Now that I’ve had time to reflect, I can say it was the trip of a lifetime.  I can and hope to go back, but there’s absolutely nothing like “the first time”.  Right?

This picture tells my story.  That’s not a frown on my face, I was in a spontaneous intercultural woman-to-woman moment and I was holding back tears.  But let me start at the beginning……… 

BACKGROUND:

In the Fall of 2014, The Color of Water, my foundation which supports safe water, gave a modest donation to a Rotary grant that turned out to be matched by the District and then by Rotary International  3½ times!!  Huge!  Thank you Rotary.

At the 2014 International Rotary Convention in Sydney, I met Chris Mutalya, a Past District Governor from Uganda and one of the leading Rotarians involved with the water well project there.  I was impressed by International Lifeline Fund, a non-profit fiduciary based in Washington, D.C.  It was the independent agent that also provided logistics, engineering expertise and training in hygiene, sanitation and basic well maintenance.   My donation was well placed.

THE REST OF THE STORY:

November of 2016, I had the great pleasure of accompanying Virginia Ryan, a Rotarian from Spring Lake, Michigan, District 6290 to the Apac (pronounced ah-patch’) district in the north central area of Uganda.  Ginny had written the grant that finally amounted to $170,000 to install 24 water wells.  She was to go there to follow up on the work that was done up to that point.   

Timket Biresaw is the ILF agent in Lira, Uganda overseeing all of the Apac wells and training.

Igor Markov is the engineer with International Lifeline Fund who installs the wells.

Both of these men are competent and gregarious with a clear interest in the welfare of the people of Apac and their needs.

The project has already provided safe water to hundreds of people who had been plagued by very serious waterborne diseases; has relieved women and girls of arduous and dangerous (because of assault) trips to polluted streams; and given time back to girls to go to school. 

SO, we’re now in Uganda getting to see families/villagers responding to a blessing that so many of us take for granted.  WATER—CLEAN SAFE WATER. There was unbounded joy, dancing and chanting.  It was beautiful.  I had no idea of the significance of what I was seeing at the time except that I knew lives were being significantly changed for the better.    I felt so lucky for the choices I had made from that initial donation up to making the flight reservation.  I had to be there.

The wells are simple mechanisms.  There is no electricity.  There is a fence to keep the hooved animals from physically destroying the concrete channels carrying any spillage down to a sump.

In 3 of the villages we watched plays, similar to the Morality Plays of early Christianity, presented to explain and show in language and action the importance of clean water and sanitation.

We were actually there with the people where they live.  It was incredible. 

I have to share a couple of quotes from spokespeople in the villages: 

“I hope God will put more money into the pocket from which you provided our well so that you can help other people.” 

“It’s good to see white skin in our village.” 

International Lifeline Fund held classes in sanitation, hygiene and basic well maintenance.  Participants “graduated” with certificates and were very proud of their accomplishment.

The wells are kept in working order by International Lifeline Fund gratis for the first year.  After that villagers must pay for parts.  During the training, a game was played similar to our “The Price is Right” to educate them on the cost of parts.

Clever and it worked.

Each group of families using a well, has a Water Committee.  They have been asked to open a bank account into which each family pays the equivalent of $.10 per month to be used for well maintenance.  It’s not only a commitment to taking care of the well properly, but insures sustainability.

Hundreds of people in a poor country now have safe water which must be eliminating a huge sense of desperation in their lives.  My wish is that they are enjoying a stronger sense of hope as well.