We had traveled from Nairobi to Marsabit by road, snaking through the busy Nairobi Thika highway, to Nanyuki, Isiolo and finally to our destination, Intrepids Hotel where we were to be hosted. It was a long and tiring journey indeed, having left Nairobi very early in the morning at 5.30 a.mand getting to the hotel at 6.15 pm
This training and distribution of water filters were sponsored by friends from the University of Ohio, USA. Some of them had been to Kenya for a holiday and they saw the locals directly use water from River Ewaso Nyiro for drinking and cooking. They got more concerned when they visited the surrounding manyattas (villages) and discovered that there was a high prevalence of water-borne diseases especially on children below five years. This prompted them to fundraise and to purchase water filtration systems for the villagers. Our mission during this trip was to give education on water and hygiene, train on the proper use of the water filters and to deliver the water filters to the Samburu people. The whole process was being coordinated by Tilas who is a local, a friend to the sponsors and works as a Naturalist at the hotel.
Tilas is one person who makes everything seem easy and possible through his easy talk, ever-smiling face and good storytelling ability. His genuine concern for the welfare of the people of his Samburu community is touching in many ways and was instrumental in making this water filter project possible. Tilas made our stay very memorable with his stories. One, in particular, was his journey of education and college and how tough it was to get to where he was. Coming from a minority community, people rarely recognized them and at one time in college someone was asked how many people they were in their hostel to which a response was given that they were ten students and a Samburu; a Samburu being a non-entity in this case.
Unlike college, this time the water filters were being received by the people of Samburu. Thanks to the efforts of Tilas and good-intentioned friends from Ohio University.
Not long ago, I read a post of a water filter advertisement in a Face Book Page. What caught my eye was not the advert but the reactions of the people in that group.
“Family planning in a Mask” responded one person
“An African is brought up with all those germs and bacteria, if you eliminate all you weaken his immunity thus allow easy attacks by diseases” responded another
“Thanks but NO… I’d rather follow what our ancestors did to kill bacteria and parasites in drinking water”, replied one but went silent when pressed upon to share with others what this process was.
“Yah, my ancestors also drank unboiled milk. They lived long “added another
Hard to believe but yes I was reading the comments from a platform where I assumed people were more informed in matters technology and safe water. The reality was with me. The perception that water is a natural gift from God and can therefore not be contaminated is so real. The conviction that we have been taking the same water for years and with no side effects to our health is so deeply rooted
This reminded me of an incident when we gifted a friend with a water filter but he flatly refused to take it telling us he is more comfortable with his municipal water from the tap as he had been drinking that very water for years and no health issues to date. Five months down the line, I received a call from him asking if his gift was still available. Not wanting to be inquisitive, we had the filter delivered to him without asking any questions. After exactly one more month, I received another call from him asking if he could purchase a water filter and have it delivered the same day. The urgency in his voice made me curious and so I asked to know what it was with the two water filter deliveries. Yes! As if on invite, typhoid had come calling in his house with four cases at ago. He was to travel upcountry the next day and could not take a risk of going without a water filter since the first water filter was for use in his urban home.
I could only smile as I ended the call for I knew the thoughts on my side were the same as on the other side; I have been drinking this water since I was born and I am still alive.
In our company, we have volunteers who we call our water ambassadors. These are people who believe in our vision and mission of clean and safe water in every home and are recruited through varying criterion. The water ambassadors are the face of the company in their respective areas of residence and preferred areas of operation. They educate the populace on matters water, through door to door campaigns and water knowledge dissemination in public and selected areas of interest. And often, we the directors join our ambassadors on the ground to work with them as a team.
Mid this year, we had joined the Nyanza team of ambassadors in their day today activities and Nyanza being our ancestral land, we were staying not in a hotel but in our village home from where we would commute each day to join the different teams within the region. One day we woke up to find a huge insect (not sure it should be classified in that group) by our door step. Actually I had mistaken it for a dry stick and was just about to pick and throw it out of the way when I noticed some movement. Whoa! What a giant of an insect. Within 30 minutes, it had disappeared without a trace. And for the next 3 days we were treated to this appearing and disappearing act.
This reminded us of one interesting client whom we had named “bwana disappearing and reappearing” He had stopped by our tent during water knowledge imparting session in Aram market in Siaya County, and as we explained the effects of drinking unsafe water he became the educator and animatedly started to explain to the crowd how he has for some time been having “disappearing and reappearing” tummy ache and running stomach issues. He was very convinced that the cause was water related as the condition was more severe whenever he was using the water from the farm pond. So convinced was he that we agreed that he takes a water filter home for use and make observation for the 6 days we were to camp in Aram market. If by the end of this period he was more sure that safe and clean drinking water equals better health then he would keep the water filter and become our water ambassador in his area. He took up the challenge and went a step further by coming to the tent every day for two hours to disseminate the water knowledge to many others.
And so “bwana disappearing and reappearing” became and has remained an ardent water ambassador; facilitating the availability of clean and safe drinking water through provision of household water filters to more than five families within two months. Thank you John for believing in, and being part of Japmor Pillar 1; Clean and Safe Water Initiative.
What are you doing in my compound this early? This seemingly rude question was followed by a deep laughter and a warm hug that made me relax and feel welcomed.
We had just entered the compound of Mary, the Chairperson of the local school parents association. This particular school, in Vihiga County had received the gift of water filters about 6 months earlier and we were here to do a follow up. Both parents and the school had received water filters. Before this, the sponsor was giving out filters to schools only but this had to change since the children would drink safe water while at school but drink unsafe water back home thereby making the whole program not to have a meaningful impact.
We had a one week follow up program so as to visit every home of the water filter beneficiaries. Mary was expecting us on day 3 but we had changed the schedule and visited her home in day 2 of our program. Mary was leaving her home for a funeral. Actually she was just locking her door. In her hands were a padlock, a bag and a jug like bottle of water. Mary opened her door and ushered us in. After the pleasantries, we were ready to do what we had come for and within the shortest time possible so we could let her go to the funeral
Before we could start with the pre-set questionnaires, I asked Mary a one off question. I had made an observation of the jug like water bottle she had in her hand. So I asked her why she was carrying this with her to the funeral. Being an elite retiree, I expected Mary to have a bottle of mineral water in her bag.
Mary took a breath and in a testimony like tone, gave her answer. “Madam let me tell you something. One month after you gave me my water filter, I went visiting with my sister for a few hours and when I came back home, I had a terrible stomach upset for three days. About three weeks thereafter, I attended a conference in Kakamega town and when I came back I had the same stomach upset but this time for five days. After another two months I attended another conference again in Kakamega town and this time round, just on a hunch, I carried my own drinking water in my bag. Believe you me there was no stomach upset at all when I got back home. Yes! My body has come to recognize water from only my water filter as safe. And my glass water bottle has become a permanent companion whenever I am going”
Whoa! Need I use our preset questions? The gospel of clean and safe water at point of use is spreading; One place at a time, one person at a time