Saturday, 28 July 2012

Working for Change

This week was a week of celebration and joy and of regret and loss. On one hand, the non-profit I started last year, Us. International finally put in our very first project well at the Lwawuna Primary School in Uganda. A well that will serve more than a thousand people in the area. But in the same day I learned that the woman who encouraged me to start my non-profit through her kindness and spirit that overcame hardship lost her stable job in Tanzania and her father in the same month.

So first things first, the joy. I came off the trail in Cimarron, New Mexico where I’m working as a ranger for the summer to find an email in my box from John at Drop in the Bucket, our sister charity with boots on the ground. The email had photos of the new well and some information on the completion of the project. I had tears well in my eyes seeing the photos. My friends and I were all starting seniors in high school last summer when we plotted our hair-brain scheme to raise 25,000 USD in one year to fund four project wells and sanitation education programs in Africa through a non-profit that we planned to organize and run. By the fall we had a Texas Non-profit Status, website, and board of directors. In October, we put out a national campaign called “Change for Water” that reached schools all over the country and by the mid point in the year we had raised more than 16,000 USD. We were doing what we set out to do. You’d expect to hear “we proved them wrong.” Or “No one believed in Us but we overcame.” In reality though, that wasn’t the case. Sure, some thought we were crazy to have such a huge goal or thought us too idealistic, they were probably right. In spite of that, for the most part our families, friends, and schoolmates came together to support us and help us on our way. Without them, we wouldn’t have been able reach any of our goals. When I saw those photos of kids getting fresh water from a well that all my friends and I financed, I was overwhelmed. More than a thousand people, a thousand people! Water isn’t an end all solution, but it is a vital step towards progress and growth. More time will be added into the lives of these rural Africans and the women in the villages will be empowered with this new free time and ability to enter the market place. There are a hundred reasons for why water empowers women, opens economic and academic opportunities, and improves health and living conditions.
Next things next, sorrow. Margreth is one of the strongest and inspirational people that I know. I met her in Tanzania when she gave me her cell phone to use to call back to the states and when I tried to return it to her, she told me to keep it for the night in case “She called me back.” Embarrassingly enough, I had been discovered. My important call was to a girl. However, she entrusted me with one of her most valued items and that was something. I learned over time that she had overcome hardship her whole life from sickness as a child to the many obstacles on the way to adulthood to be the educated and kind woman she is today. Last month, she lost her father and job in one blow. Hotel management changed and they brought in someone new and out she went to spite her great performance and loyalty. She was forced back to her village and left without the funds for her sons’ education. Luckily, my summer job can cover the fees for the year, another example of the total difference in lifestyles we live. But, her life is now changed, and much for the worse, over the small change. A change in the states would be minor but in a smaller, non-diversified economy, means real hardship.

Margreths situation isn’t the problem her country faces, but the symptom of the illness, the symptoms of a developing nation. It reminds me that in victories there is little time to rest and celebrate. That even in the face of accomplishment, there is much more to be done. It reminds me that though on a macro level things are better, there are still many more individuals suffering uncelebrated or acknowledged. We need to push on, work harder, and recommit ourselves in both times of hardship and in joy. I believe wells and water foster the environment needed to build a better economy for the country and better lives for the people and that’s what makes the victory so sweet and the drive and to push on so much stronger.

By Will Lynch

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