay. Chitundu sighed as if he had been holding his breath all this time.
It was nearing the end of school when I got in trouble (again). I was lucky to have a seat right by an open window. The cool breeze that I prayed for finally came. It wisped across my face and relieved me from the heat of the day. Miss Abasi droned on about a mathematician as my eyes were getting heavy. The cool of the ground caressed my bare feet and soothed them of their pain. My head felt heavy, so I had to lay it down on the desk. But I made sure to prop up my book so that it seemed like I was reading.
A sudden burst of air pounded on my forehead. Standing over me was an angry Miss Abasi. Her ruler was resting on my desk, less than an inch of where my head was. My classmates stared at us.
“Dalila, how many times do I have to tell you that there is no sleeping in my class? If you want to sleep, stay home. Your parents pay lots of money for you to be in school. Don’t waste their money and my time by sleeping here when you should be doing your assignment.” Miss Abasi’s eyes were steadily fixed on mine and I got chills down my back.
“Yes, Ms. Abasi,” I spoke softly. “I’m sorry.” I hurriedly picked up my book and intensely read the text. Miss Abasi lingered around my desk for the rest of the school day.
Jomo and Chitundu were laughing when I came to the schoolyard. They looked at me and laughed even harder.
“What are you two laughing about?”
“Dalila, I can’t believe you fell asleep again!” Jomo laughed through his words.
“Well, you didn’t have to carry as much as I did. I’m tired. Now, don’t go telling Mama or Father this. You know I’ll get you if you tell,” I threatened him. I didn’t want my parents to yell at me again.
Jomo continued to laugh.
“Hey, if you and Chitundu don’t hurry, Father will yell at you. You know you are supposed to go straight to the field when classes are done.” The two boys continued to laugh as they walked to the field.
When I returned home, Mama wasn’t there. I changed out of my school uniform and hung it on the door. There was a patch of dirt that stuck on my dark blue skirt which I tried to rub out. Looks like I will have to wash my clothes soon. I grabbed a jug and walked over to Paka’s house.
“Hi Dalila,” Paka answered the door. She was still pale.
“How are you feeling?”
“Better. Still a bit weak, but much better.” She gave a smile. “Your mother is so nice. She’s been fetching water for us.”
“Ah, that’s why she’s not home. Well, I just wanted to see how you were before I head to the stream. See you tomorrow?”
“Yes. Thank you, Dalila.”
I smiled and waved at her as I walked to the stream. Almost halfway down the road, Mama waved at me. She was carrying a full jug of water. Her lips were bleeding and her skin was dry. Mama must have been to the stream ten times today. For a skinny woman, she’s quite strong. I think her big heart is what makes her so strong.
There were other students in my class at the stream, filling their jugs.
“Hey, sleepy head!” Fathiya teased me.
I nodded my head at her. The water was getting lower, and I could barely find a spot on the shore to fill my jug. I had to walk further upstream to get water. There were cow feces on the shore. The women complained to the farmers about keeping the cows away from the stream, but they didn’t listen. The water is a precious resource for everyone here, even cows. It’s a silent competition between us and the cows. We can’t live without cows and cows can’t live without the stream. I walked further upstream.
By the time I got home, it was twilight. Mama was cutting up some tomatoes and sweet peppers for dinner. She was waiting for my jug of water.
“I heard you fell asleep in class today,” Mama looked over her shoulder as I entered the house.
“Who did you hear it from?” I asked.
“Doesn’t matter,” she gave me a stern look and put down her knife as she assumed her angry stance by placing her hand on her hip. “Dalila, you know we don’t have much money. You can’t keep falling asleep in class. If you are going to sleep, then I won’t let you go to school. And Miss Abasi said that your grades are falling.”
“Mama!” I shrieked. “I didn’t mean to fall asleep. I want to go to school. I want to be awake. But, I’m just so tired. I can’t help it!”
“That’s what you said the last time you fell asleep, and the time before that, and the time before that! I should have pulled you out of school two years ago and saved so much money.”
“Mama,” I pleaded as tears ran down my cheeks. The thought of not being able to go to school was terrifying. “I won’t fall asleep in class again. I promise. I’ll ask Miss Abasi for extra work to get my grades up. Please Mama, I want to go to school,”
Silence fell between us but her cold stare was still fixed on me.
