When we talk about people not having access to clean water, what does that really mean?
For the people of Bulanda, Zambia, it meant finding the fur of a drowned dog (and then the dog itself) in their only source of drinking water.
Read about the challenges that come without clean water, and this community's prayers and pleas for water … and an answer!
The place: southern Zambia. We’d spent the day at one of the most hideous water sources I’d ever seen.
This water was dirty.
A dog had recently drowned there, drinking water from the hole. No one knew it had happened until dog fur floated to the surface of the water. That’s when villagers poked around the bottom of the hole with a long stick and found the remains of the dog, caught under a tree root.
We watched as a group of teens, thirsty from playing soccer, came to the water hole to drink. They had one clear plastic bottle that they shared. They would crawl into the hole, immerse the bottle into the dirty water, drink heartily, and pass the bottle on to the next. It was hard to watch. But we had no clean water to give them.
The community was waiting to greet us at the home of Bazaar Buumba, a 57-year-old father of 7.
“We are so sorry,” apologized Bazaar. “We wanted to make you our favorite drink—a traditional drink made with water and maize. But a cow fell into the waterhole this morning and we couldn’t get water.”
When I travel to write stories for World Vision, I always try to eat everything I am given—so often it is a family’s only food and drink. But I have to admit that I celebrated inside when I heard about the cow falling into the water. I didn’t want to drink water that might have dog fur in it.
“We pray special prayers for water,” Bazaar told me. “They are pleas: God help us work with people like World Vision. Touch them and help them bring water to us.”
I felt so sorry for this community.
Most of the people were related—brothers, sisters, children, and grandchildren. They were so kind. One grandmother was so old she just sat by her hut all day. Another was HIV positive. Her grandchildren took such good care of her. There was a lot of love here.
But the water was a big problem.
Children couldn’t go to school because of sickness. Mothers did nothing but fetch water. Fathers couldn’t farm enough to feed their families or have extra income.
In the meantime, World Vision staff had taught the community the value of good sanitation. Bazaar’s home had a new latrine, a tip tap water system for hand washing, a dish rack to keep dishes away from animals, a rubbish pit, and a bathing shower to provide privacy for washing.
Sanitation and hygiene is the first step toward getting clean water through World Vision. The community was collecting money or maize to put toward the construction of the borehole. The money is important. When a community invests in their development, they can take ownership of it.
Now they just needed the water.
I loved how Bazaar had positioned his new latrine—on the western side of the house so breezes would blow any odors away. He’d positioned a rock below a tree as a place to sit and relax. It was beautiful. It reminded me of a Japanese garden.
I began to feel very much at peace with Bazaar and his family. I mentioned the old grandma sitting against the wall and how comfortable she looked. I wondered aloud if I could come here someday when I got old.
Bazaar looked at his family and then looked back at me and nodded.
“We could take care of an old, white lady,” he said.
The community of Bulanda would actually be a very good place to retire.
If only they had clean water. In that moment, the pleas of the people of Bulanda became my prayer, too.
Editor’s note: The community in Bulanda recently received a borehole from World Vision, answering their prayers and Kari’s prayers as well. Thanks to clean water, now children will be healthy and able to go to school, and parents will be able to feed their families, and Kari will have a place to retire.
Read more stories about the positive effects of clean water for communities in Zambia!
What you do today could change a child’s tomorrow! Nearly 1,600 children under age 5 die every day from diarrhea caused by dirty water, poor sanitation, and improper hygiene. Sponsor a child in a community in Zambia that desperately needs access to safe water, and be a key part of World Vision’s work to provide a new person with clean water every 30 seconds.
As your child’s only sponsor, you can encourage them through your prayers and correspondence while helping their entire community thrive—not only with safe water, but also through basic healthcare, education, economic opportunities for their families, and a full life. The kind of life God intends.