Women are the change makers

It felt like pin pricks running along the side of my face. Sharp little pricks tracing the line right under my eye along the ridge of my cheek bone. I must have wiped away the sunscreen again. After four hours in the midday sun I wasn’t sure which was worse, the extra sensitive skin from the malaria medication or the possibility of getting malaria. I kept getting flashes in my head of the sun-burned tourists from Disney movies with white streaks on their noses, maybe they were on to something.

As I looked back behind me I could still see the two little girls looking at us from the top of the canal wall. Each with just a few sticks on her head and a machete in her hand; watching the strangers out walking in their community. I could still hear Ken’s words from just moments ago:

“Four hours a day just to get enough wood to cook, even if they knew the water was making them sick they couldn’t get enough wood to boil it.”

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Two hours for water, four hours for wood, what chance did those girls have to go to school?

“With water we could grow more and afford gas for cooking. Water is the root, they know that. Just wait…you’ll see.”

I wasn’t sure what I was waiting for but I was getting used to that these days. After the last few hours trekking along the outskirts of the community documenting the places people got their water I was really hoping I was waiting for something good.

As Ken picked his way along the seemingly endless network of mud paths he kept up a steady stream of facts about the homes we were passing. Here a latrine that had taken three months to build had collapsed in a flood, there an old borehole was nothing more than muddy pond now, over there was a home where six children lived without parents, orphans of the AIDS epidemic.

On these outer edges of Kamrongo you could really see what a difference even the smallest improvement could make in people’s lives. And as we approached the road that the county had just recently constructed, you could see in every home that was just a bit better constructed, in every roof that had been recently repaired, how hard they were working to build.

As we walked down the road I could see Ken’s body language shift just that tiny bit. Shoulders back just a bit more, a bit more spring in his step. Maybe we’re getting close? Are we done with the waiting? Off to the left I can just make out a little girl with a pail. And just past her I can see what looks like a small shed…except there’s a pipe. In an entire morning of walking I haven’t seen a single pipe, and according to my map we are nowhere close to any of the projects I had heard about in the area so this was pretty exciting!

Sure enough as we walked up along the side of the shed; “Oyawore! Good Morning!”

I could just make out her shape inside the shed and behind her…yep a hand pump! We’re about 2 miles away from any other source of clean water and here’s a well all the way out on the outskirts. What organization thought up that?

As I greet her I can see from the way she laughs that ‘Good morning’ was probably all the English she knew. So I start looking for a logo, or a brand on the pump. Most of the organizations leave some kind of mark. But after a quick burst of Luo Ken grabs my attention.

“She wants to know if you will take a picture of her with her pump.”

As I pull out the camera Ken starts to translate. It’s a hand pump system, fully incased so that it won’t get contaminated by pit latrines in the area, it’s deep enough that it never runs dry in the dry season, although it can take a very long time to pump water up because it will get very, very low. I ask Ken what organization helped build it and as he translates I can see the slightly confused look on her face. Did he not translate the question right? Ken is wearing probably the only smile I’ve seen on his face all day. And now she’s shaking her head, and with the proudest look on her face that I have ever seen:

“Built it Myself.”

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