Karibu! Welcome!

Since 2004, EWB@ MSU's professional and student volunteers have worked with community members in Khwisero, Kenya to provide water and sanitation infrastructure at the district's 58 primary schools, making it easier for Khwisero's children to avoid waterborne disease and get an education.

In that time, the group has grown from a small club to one of MSU's premier student organizations, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars to fund seven borehole wells, six composting latrines and a biogas latrine that serve thousands of community members.

Thank you for joining us as we continue to work hand-in-hand with local partners to make a difference in one small part of our world. As Western Kenya's limited internet access allows, we will update this blog while in-country with the successes, stories and lessons provided by our work.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Carrying Water

Dolan Personke

Yesterday, I carried water. On my head.

Yesterday, about an hour or so before dinner, five of us headed down to the spring to get water with Jaquelline, a friend Nellie, our host mother. It was about a three-quarter of a mile walk downhill from the compound. About half-way down the trail, I realized I'd forgotten my camera, and ran back up to the hut where all of us guys were sleeping in to grab it. I dug my Canon out of my luggage, and headed back down the hill, not entirely sure where I was going.

As I ran down the trail to the spring, I realized that this was the first time in the four days I had that I had been completely alone in Kenya. It was a pretty exciting thought—I couldn’t help thinking, ‘Well shoot, if I can walk down this path with my camera all by myself, I could dang near do anything on my own!’

When I got down to the spring most of our barrels had been filled with water already. I took a couple shots of a few young local guys, (who were quite excited to see themselves on the camera screen) and then we started hauling the water back uphill. I started taking some photos of the other EWB-ers with the water on their heads, and started to think that I was in the clear on carrying water until, a mere 100 yards into the journey back up the hill, Jaquilline ordered me to give her the camera and take one of the jugs of water. It was clear I had no choice.

I started up the hill at a pretty solid clip. Partially because I wanted to show that I wasn’t a whimpy Mzungu (Swahili for a white person), but also because I wanted to spend as little time possible with the water jug on my head.

It’s one thing to hurry up a hill, it’s another thing entirely to hurry up a hill with a five-gallon barrel of water on your head, sloshing weight back and forth across you skull, dripping alarming amounts of water onto your shirt. I spent the first third of the hike thinking, “this is tough, but I can totally handle it.” The next third felt more an endurance test, as I had to constantly reassure myself: ‘Alright Dolan, you can do this. You’ve got to keep charging, buddy.’ By the last third of the journey I was pretty sure my head was going to fall off, my spine was going to collapse and my face was going to be pulled into the dirt by the weight of the barrel as I spilled water everywhere.

But I made it, and strode triumpantly into the Jackson’s compound. All of the kids started clapping and yelling, ‘Mzungu! Mzungu!’ I could not help but smile with pride. I walked confidently to the cooking hut and finally, finally, FINALLY was able to take the water off of my head.

I had made it.

I felt such a sense of relief and accomplishment. I wanted to throw my arms up to the sky like Rocky after climbing the steps to the Philidelphia Art Museum. Then I realized that this is what Kenyan women, young Kenyan girls do every day. Even now I’m a little unsure if I want to attempt that carry again, but this is their daily reality. It was a pretty sobering reminder about why we're involved here in Khwisero.

1 comment:

H2O for Hope said...

That is a great story! It keeps us motivated to build the well(: