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  • Sabah Baxamoosa
  • Tom Tuohy
  • Arifah Rahaman-Aronson
  • Andrew Willis
  • Isabelle Yisak
  • Qinnie Wang

Discuss

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  • Satyendra Kumar

    Susana,
    Your story brings tears in my eyes and the memories of my childhood. I grew up in a small himalayan village in India. Fetching water from a mile was fun (?), a social outing. That is what every one else in the village did. That is what probably they were doing for centuries. The realization that children, especially girls, could use that time for going to school and improve their lives was not there. I was lucky to manage school and got opportunities to study in France and USA. Fortunately, in my village things changed - they have tap water, have electricity, roads and television. Not so everywhere. It is becoming worse. Population is increasing, water table is going down and the quality of drinking water is suffering.
    There is a vicious cycle - energy-water-health-poverty.
    The solution lies by bringing technology, finance and policies together. You are absolutely right that the "donated" water hand pump ends-up being a rusted monument. The need is to create sustainable business models where local person becomes custodian of the equipment, generate employment and grows from one water pump to two, three... Initial hand holding (for technology adoption) and financing (for capital expenditure) are needed. This must be supported by influencing policies at the local government level - water is a touchy issue.
    We are trying to do our little bit in India (www.swajal.in).
    Satyen

  • Kristin Pedemonti

    Agreed. Need to do MORE; need to also as Jen said, redefine who "we" is. Whenever anyone wishes to bring a project, no matter who they are, it is important to develop relationships; Partner WITH locals; ASK questions & deeply LISTEN to responses. They have ideas & solutions of their own; they also have amazing capabilities and potential that often are untapped because outsiders often believe their outside ideas are somehow superior. I cannot tell you how many local (indigenous) people I've heard say in Belize, Ghana, Haiti and Kenya where I did collaborative projects with Locals, that before they felt completely unheard & that 9 times out of 10 no one asked them for their own ideas. Often they have innovative solutions of their own. These solutions many times go unheard by well intentioned people who bring in outside ideas without seeking internal solutions. It's a HUGE issue. Thanks for pointing out that it is definitely MORE than $5 donations, liking a page or wearing a bracelet. It's about Listening and partnering. HUGS to everyone who tries to make a difference!

    • Jelena Woehr

      I've heard before that Haiti is one of the worst case studies for the problem of internationals appearing just for the sake of feeling like they did something, then vanishing without any lasting impact. It's startling to me how colonialist that mindset is even today. I really think it comes down to a lack of responsible education of our own communities, going right back to childhood -- the ability to empower others even at the expense of one's own ego is a learned (through blood, sweat, and tears) skill, and it should be taught consciously starting at a young age, then followed up by ensuring that we reinforce that in preparing volunteers to serve in the developing world. I wonder if those who have come to this enlightenment through their own work could get together to create training programs for volunteers readying for an overseas assignment that help them prepare to listen more than they teach?

  • Olga Cano

    This story hit home. Smack right in the center of my gut.

    Currently I am a Water & Sanitation Peace Corps Volunteer in Lamud - a small community of Northern Peru. Water issues are what I am faced with everyday - both in my personal and professional life. Living and emerging myself in the community has proved that, like Susana pointed out, its not simply about infrastructure. On the contrary, it's much LESS about infrastructure than it is about behavioral change. Infrastructure will only provide a technical solution relatively simple to achieve. But in order for the infrastructure to serve its purpose in the long term we need adaptive change. Yes, people need water delivered to their homes but this water needs to be treated, the systems need to be maintained and operated and it needs to be managed appropriately. All which requires social change. So while our $5 will be valuable to build a water system we are also going to need hands-on in site training and education for those who will be undergoing the change of fetching water, which in many cases is also a significant social activity, to receiving water at their household, which in many cases becomes re-contaminated due to lack of educational information.

    We all have good intentions.

    • Jelena Woehr

      A cousin of mine volunteered with Peace Corps on water projects in Ecuador and faced similar challenges -- but felt that Peace Corps was doing a great job of understanding the need to approach infrastructure and training in a way that empowers communities rather than creating a need for a repeated influx of volunteers to revamp the systems as they break down. How has your Peace Corps experience been in that regard? Are you able to get support for training and education programs where you're serving? Are the people served interested in learning to maintain water treatment systems? I'd love to hear more!

  • swildeszgmailzco

    This is such a great story but it left me thinking, "What's the answer…how do we fix the problem?"

    • Jen Gurecki

      We redefine who "we" actually is -- it's not about outsiders coming in and changing behaviors and providing infrastructure. It's about building authentic partnerships, working with communities, supporting local leaders. A lot of this is being done and it sounds like this is one such project. I think another, perhaps more tangible "fix" would be to not like a page and think you are changing the world -- there's more to it than that:)

      • Kristin Pedemonti

        Jen YES! It is definitely about redefining who WE is. I've worked on collaborative projects (WITH the locals) in Belize, Kenya, Ghana and currently Haiti and too often I've witnessed very well intentioned people coming in with outside ideas and 1. not LISTENING first to if the locals even want the idea implemented and 2. not ASKING the locals for their own ideas and solutions. It's a HUGE issue. Thanks for pointing that out. HUG

  • Christine Borkowski

    This is a remarkable piece. I wish more people knew this harsh reality of the water crisis and the effect it has on women, children and communities at large.

  • Chris Bahr

    This is a great story! It's nice to know that change can be made through understanding the problem and connecting with the people affected by it. Change always starts with one person.

  • Brooke Feldman

    I love this! I think this is an interesting topic. There are organizations out there that think wearing a bracelet or "Liking" an organization on a Facebook page is doing there part. It's not. That is what separates the doers and the thinkers. The doers understand the problem and are passionate enough to come up with ideas. The thinkers, while sounding great, only think about what could happen, but don't make the effort to see how they can help.

    • Qinnie Wang

      I totally agree with you Brooke! For years I was a thinker, and I thought donating 3% of my income was good enough. But a trip to Southeast Asia made me realise that I could do a lot more to help the world's poorest. I came back full of passion and started a Fair Trade charity. At the time I didn't have a clue about web building or business. But I was passionate enough to believe that I would figure things out. Twelve months later, I'm still as determined and passionate. I think sometimes there's certain triggers in life that would fire up the passion within, and you'll be amazed at how much you could actually do.