“Dalila, why can’t you be like Paka or Fathiya and stay focused on your lessons?”
“I try to do all my work but I get so tired at night that I fall asleep before I get it all done. I really try, Mama.” Every time we had this talk, I felt that my dream of becoming an architect was fading away.
“Go do your homework. I’ll prepare dinner tonight.”
I was relieved to not have to cook. My legs were tired from walking and the thought of sitting and doing my homework cheered me up. I just finished my math homework when Jomo came back home. Father was spending the night in the field again. For several weeks now, Jomo helped out my father in the field. He came back with dirt on his shirt and trousers. I will have to wash those too when I do my clothes.
“For such a little guy, you sure give out big sighs!” I teased him.
“I’m so tired, and Miss Abasi is giving us a math test in two days,” he complained as he began to flip through his book.
“After dinner, I can help you. I’m almost done with my homework.” He smiled. We worked on our assignments in silence as I heard the clinks and clanks of pots and pans in the kitchen.
Several days passed by and Paka did not return to school. Whenever I went over to her place, she would open the door, but she was getting thinner and paler. She didn’t know what was wrong, but she knew she was sick. One evening, when we just finished washing our dishes, Paka knocked on the door. Standing beside her was a glum-looking Chitundu.
“Hi, Paka,” I was excited to see her. “How are you feeling?”
“Not so good, Dalila. My mother’s leg is acting up again and we have to go to the doctor’s tomorrow. I have to go too, I’ve been sick for too long now,” she said wispily. Her sunken eyes were tearing up.
“How will you get to town?”
“Mama has some money saved for us. She also borrowed some from her brothers and sisters. She said that we’d walk early tomorrow morning to the next village and then take a bus from there. I was wondering if you can look after Chitundu for a few days.” Chitundu was sobbing and his face was pointed towards the ground. I pulled him through the door by his shoulders and he was sobbing louder.
“It will be all right, Chitundu,” I comforted him. “Your mother and your sister are just going to the doctor’s. They’ll be back soon. And you’ll have lots of fun with Jomo here.” He continued to sob.
Paka smiled and gave Chitundu a hug. She and her mother left hours before the old rooster even woke up.
* * * * *
Weeks then months then a year passed by. Chitundu was still at our house and Paka and her mother had not returned. Chitundu would always stare at his house, hoping that there were signs that his sister or mother was inside. But there were none. The house remained empty and dark. The villagers had gone into the house and took whatever they wanted. There was no sense in letting the things in there go to waste. Mama was worried, I could tell. Her face was thinner and her eyes were duller. Both Mama and Father worried about having another mouth to feed, but they were grateful that Chitundu was so helpful around the house and the field. Eventually, they loved him like a son, and I loved him like my little brother.
One evening, the village elder called for a meeting. We gathered in the schoolroom. The desks were stacked up and pushed against one wall as people sat on the floors and stood around the room. A crowd gathered outside, craning their necks to hear the elder speak.
“We all know that this drought season has been absolutely horrible,” he started as the men and women nodded their heads and murmured in agreement. “I and the other elders have pleaded to the government for help, but they have done nothing. The stream is dry and the only source of water is the spring in the mountain. Now, it has been brought to my attention that there have been fights over this mountain spring. Farmers are fighting against farmers, women against women, and farmers against women. I understand that times are tough, but we only have that mountain spring for the whole village. We need to share. We need to also face the reality that our village is dying.”
The murmurs got louder. Wide-eyed children looked at their parents, not believing that their home was dying.
“The cows are dying of thirst,” continued the village elder. “The goats are dying, the chickens are dying. The plants are drying up.”
“What should we do?” yelled out a man’s voice from the crowd.
“I suggest that those who are young and willing should go to the city and start a life there.”
The crowd burst out into a commotion. Leave our homes? Go to the city? What will we do in the city? We have no money. Some were shaking their heads and repeating no, no, no. Others nodded and shrugged their shoulders, what else can we do?
My head was a buzz throughout the whole meeting. I couldn’t imagine leaving home. I have never been to the city, but I heard that it was crowded and dirty and that rural people like us were not treated with much kindness. Mama and Father told us to go to bed when we got home. They sat outside, talking. I couldn’t sleep so I looked up at the dark ceiling, listening to the hushed voices through the walls of the house.
