Angela Enss (pictured left) is an engineer in Phoenix, AZ. She recently volunteered in Rwanda, including leading several weeks of support to our Africa Field Manager, Pamela Crane (pictured right). Angela gives a beautiful view into the community she encountered and was so moved by during her time of service there.
I recently had the privilege of visiting Rwanda for a month, where I was even able to join Blood:Water Mission on a vision trip to a village in the north of Rwanda, called Cyanika. It took a little over two hours of driving from Kigali, the capitol of Rwanda, up a windy, mountainous road to reach the volcano that this village lives and farms on. The drive was incredibly breathtaking and the cultural landscape, captivating, so it was the perfect introduction to the beauty, dignity and way of life we were about to experience while in Cyanika.
The mountains all around us were completely green and filled with eucalyptus trees, banana trees, and, if not too steep, farm fields and terraces. Houses made from wood and mud, and sometimes brick, dotted the landscape, as well as footpaths up and down the steep mountainsides. In places, we even saw waterfalls. The people walking along the road usually came in groups, carrying many things on top of their ever-well-postured heads. Potato sacks that must have been close to 50+ kilograms, bundles of sticks, 10-foot boards, multiple jerrycans of water, sacks filled with pineapples, baskets galore, and bricks stacked high like the beginning of a Jenga game... - you name it; we saw it! Mothers, all the while transporting and balancing the world on their heads, carried babies strapped to their backs. School children skipped, walked and ran to and from school in their uniforms, next to all the cars on the road.
When we finally arrived at the village, we were greeted wholeheartedly, and in true African style, with singing and dancing! Worshiping God! People from all different churches and backgrounds had came together to welcome us and show us how their lives have improved with the rain tanks Blood:Water has helped build! As it turned out, during the long dry season where months can go by without rain in this area, the people from this village used to have to walk 10-18km down the volcano to the nearest water-source, a lake, to get water... And that was just one way. One man said he would leave at 3am in the morning every day, to be back by 1pm in the afternoon. For us western/non-metric minds, that would be just 4 miles short of a marathon, every day, all the while carrying heavy containers of water, down and back up a mountain! To put this into further perspective, think about all the calories that would take!
Later that afternoon, some of the villagers welcomed us into their yard/outdoor kitchen area to give us a demonstration on how they used to have to use their precious water. A woman showed us a bowl of potatoes, in which she poured about a cup and a half of water and proceeded to shake the potatoes about in it. The potatoes, now showing some signs of skin other than just dirt, were then deemed clean, and the brown, opaque, and dirt clumped water was later used to "clean" the dishes. After the dishes were put away, this same water was used to wash up her children. She went on to explain that many people were sick everyday. In fact, the village contained two stretchers - as everyday, like clockwork - two people would have to be run down the mountain in critical condition to the nearest clinic, which was, ironically, all the way down by the lake, so another 10-18km away!
Going back to the welcoming ceremony, where the villagers had sung and danced their greeting, is where we had also heard a testimony of all the positive benefits the rain tanks have brought. A man stood up and told us about how the people in this village were no longer sick as often, and they could now use the time they had spent carrying water to farm and send their children to school. He also said that he and his wife used to fight all the time. Now that they are cleaner and healthier, and have more time to work, they no longer fight as much. He was positively radiant at this statement!
It was truly a special day to see how a project that had been started by several women in the village to build a single storage tank had taken flight and expanded. Blood:Water has been able to come alongside an agency that was already making great improvements for the village in terms of encouraging reconciliation of the different people groups within the community and aiding thier spiritual and physical needs, and give them the support they needed to expand the vision of these women. Now each group of 10 families in the entire village has a rain tank capable of storing enough water for each family to have 3 jerry cans (18 gallons) of water a day through the dry season. Not only have the people of this village been grateful, but also, they themselves now have the pride and confidence of not only having helped build each of the tanks, but the ability and knowledge to continue to maintain them.
Discuss August 6, 2012