Lifting a Different Kind of Weight

September 4, 2019

Posted by Chip, Managing Director

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August 2019, Gashora Sector of Rwanda

We had spent the morning visiting with the volunteers and leaders in Gashora. The Water Project was active in Gashora between February 2017 and April 2018. During that time, 20 Liters had provided filters to over 2,500 households, 3 health centers and 6 schools. I didn’t expect the volunteers to still be so active. They still visit their assigned families, hold community health & hygiene trainings, and visit schools and health clinics. This is far beyond the commitment we asked for.

I was curious to know if the health & hygiene lessons had stuck, since it had been over 2 years since some families initially attended trainings. Leonard, one of the volunteers, told me “they live with the filters daily, so they remember every day the lessons they learned.” This reminded me how important it is that we partner the training with a physical solution.

Later, we visited a family that had received a slow sand filter in May 2017.

Claudine and Jean Damascene have 6 children in their small, 3-room house. The walls are smooth cement. The floor is exposed clay with divots and pits where they excavated. The corrugated steel roof lets in the afternoon sun in small places that creates dots of light on the walls. We sit in their living room on a hand-made few chairs and benches. A few of the kids poke their heads into the room, giggling apprehensively at the strangers. The family’s slow sand filter sits in the corner. The hand-made doily spread over the cover of the large black tank makes it feel like a part of the room, a decorative choice.

Claudine tells us that, before getting her filter, it was hard to breastfeed her infant while also suffering from diarrhea herself. She worried she wasn’t providing enough milk for her son. This struck me. I know the anxiety of wondering if I’m providing well for my child, giving her too many treats and not enough vegetables.

But to know the water is bad for me and my child, and yet be so helpless to change anything. This is a different kind of weight.

They talked about how the filter has changed their lives. No more trips to the clinic to buy dehydration salts, saving that money allowed them to buy health insurance for the family. No more days of work and school lost to sickness. But, I kept thinking about Claudine and how it must have felt to not be able to nurture your own children. She had raised 4 kids under the oppression of dirty water.

The youngest slept in her arms while we talked. He seemed content, wrapped in a blanket, sucking on his fingers. I kept glancing at Claudine’s face; had that worry left a scar? Had that anxiety crushed her spirit?

And yet, her eyes sparkle as she tells us, “Now we are healthy. The neighbors come every day for their water, too. We are able to share this blessing with everyone who is thirsty.”

The baby in Claudine’s arms begins to cry and Claudine stands up to feed him in the other room. She coos at him, with a smile on her face.

From the Field Notes of Chip Kragt. Chip was hired as the Managing Director for 20 Liters in August of 2015. Chip is passionate about the humanitarian right to basic necessities and breaking the cycle of poverty. He and his wife are raising their first child in Grand Rapids, MI and are expecting a second child soon.

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