Twelve-year-old Confiance looked up at former President Bill Clinton, who rested his hand on her shoulder. I doubt she really knew who this man was, but she knew that it was a big deal he was visiting this Rwandan school.
And here she was, one of two children chosen to help demonstrate how a life-saving water purification system works.
Confiance was no stranger to this Procter and Gamble product. She’d learned how to use it in a World Vision WASH (Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene) Club. World Vision distributes the P&G Purifier of Water packets in many rural areas that have the greatest need for clean water.
Obstacles on the road to water
Twice a day, before and after school, Confiance walks 30 minutes to and from a borehole to get water for her family. She worries about seeing snakes along the road and is scared that men are hiding in the bushes.
It’s not only along the road that she might meet scary men. A cooperative owns the community borehole, but Confiance and her family aren’t members. Often when she arrives, the men chase her off. The water is for the cattle, they say. She says that sometimes knife fights break out there.
On school mornings, she doesn’t have time to wait around hoping that the men will eventually let her get water. Instead she continues walking down the hill to a nearby swamp.
The water is a murky brown, the color of chocolate milk, but with a tinge of green and a slick oily surface. She kneels down in the mud so her small arm can drop the jerry can into the water. Bubbles glug to the surface as she can fills the can with the filthy water.
Dirty water contains diseases and parasites. Three times in her young life, Confiance has gotten so sick from drinking this water that she was rushed to the hospital. She’s suffered from dysentery, diarrhea, and worms.
“You feel something in your stomach, which is eating you,” she says. Sometimes she would hug herself tight around her abdomen trying to stop the pain.
Her younger brother has also gotten sick with waterborne diseases. “It made me sad when my brother was sick, because I only have one brother. I think, if he dies, who will I play with?”
Thanks to the P&G water purification packets, Confiance can drink even this murky water with confidence.
The process first collects all of the dirt down to the bottom of the bucket. Filtering separates the dirt from the cleaner water. Finally, chlorine kills any lurking pathogens after 20 minutes, making the water consumable.
“It makes me happy. I drink the water without fear of becoming sick,” Confiance says.
Big increases in World Vision’s water programs
Greg Allgood, World Vision Vice President of water and founder of the P&G Children’s Safe Drinking Water program, explains that World Vision and P&G have teamed up to provide immediate access to clean drinking water by distributing the packets.
World Vision also works to provide more sustainable sources of clean drinking water, like protected springs, boreholes, and whatever else a community needs in order to have clean drinking water on a sustained basis.
“As part of our work, we’ve increased our ability to provide clean drinking water four to five times in just the last two years. World Vision is now providing clean drinking water to a new person every 30 seconds,” says Algood.
“Here in Rwanda, that means reaching more than 300,000 people with clean drinking water and more than half a million people with improved sanitation and hygiene.”
The student becomes the teacher
Through World Vision’s WASH club training, Confiance is part of those 300,000 people in Rwanda. She’s taken her P&G water filtration packet training and begun to teach others. Then she was chosen to help demonstrate the packets for Bill and Chelsea Clinton.
After the 30-minute demonstration, which made the dirty water clean and drinkable, Confiance and President Clinton toasted with plastic cups filled with clean water. It’s a far cry from champagne toasts the former president has had in the past, but for millions of children like Confiance, it’s a drink that’s much more precious. And that is a really big deal.