Seeds of Change
During her decades of service, Elisabeth Ishimwe, a community health worker in Rwanda’s Burera district, has earned the reputation of a “life saver.” When friends, neighbors, or their family members fall ill, their first stop is Elisabeth’s home. As a trusted neighbor, she provides care and referral services.
Elisabeth has always treasured her role as a health worker. But, she often felt limited by the most basic yet stubborn of obstacles: access to clean water.
As a health professional, Elisabeth knows how important a role clean water plays in helping patients return to health. She also knows how easily waterborne illness can compound existing problems. As a neighbor to her fellow villagers, she also knew how difficult it was to access clean water, often relying herself on nearby, unfiltered sources like the local lake and tap.
In partnership with World Relief, 20 Liters is empowering volunteers in Rwanda to identify community change agents like Elisabeth, who they equip with water filters in order to bring about lasting transformation in some of the country’s most vulnerable and hard-to-reach places. Elisabeth received a SAM3 household filter in November 2022.
Since then, she says, seeds of change have begun to take root.
“Our patients are doing so much better now, especially those with high blood pressure!” Elisabeth exclaims. “They can take their medicine with safe water and are no longer getting sick from waterborne diseases, which used to worsen their situation.” Thanks to this new access to filtered water, the number of sick children Elisabeth treats has gone down 30%, according to her own measurements. This includes her own daughter, who had been suffering from constant diarrhea due to dirty lake water.
As her filter begins paving the way for new, healthier futures, it’s also accomplishing an unexpected purpose: reconciliation.
Elisabeth’s home is situated on the border line between two villages, making her filter accessible to diverse groups. In one instance, Elisabeth recalls, two neighbors who had been engaged in a longstanding land partitioning conflict had found themselves repeatedly running into one another as they collected water at Elisabeth house. Eventually, she says, their constant interactions helped smooth over their disagreements, and they became friends before peacefully settling their land conflict.
Listing these and other blessings that have sprouted from the small seed of her water filter, Elisabeth beams with hope and gratitude. She wishes to thank the donors who have funded her small but mighty filter, adding “I cannot thank them enough! They are a blessing to us!”