When we arrive at a well, there’s often lots of jubilation. Leaving the truck, we’re greeted by women from the village with joyous singing and dancing. It’s infectious. Their smiles. Their twinkling eyes. Their warm greetings. There’s nothing like it. Your problems melt away. Whatever frustration or hunger or ache that was ailing you in the drive up to a village, it’s often left in the truck when you see the immense happiness your presence gives to the community living there.
At this particular well, it seemed the celebration was even more exuberant than normal. The singing was loud and catchy. The women and children surrounded the vehicle and followed us the entire way to the well site, continually singing and dancing. Volunteers often know which wells they visit are going to be particularly memorable when they’re there and this would be one. There was one woman who stood out more than most. Her eyes sparkled and she danced with a confidence and a sense of pride. She was a leader in the community. People respected her and it was evident by her charisma.
When the well was installed and our team was finished, the villagers wanted to show us their old water source. It was an open pit filled with muddy water. The head woman demonstrated how they took a bucket attached to a rope and lowered it the fifteen feet to fill it up. The hole wasn’t able to be climbed; it was big and open and dangerous. The MMM staff with us informed them they needed to fill in the hole since it was no longer needed. They were happy and relieved. No longer were they drinking this dirty water or endangering their lives in order to retrieve it. As we left in the truck that day, not one face was without a smile. It was a day the villagers had waited many years to see.
That’s how the volunteers leave all the wells. People happy and excited. It’s a warm feeling, a really great one. And that’s how we leave them. Rarely knowing anything more other than they now have a better future thanks to clean water.
But this time, it was different. The next day, we heard from the MMM staff with us about the tragedy after we left. After a day of such immense happiness, they were met with grief and sadness as a young child was killed shortly after we left.
The child fell into that open pit they had used as a water source. The same one that we saw the day before. There was a deep heaviness that consumed us. We knew of the potential dangers and this was a reality the villagers lived with on a daily basis but that fact truly hit home with us that day. We had probably met the child that passed away. We probably saw their smile, shook their hand, or took their picture. The dangers of dirty water were suddenly very present and very, very real. The facts we knew weren’t just statistics and words but very real faces and lives.
The lack of clean water is serious. It affects 663 million people around the world. It is a crisis and is deadly for so many. We are working hard to bring clean water to thousands every year. But we can’t do it alone. We need your help. We need your partnership. The people you are helping are just like you and me. Smiling during the good times and crying in the sorrowful. They deserve a life where clean water is not a luxury. They deserve more days of singing and dancing and less crying and grieving.