Tragedy is all too common around the world. Can World Vision really make a difference? Can we serve the poor in difficult situations?
See how our clean water and sanitation programs answer these hard questions with, "Yes."
Some things are hard to understand. For example, a boy who has difficulty walking and can’t play his favorite game of soccer or the grief of a woman whose daughter drowns in an open well. During a recent trip to Malawi, I witnessed both of these tragedies. This is the story of Julius, whose mobility was affected by a childhood illness, and Doreen Sakala, a mother who lost her 13-year-old daughter. When meeting them, I wondered what comfort can World Vision staff really provide that will make a difference? How do we fulfill our purpose to serve the poor in these most difficult situations?
Doreen’s story struck me particularly hard as her daughter that drowned would be the same age as my youngest daughter. Instead of discussing a promising future, as I am blessed to do with my daughter Meredith, Doreen visits the grave site of her daughter.
Following her daughter’s death, Doreen immediately filled in the open well so the tragedy would not be repeated. This meant she had to walk a long distance every day to gather water and this burden made her life even more difficult.
Despite this tragedy, what struck me on my visit to Malawi, is that our World Vision staff have brought hope to Doreen. While she will always grieve for her lost daughter, she focuses on the future of her other children including young Nomi. And, a lot of this hope is because of the change in the village brought by clean water.
About a year ago, World Vision brought a mechanized, solar-powered water system to Doreen’s village. Water is pumped from a deep well through solar power into storage tanks high above the village. A system of pipes then take the water to the school, health clinic, and to people’s homes. In fact, Doreen has a standpipe that brings clean water right in the front of her home. All of the open wells in the village have now been filled in.
The hope that now lives within Doreen’s heart is evident by what she tells me. Despite her pain, she is able to think outside herself and wants to help others. She tells me that her loss is not unique, “Many other mothers have lost their children from unsafe water sources”.
Doreen is very thankful that World Vision and our partners brought clean water to more than 2,400 villages in 2014 and she encourages us to continue the job, until everyone has clean water. I tell her that this is our mission and we will not rest until it is done.
Julius tells me that one of his toughest challenges has been not being able to access school toilets. Before World Vision came to his school of Kholombitzo, there were only a few toilets. His limited mobility made it difficult to use the latrine, and it would take him a long time. This upset his fellow classmates who were forced to wait on him or defecate in the bush.
World Vision worked with the school to provide a special toilet that is easy for him to use. This seemingly small change has made a world of difference to Julius. This special toilet has given him an elevated status among his classmates. They have seen that World Vision staff care about Julius and he has value. In fact, Julius is now asked to be the goalie when the boys play soccer.
I now have some answers to the hard questions posed by how we might help a child with disabilities and a grieving mother. I now see this as an opportunity for World Vision to show our love of the poor by working with communities to provide full access to clean and safe water and dignified sanitation. Doreen and Julius will tell you that this has made an enormous difference in their lives.
Learn more about the positive effect of clean water in communities around the world!