We had left West Michigan on Saturday and it was Thursday. We were closer to the end of our trip than to the beginning. And while I don’t usually count the days until I go home from a beautiful foreign country, I had left my 14-month old son for the first time and homesick doesn’t quite cover how deeply I missed my baby.
Most days, I lost myself in the stories of the volunteers and families whose lives had been changed by the Water Project. But each day away was a little harder. And, as we left Kigali that morning, my heart was filled with pain instead of gladness.
We drove for a couple of hours before we arrived at a church in rural Rwanda. Water Project volunteers were working to complete SAM3 Household Filters that would be distributed later in that day. As I watched them work, men and women began to arrive and gather in the shade underneath a small tree near the church.
These families were preparing for their final training before they would receive their filters and take them home. Some parents had their children with them… and some also had their infants in their arms.
Charlotte and the volunteers began going through how to use and maintain the filters. [This was a final training so different recipient families were demonstrating what they had previously learned for the group.] Watching Charlotte teach was a treat, her boldness and compassion is evident in every breath she takes.
But I became distracted fairly quickly by the babies in the crowd. Their faces both stung and soothed my heart.
One little girl, in particular, caught my attention. I began to smile and make faces at her to make her laugh [I succeeded in making her cry]. And I thought about her future. She was young enough that she would have still been breastfeeding… so she likely hadn’t suffered directly from the dirty water her family used on a daily basis. And on that day, her parents would take home a solution to make that dirty water clean, and I could see all the ways her life would be different because of it.
Later, I watched her family walk away, toward their home, with their new filter. I have always had empathy for the mothers and fathers who struggle with access to clean water on behalf of their children. But for the first time, I saw the children who would grow up without memories of dirty water.
My heart was filled with gladness.
From the Field Notes of Amanda Mulder. Amanda was hired as the Director of Outreach for 20 Liters in January 2017. Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “It takes as much energy to wish as it does to plan.” Amanda lives by these words and has yet to meet a project or supply closet she cannot organize. Amanda is driven by the belief that access to clean water isn’t a privilege, it is a basic human right. She lives in Grand Rapids, MI with her husband and young son.