The old rooster crowed and I excitedly got out of bed. The restless night left me feeling exhausted, but I couldn’t fall asleep either. At least walking to the stream and going to my classes will be better than just staring at the ceiling. Mama was already out of bed and in the kitchen sewing some clothes.
“Dalila,” she whispered to me. “Are the boys up?”
“No,” I replied.
“Let them sleep a while longer, I want to talk to you.” She dropped the needle and thread on the table and walked me outside the house.
“Dalila, we have to pull you out of school.”
I started to protest but she raised her hand to hush me and shook her head.
“We also have to take Jomo and Chitundu out of school. We just don’t have the money. I’m so sorry Dalila.” Her lips quivered as the tears that formed in her eyes glistened by the sun’s first rays. “I know that you love school and that you’ve been trying hard to get good grades. But we need to save whatever money we have right now.”
My eyes were blurred by tears and a swell formed in my throat. Mama placed a hand on my shoulder.
“We are leaving for the city in a couple of days. Remember Aunty Shani?”
I nodded. Aunty Shani left our village when I was only seven-years old. She married a city man and never came back to visit us.
“Well, Aunty Shani said that she’s willing to take us into her house for a while. Aunty Shani said that she already got me a job cleaning some offices and houses. Her husband also found your father a job in the mines.”
“You’re going to work?” I asked her incredulously. I never thought that Mama was going to do anything else besides take care of me, Jomo, Chitundu, and our home.
“I have to. We need to bring in money.”
“What about me?” I asked her.
“You’re going to have to take care of the house and the boys. Always be helpful to Aunty Shani, okay? She said that she will see if you can go to school somewhere in the city. But that might not happen for a while. It depends on how much money we make.”
Tears rolled down my face. The uncertainty of not being able to go to school frightened me. Everything that she said scared me.
“Dalila, we have no choice. Go fetch water and come back to pack your things. I will tell the boys when they wake up.”
I nodded and slowly went to pick up the jug and started on my last journey to the mountain spring. As I walked up the dusty road, there was a sinking feeling in my stomach. What will happen in the city? Will I make new friends? Will I still see my old friends? The pink lily flowers along the side of the road seemed to nod at my every question. I said goodbye to the lilies and the orchids. I said goodbye to the starlings and the sparrows. I even said goodbye to the coarse sand that my feet have grown to know so well.
The time came to leave the village. None of us were able to sleep that night. I wanted to sink into my mat and into the house’s floor forever. I went through all the memories that I had of this house and this village, all the good and bad. Trying to cheer myself up, I thought of Paka. Maybe I will see her when in the city? Maybe she’s in school working on becoming a doctor? Maybe she met a nice city boy and married him? The old rooster let out his raspy crow. I’m going to miss that rooster.
We weren’t the only ones leaving the village that day. Father built a cart for our donkey to pull our things to the city. He charged two other neighbors a small fee for putting their things in our cart.
“Jomo, go get the rooster,” Father told him. Jomo ran to the back of the house to find the rooster. Shortly, Jomo walked back dragging his feet with his head bowed down.
“What’s wrong?” Mama asked.
“The old rooster is lying on the floor. I think he’s dead.”
“Well, I guess it’s about time,” Mama said. One of the neighbors walked to the back of the house. I suppose he went to get the rooster. It’ll be his dinner.
We were ready to leave before the sun came up. The donkey dragged the cart as I followed Mama and Father. I held on to Jomo’s and Chitundu’s hands as we all cried. Coming upon the now dried stream, I remember how just a year ago, Jomo and Chitundu were splashing in the water. Paka was right beside me filling our jugs. For the first time in my life, I crossed the stream and came upon the other side. I gave a final look back at the stream and the road that I knew so well. A cool breezed brush against my face drying my tears, urging me to keep on walking forward.
