Story & photos contributed by Javy Diaz / intro & editing by Paula Hemphill in Stories from the Field.
Today's post comes to us from Javy Diaz: fellow CA and Leadership Team member serving our greater DC area! Javy (pictured back left) just recently joined our ranks after seeing the work in the field first hand. A Vision Trip to Ethiopia and Uganda with other members of his workforce opened his eyes and heart in a new way and was one of the catalysts that brought him to our team. He has hit the ground running-- connecting many sponsors with children to love and serve. I have never met Javy face-to-face, but he is my friend and I consider it a deep honor to serve alongside him. He stewards the stories of the people he has met in the field so well, and I hope his recounting of his time in Africa will educate and inspire you as you continue to do the work God has called you into.
It was a beautiful, bright morning. You could tell that it was hot outside because there was condensation on the windows – the air conditioner had been on all night. I was so incredibly comfortable, though a little bit hungry and thirsty. Good thing there was a bottle of water waiting for me bedside. In the distance I could see my camera gear, ready for an exciting day, the camera bag completely covered in a fine, red-clay dust. Above me was a mosquito net, a tell-tale sign that I was very far from home. Off goes the alarm, time to start driving two hours into the bush to see God’s great creation and His mighty works. On this day, my life would change, my heart would break in just the right places, and my faith and hope in God and humanity would be transformed.
Today was WASH day. WASH stands for water, sanitation & hygiene. In Africa they have a saying – “Water is Life.” No doubt you’ve heard this before. I had heard this too, but for some reason it hadn’t worked its way up from my heart to my head. You see, I had no idea how foundational water was to every aspect of life. Try not using it for a few days and you’ll get an idea of how critically important it is to everyday survival. On our journey to the village of Lakwana, we saw many children & families carrying jerrycans by hand, and if privileged enough, by mule. The irony of jerrycans is that they were originally created to transport fuel and in many ways, the water that now fills them is as toxic to drink as the fuel that once filled them.
As we looked out from the comfort of our 4x4 vehicle, the road seemed to narrow, the tall grasses encroached further into the path until we could only see out of the vehicle’s front window, covered in dust. Soon enough I began to feel my heart pounding to the rhythm of the drums in the distance. As the sound crescendoed, louder and loader still, we entered a clearing in the small village. Welcomed by the entire village, in an overflowing statement of joy & gratitude, the people of Lakwana, dressed in their very best attire, rejoiced in song and dance as they invited us to experience the reason for their thanksgiving. Once a source of pain and multiple waterborne diseases like typhoid, diarrhea, and scabies, the polluted water source was slowly crippling this community. But then World Vision arrived and the trajectory of the community changed.
While we met with the leaders of the water committee they asked us if we would like to see their old water source. The drums had stopped pounding but my heart had not. We walked down a narrow path carved out by the feet of children heading towards water. At about 1,500 feet we came to a small bridge, a water-filled ditch underneath it. The path continued and I thought we would too. Camera in hand, I was asked to video some of the women fetching water and pouring it into the jerrycans. Like a flashback, I recalled the last 20 minutes of the walk to this waterhole, but instead of the faces of these sun-kissed African children, I saw the faces of my children. It was at this moment that knowledge and compassion moved from my heart to my head. Suddenly it all made sense. If it’s not good enough for my children, then it’s not good enough for these children. These children are my children. Children and all people deserve clean water. It’s that simple.
Where they once had a nearly impossible decision between illness and dehydration, today better choices can be made - enabling a community to thrive and rejoice. The ditch still survives, a distant memory of what was, and a new well now stands proudly in Lakwana Village, a beacon of hope and an instrument of change. It is maintained by a multi-generational water committee who knows the significance of water and how it can change lives for good. Time spent once fetching water or taking care of a sick family member, can now be used in school, play, and community. Illnesses that once threatened their survival have been reduced by 80% and in some instances completely wiped out. Crops that once had little yield are now flourishing allowing for economic development, bartering for other staple food items, and diets full of nutrition.
When water arrives, life arrives; they are inextricably linked. The children in Lakwana no longer have to be afraid. But there are many others who do not have such a luxury. According to World Vision, nearly 1,000 children under age 5 die every day from diarrhea caused by contaminated water, poor sanitation, and improper hygiene. As we have seen, this doesn’t have to be the end of the story. You are part of this story and like me, your heart can break in just the right places, and move forward in the confidence of our great God who gave us the ultimate well and water of life – Jesus.
Isaiah 41:17 tells us "[the] poor and needy search for water, but there is none; their tongues are parched with thirst. But I the LORD will answer them; I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them." May we be compelled to tap into the deepest source of life and bring it to the world in both word and deed. May we be part of the LORD’s response in His world.
To learn more about World Vision’s WASH program, click here.
Greater Together is a collaborative blog written by volunteer child ambassadors for World Vision.