Hopefully you’ve been reading the incredible blog posts uploaded recently by Harry, from his trip visiting our projects across Ghana, Kenya and Rwanda. If you haven’t, stop reading this blog and check out one of his – they’re much more interesting! At the time of my writing I’ve only managed a quick Monday morning catch up with Harry, with him sharing a few more incredible trip highlights and myself in turn sharing a couple of mundane updates, like house-hunting progress and organising trade shows.
Harry’s blogs have managed to stir our whole team’s emotions. For me, stories from our projects are always a powerful reminder of the importance of community; and how much we can learn from those remote, rural communities where survival is truly dependent on one another. In times of drought, communities in rural Africa are fighting for survival. On a ‘good day’, women and children are often walking miles to carry out the most important, fundamental task of gathering water. But somehow, despite a monumental daily struggle, these communities are constantly finding ways to improve, to grow and to educate and provide a future for the next generation.
In 2013 I had the privilege of visiting some of our projects in the Wajir region of Northern Kenya. An astonishingly remote place, where we installed and repaired several pumps in the area. In one such rural community, around 5 hours drive from the town centre of Wajir, we were invited into the homes of the locals – something we all felt very honoured to be allowed to do! One home that the community was particularly excited to show us was that of the most recently married couple.
As we entered, this marital home was visibly different to all the rest. At most, the other homes had a basic bed and maybe one mosquito net, with a couple of bowls. But this home had pots and pans, bowls, brightly coloured sheets and a mosquito net. It was explained to us that everybody who could, donated something (from their own very small collection of personal belongings) to ensure the married couple had everything they needed. Helping them get off to the best start in married life. I can only imagine the atmosphere of such a ceremony within their community; the sheer generosity and the genuine care in their neighbour’s happiness – straight from the heart. As with all proper traditions, one day somebody else will marry and they will no longer have such a full home as these possessions are once again passed along.
At the weekend my grandmother called to offer me an old mirror I’d always been fond of, as a housewarming present. I could tell she was as chuffed as me when I accepted this generous gift. This act of kindness reminded me of the village in Wajir, thousands of miles away, where just like us possessions are passed along to those who need them, but unlike us, the gift-giver will then simply go without and make do. The giving of a gift, or maybe it’s the gift of giving, is a two-way transaction. No matter how much or how little we have, we all enjoy the feeling of giving as much as we enjoy being the recipient. We revel in each other’s happiness. The traditions of Wajir showed me first hand how universal that truly is.
Unfortunately, it’s easy to forget that not every gift is a present. Sometimes we have to call on those that can, to give to those that need, but can’t be heard. In the case of providing water to the communities of the world’s harshest regions, I can’t think of a more simple way to say it than – Give Water, Give Life.