Behind the Story: Fetching Water
Water chores are given to young children, especially young girls. It’s not something that the children like to do (after all, they are chores) but it’s something very important to the livelihood of the family. From the time a child can carry something, usually around six-years-old, children in rural parts of some African countries are given containers to fetch water (Fonjweng). Children and women walk long distances in the heat of the morning, day, and evening to get water from dirty streams, ponds, and mountain springs. Joseph ole Tipanko, a member of the Maasai tribe in Kenya commented:
The ladies mainly fetch the water. They carry 50 liters of water (about 13 gallons) at a time and walk 5 to 10 miles to go and search for water. They carry with their backs, hands, or heads, walking up and down paths. [It is] unsafe to walk [during] the hot hours, especially for young girls.
The water chore is done multiple times throughout the day. This is an exhausting chore for young and old. In a rural village of Mali, Kate McArdle a Peace Corps volunteer talked about the water conditions of the village:
[There was] a murky, green, pond water that my village counterpart’s wife was drinking last year because the well was dry. I was shocked that someone could willingly drink this water; there is a pump even further away but she didn’t have time or energy to fetch water from the pump. Seeing this water and realizing what she and everyone else in the village were drinking really made me understand the importance of having water in the well year-round…[when they did have their well] they use a rubber bag on a rope to pull water out of the well and put it into buckets. They carry the buckets of water, usually about 20 liters (5 gallons), on their heads up a hill to their houses. It is not the hardest of their work, but it is tiresome when they have to fetch water 5 times per day.
It is disheartening to know that women and children have these back-breaking chores in order to fetch water that might contain bacteria and parasites. When Tony Sauder and his son Joshua went to Cameroon for a water project, Tony Sauder recollected seeing two little boys carrying jerry cans to a pond: “They walked through cow piles to get water. The excrement was right there.” The boys filled their cans from the pond because they had nowhere else to go. One of the local officials that talked to Mr. Sauder commented: “We’re tough, we’re used to it.” Mr. Sauder replied, “that’s because who wasn’t strong, died from diarrhea or something like that.” The United Nations estimated that 884 million people still rely on unsafe water sources for their everyday needs. Eighty-four percent of those people live in rural areas. The majority of the people who suffer from the lack of access to clean drinking water live in Sub-Saharan African countries (Millennium 46).
Those who were lucky enough to survive water-related illnesses suffered from stunted growth. The weight of the water that children have to endure multiple times throughout a day along with malnutrition disables children to grow to their potential height (Fonjweng). When a well or piped-water is brought into a community, the water chore becomes less of a burden. The hour or two hours spent on fetching water is reduced, meaning that the children can use that time saved to do something productive. That means that they can get to school on time, they will attend school regularly, they will have more time to study and finish their homework. The energy saved can also mean that children will stay alert and focused in class as well as in the evenings when they are working on their assignments.
Every child has a dream. No matter rich or poor, every child thinks about what they want to be when they grow up. In Keiyo valley of northern Kenya, the children there have dreams. They want to be doctors, lawyers, teachers, and even politicians. They have big dreams, where they can be leaders (Korich). The children also yearn to learn. The classrooms walls may be bare, they may have to share textbooks, they may not have computers, but the children are focused on their studies (Densen). Each child may strive to get good grades, to dream big, to become responsible adults at an early age. But when they finish school, the potential of these children is lost due to poverty. Without money to further their education, without jobs where they can apply what they’ve learned, the children stay in the village and continue their rural lifestyle, closing a door on the dreams that they once had.
When you look at yourself, do you see what you have? Do you see the immense amount of resources that you have at your school, in your homes? Do you use these resources for yourself and the good of your community? When I asked Kate McArdle, what inspired her to help people in developing nations solve their water issues, she wrote:
I have always felt the unfairness that not everyone in the world is given the same opportunities to make what they wish of their lives. I feel extremely blessed with the opportunities I have been given.
What inspires you to help those in need?
Densen, Kelly. Phone Interview. 25 Jul. 2009.
Fonjweng, Godlove. Phone Interview. 28 July 2009.
Korich, Elijah. Phone Interview. 27 Sept. 2009.
McArdle, Kate. Email Correspondence. 7 Apr. 2009.
The Millennium Development Goals Report 2009. New York: United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, 2009. <http://millenniumindicators.un.org/unsd/mdg/>.
Sauder, Tony. Interview. 27 Feb. 2009
Tipanko, Joseph ole. Interview. 21 Apr. 2009.