After our hyena experience, during our stay in Yirgalem, our half-awake crew aroused to a beautiful breakfast. Girma met us and we gathered up supplies and went on an hour hike to an area that had no access to clean water.
We first went to a church that had a shallow well for the community to use. They used half of a tire and rope. This was how they would fetch their drinking water. The small amount they were able to capture using this method was put into a clear glass where we were able to take samples and visually observe. The well only had a dried woven grass mat over it, and it was clear this was not keeping out debris, but the biggest issue was what we couldn’t see in the stagnant water, and that was the multiple pathogens that were making so many in this area sick.
Girma has a wonderful gift of being the link between the foreign Westerners and the people we visited in Ethiopia. We realized quickly that Girma needed to head up this project because he was definitely charismatic, but more importantly, he had the respect from the local people because he was viewed as one of them.
I stepped back to watch some children run down to greet us. A child around 18-months-old came with the pack of children. No pants, no diaper, no one attempting to keep him clean from the dirt he was playing outside in, and not a care in the world. He plopped down on the ground with a huge grin, and when the girls ran closer to us and left him a bit behind he began to cry. One of the older girls who was around 10 immediately looked over at his crying face. She turned and with a big smile on her face ran over and picked him up, and his fussing stopped almost immediately. I saw how the entire community was helping raise this boy, and my heart ached in that moment for my community back in the states.
During this time, Girma was showing the church elders how to work and care for the filter. The brownish-green water soon was put through Waves for Water’s system and came out crystal clear. The woman helping us looked astonished, but you could tell she was a bit skeptical until she tried it. We then brought the clean water over to the children. This is where the happy baby boy had his first glass of the filter water. He didn’t take much at first, but then when the girls reassured him it was okay to have more, he finished the entire glass. It was clear he was dehydrated, and I think because he and the rest of the children came across so happy and so good-natured, it was even a harder realization that they have been suffering without clean water.
In that moment, it was a clear reminder that there shouldn’t be compromises when it comes to human life. The West isn’t in any way superior to this area we visited, and perhaps is failing in certain aspects of life where this community is thriving, but even if a community is happy, that doesn’t mean improvement cannot be made. This community was lacking clean water. Our community just so happens to have a solution for that, and it is quite simple. My fear is that my own community is too prideful to admit we also need help.
What we receive through seeking global community and respecting and building relationships with one another is a unique exchange that, in the end, lifts us all up.