A price too high to pay for clean water

This story comes from our FH colleagues in Kenya.

It's 5 a.m. one chilly morning in Mariwa village, and Florence is up and ready for the day ahead. She quickly sips her tea to help her energize. As the lady of the house, Florence knows an early start will give her an edge over most other women going down to the stream to fetch water. This morning, like most mornings, Florence, armed with her all-too-familiar yellow jerrycan, sets off down a  narrow, dusty path paved with jagged boulders and precarious rifts. As the rest of the world awakes from its slumber, Florence joins a growing group of women at the trickling stream, each one ardently awaiting her turn.

The stream flows what seems to be drop by drop since this is the dry season. Thus, the early hours of the morning are most ideal, as some water will have collected during the night. The women then scoop the water with a cup into their 20-liter jerrycans and head up the valley illuminated by the morning light. This is one of probably four to six trips they will have to make in the day.

Half an hour after arriving at the stream, Florence finally gets her chance to scoop up what little water is left. Cup by cup, she slowly fills her container as she mentally plans out the rest of her day.

Strong from repeating this sequence all too often, Florence whisks the container onto her head. She struggles for a few seconds to steadily find balance, then stands up, and she is off for home.

With the water weighing her down, she skillfully makes her way, carefully planning where each footstep will land. Florence can feel the cool water dripping on her back and laments that she may not have closed the lid tightly enough. As she tries to make the next step, she falls short and suddenly slips.

With the force of the containers, she falls forward and, unfortunately, lands on a pointed rock.

Like many untold stories of women in pursuit of water across this region, Florence, at the time, is in her second trimester of pregnancy. A few hours later, lying on a hospital bed, Florence and her husband hear the doctor say that their unborn baby is dead. This is a price too high to pay for something that should be considered a basic human right.

Fast forward two harvest seasons later…. Our paths cross again, and we meet Florence at the recently commissioned Mariwa Mixed Secondary School Water project. Florence, like many others at the water point, is excitedly fetching clean water from a spigot connected to a building that covers a borehole. It takes just a few seconds to fill the jerrycan! No more waiting for half an hour; now, the job is over in a flash, and she hurries home to continue her duties.

With the provision of the clean water, the school and the surrounding community now have access to safe, fresh water all year round. According to a leader at the school, “The school is forever changed.”

With access to clean water, school enrollment for the freshman class has increased by 250 percent, and the school plans to expand to accommodate all the new students. With the presence and accessibility of clean water, the students spend more time studying, which translates into higher grades and healthier futures.

This school's water station serves an estimated 5,000 people in the community, and it is fully supported by money from its customers.

Florence no longer endures the tremulous trek down stream. She says that what she now saves on time and energy, she ploughs back into her daily activities, including her kitchen garden and her business. She knows that her tragic story has left her with scars she cannot forget, but she presses forward, trusting that no one else will endure such a loss in the search of water.


Florence now is full of hope as she sees the next generation access education and clean water — all in her home village.


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