Rain, rain and more rain but still a lack of water


 
Over the next few days we visit many schools.  A couple of them are secondary schools.  One of them has no dorms, so the students who live far away (which is most of them) stay at the school, sleeping in the classrooms.  Their parents send food with them each term and someone at the school cooks their meals.  They will be using this well for everything…. cooking, bathing, washing clothes, and drinking.

 

It’s Friday afternoon and since we need to continue with our work in this district on Monday, instead of going back to Gulu, I talk George and Wilson into going with me to a place near the border of Kenya, called Sipi Falls.  It is suppose to have incredible waterfalls and hiking.  I need to clear my head and I would love to see this place.  I’m sure it’s never occurred to the guys that it would be fun to walk up a mountain on your day off, but they are pretty good at humoring me.  It was the best thing we could have done.  We hiked two days to the most breathtaking waterfalls.  It’s definitely one of the most beautiful places in the country.  If you’re ever in Uganda and need a break, go there.   You will not be disappointed.

 
Now it’s Monday and we’re back to the field.  At one school we talk to a student named Kendyi Openi.   He’s 14 years old and in 7th grade.   He tells me how happy he is to have the well for drinking and also to use for washing.  He tells me that at his school they are required to work in the fields during the day but before the water, there was nowhere to wash up.  So they would go to the roadside and try to gather up whatever water they could find in the ditches and muddy puddles for bathing.

 
He also tells me that his best friend got really sick recently and was missing school all the time.  He had bloody diarrhea and his whole body was itching.  When he went to the doctor, they told him he had Bilharzia worms.   He is being treated for them now and hopefully with the clean water they now have, none of these kids will be dealing with that again.

 
We visit another school where we just finished a well.   This school has 1400 kids enrolled in classes.

 
After that, we stop by the school where one crew is currently drilling.    The school is very excited.  The team has only drilled down about 30 meters but there is already a great water yield.  Once again, Otaka selected a perfect spot for drilling.  We are so happy with their work.   Before we leave, we give them our case of water and all of the snacks we have in the truck.  It’s hot out there and they were working hard with no water to drink.

I love all of the different schools for different reasons.  There are the enormous primary schools, that just have a sea of kids, the smaller super-remote community schools, where the kids do not even have structures but instead study under trees and in huts.  And the secondary schools, where the students are older and will soon be moving out into the world as leaders.   You just see so much struggle but also so much potential in the faces of these students.

 
On our way back to town we get caught in a serious downpour.  It’s raining so hard but everybody just keeps on walking down the road, since there is really no other option.  The kids just duck their heads and keep going.  I wish we could just pick them all up and give them a ride… or maybe hand out umbrellas.  Every day out here in the field I realize how much I take for granted in my world.

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Next day when we get back to the field everybody is plowing, with their cows and manual plows.  I guess the rain softened the ground so everybody is out everywhere.  It’s so interesting.  Husbands and wives out in the field trying to steer the cows and push the plows across the fields.

 
The first school we’re seeing today is Ating Tuo.  This is one of the very remote, super needy community schools that had been getting their water from the muddy, hand dug, shallow, well.  When we get out of the truck, the 1st grade class, which is meeting under a nearby tree, starts signing their welcome song.   Their little voices are so beautiful.   It’s one of the sweetest sounds.  I wish these kids had some kind of structure or classroom to study in.   They tell me that sometimes the wind blows their chalkboards over and they fall and hit the kids on their heads.

 
We try to gather some data on the kids and ask if anybody has been having any health problems from drinking the dirty water.  We talk to one young girl named Gillian Akullo.  She’s 13 years old and in 5th grade.   She tells us she has been having bloody diarrhea and itching all the time.  I now know those are symptoms of Bilharzia worms, which can be deadly if not treated.  She tells us her mom has the same problem.  I’m guessing her whole family does and maybe all the kids at this school.  They are drinking the same water.  We offer to pay for her to go to the clinic and get tested and treated.  They find that she definitely has worms and also a urinary tract infection.  They give her a round of medicine. 

We decide to take the test results to the sub-county health officials to see if they will come de-worm the children at this school.   At least now they have the clean water to drink and this will not be a problem anymore.   Their well has an enormous yield – 10,000 liters per hour.  They now have plenty of clean water.  This community deserves it.  I love seeing the bright smiling faces, as they all take turns drinking the pure water.   Before leaving, the head teacher gives me a letter he has written thanking us for the clean water.  I’m leaving for the US soon and am extremely tired at this point in the trip.  But seeing all of the completed projects, and smiling happy faces, is certainly a great way to wrap things up.

This is Gillian- now looking and feeling considerably better

 

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Author: Stacey Travis

Founder and Executive Director of Drop in the Bucket a water charity building water wells and sanitation systems at schools in Africa.

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