I recently was honored to meet Madam Christian Jean Cimilien, a 67-year-old widow and mother of 11 grown children. She’s a member of the community water management committee in Lefevre, Haiti. The community is working with Food for the Hungry (FH) to create a source of clean water by catching rain water. And with the goal of having clean water, the community hopes to improve life for their children.
Community participation is key to sustainable development
Through her toothless grin, Madam Christian explained how FH collaborated with the community to determine that their biggest challenge was water. She was pleased that FH helped the community help itself. She clearly understood that handouts don’t last as long as learning to help yourself lasts.
The pride of ownership beamed from Madam Christian’s eyes as she pointed to the 12,779-gallon cement water tank. FH helped her and others in the community decide to place it near a church, on public property, so it would benefit everyone. Then the community helped by gathering the materials and working alongside FH to build the tank.
Our group learned that other water catchment tanks had been built on nearby private property but later were claimed for the exclusive use of the property owners. As a result, women and children continued to spend long hours every day fetching water from a spring located down a steep hillside.
Giving children time for school
To help illustrate the arduous task, Madam Christian escorted our group part way down the narrow and rocky path that leads to the the community’s water source. Then she turned and pointed toward her garden several yards away.
Multiple times every day, the community’s women and children take a 45-minute downhill trek, followed by a strenuous climb back up. They carry back as many buckets of water as they can. Each eight-pound gallon of water is used for drinking, bathing, cooking, sanitation and gardening.
Children who barely have enough to eat spend their days hauling water up that hill. There is little energy or time left for school – or for being a child.
How much water a family can carry determines the success of their garden. Gardens provide not only daily meals, but also the family’s income.
When the rain fills the tank, the community will have water near their homes. Gardens will flourish, providing both nutrition and income. Children will have more to eat and more time and energy for school. Education will help them thrive.
What you can do
You can help people like Madam Christian and the 894 million people worldwide who have inadequate access to improved water sources.
- Learn about global water issues and how organizations like FH are helping them.
- Conserve water by using less while you brush your teeth, by taking shorter showers and using water-smart landscaping.
- Support the work of organizations like FH that bring life-saving water to communities and children around the world.