Just a Drop’s Project Co-ordinator Amy Sendell reflects on her enlightening trip to Zambia.
In early November I spent two weeks with our Volunteer Project Officer Peter Marsh in Zambia meeting our local partners and the families and communities who have been supported by some of Just a Drop’s clean water and sanitation projects – and to visit those who still desperately need it.
On our second day we visited the Shibangwa community. We met 13 year old Zach who told us that he walks for 3km every day with his sister Maria before school just to collect water for their family to cook, drink and wash with. As we walked with Zach and Maria to the source of their water – a stagnant waterhole, he explained that he and his family suffered frequent bouts of diarrhoea. In fact more children in Africa under-five years old die from water-related illness such as diarrhoea than they do from malaria, measles and HIV/AIDS combined. On top of this we found out that their daily struggle to collect this water meant missing vital learning in school. Speaking with Zach was a particularly moving moment for me and one that I often find myself thinking about. Working in the project office in Dorset, we receive emails and photos from our partners showing the struggles these communities face as they collect water that you almost, sadly, become desensitised to it; but watching Zach and his sister as they struggled to lift containers full of contaminated water really brought it home for me.
We know that community projects initiated by local people lead to sustainable & positive changes in local development, especially through the transfer of long-term project management skills to the local community. To that end, we ensure that we work at a grassroots level to establish village led management structures such as Water and Sanitation Committees. Mpumpule village is certainly testament to that. During our meeting with the community I was captivated with their combined determination to transform the way their children lived. Dorothy Murenzela was full of pride, with her 7 month old son Belite on her hip, as she explained that her 7 children would now grow up with time for study and to play, and she would not have to worry about rationing what little water they had or about the quality of water they would drink. She beamed with joy as she told me of their plans to build a school here for the children now that they have water in the Village.
What also came across very clearly was that everyone had wanted to contribute in some way to the new borehole, which is particularly essential when trying to deliver a sustainable project such as this. Peter and I were enthusiastically and proudly told how each member of the community had been so willing to give the little they had to contribute towards a capital fund that would be used for future maintenance and repairs. Finess Maambo a member of the water user committee was also keen to describe the maintenance training they had received during the project and proudly told us that during the practical training they had helped to fix two boreholes for other communities nearby!
The continued hope of being able to make a difference is what stops working for Just a Drop becoming an overwhelming mission; knowing that the smallest amount of money raised really does still help to transform people’s lives for the better.
As we left the group began singing and dancing and the smiles on the children’s faces were nothing but contagious. I left thinking about the enormous and positive ripple effect Just a Drop’s work was having on such remote communities in Zambia!
To find out more about Just a Drop’s work in Zambia, click here.