Hey there from the Village Elders,
We and our translator T.J. opened our beautiful new water treatment center at Gbanteni this past Friday and have since then been making trips to our village to check up on them! We’re lucky we implemented when we did because with the rainy season coming and the precarious spots on the rocky dirt road, travel to our village will soon be nearly impossibly (unless you swim). On the up side, since it is so far out in the country, it is one of the prettiest villages and we loved working there! Here’s what we’ve seen over the past few days:
We have been around to talk to all of the households to inspect their buckets to ensure that they are full of only clean water, there are no problems with the buckets, and they are happy with the new water. We’ve seen all of the usual suspects: broken and leaky taps, people who haven’t filled their buckets, people filling ‘illegal’ buckets (aka unclean buckets without a lid and a tap), and people hesitant to buy more water. However, after 3 days of thorough monitoring, we believe we have ironed out all of the kinks. We were proud when our chief suggested and our village agreed to implement a flat monthly fee rather than a pay per fill fee in order to solve some of these problems! We are hopeful this system will work for them. People have even bought extra buckets so they can have clean water when they are out at the farm for extended periods of time. Everyone’s been raving about how much the new water has made them feel better already! Word about the water has gotten out and a neighboring village has come to check it out and wants it in their village too; they were quickly added to the CWS list of villages and will hopefully get clean water soon!
We are confident that the women selected to run the center will do a wonderful job. They are respected in the community and were familiar with the use of alum (one of the chemicals used to clean the water). They have successfully been treating the water since opening day. They seem committed to working at the center and are even stronger than the man in our group; they can carry 30L buckets on their heads and Javier couldn’t quite master that one… In fact, one of the women managed to fill all 3 of the 200L buckets today by herself!
Even the children are learning a lot about clean water! While somewhat shy when we first arrived a few weeks ago, they now run to the car when we arrive and follow us around the village wherever we go. It was also customary at first to see them drinking dugout water but there is nothing more exciting than seeing them drink clean, clear water from the center out of a water bottle we gave them. Just yesterday, we saw a girl with a bottle of dugout water and we disciplined her in English and although she couldn’t understand our language, between the gestures and the kids understanding why we are there, the group of kids told the girl to dump out the dugout water. They really are beginning to understand the importance of ONLY DRINKING CLEAN WATER!
Today was a bittersweet day. It was our last visit to Gbateni and while we are ecstatic that they are becoming self-sufficient regarding clean water, it was very hard to leave these people we have come to know so well over the past few weeks. When we first arrived the chief said “I would offer you some water but we only have dugout water.” We left them today knowing they have a clean, safe, sustainable source of water for their community. The chief, his wife, and everyone who saw us off were beyond grateful. We took some final photos by their brand new CWS sign! We gave them a few photos and small gifts and plan to mail even more! It was wonderful to work with a village that was so enthusiastic about clean water and health and we will definitely be tracking the progress of our village in the future.
-Kelsey. Javier, Jess and Kendra
P.S. We’ll also miss T.J. tons. His singing, dancing, smiling, tardiness, and willingness to eat all the time (particularly bread with us on the road!).