Imagine that for one moment. Do the math. 120 hours each month. 1440 hours each year. Boils down to an extra 60 days per year. 2 full months to fill as you wish.
Those calculations, and the innumerable things I could dream and imagine accomplishing if a magic wand handed me that extra time, was all I could think of…as I lugged a 20-liter jerrycan filled with 40 pounds of dirty river water strapped to my forehead.
In Kenya, and in many parts of the world where collecting water is a daily struggle for survival, these hours every day, every single day, define a woman’s life. As I write this almost a billion people on the planet don’t have access to safe drinking water. If that number is not comprehensible to us who can turn on a faucet at any time day or night and drink directly from it, try this—that is equal to every single human being in the USA+Canada+Europe.
We’ve all read many statistics about the global water crisis before. These two make my head spin. And my heart ache.
• The average American family uses 176 gallons of water per day. The average African family? Five.
• Every 20 seconds, a child dies from a water-related disease. As I write and edit this post for an hour, that is a heart-wrenching, harrowing thought.
But statistics were not in my head as my daughter and I carried water. What struck me most of all was the utter human waste of the 2 months per year spent doing this. Mind you...only to arrive at the dung hut a mile up the footpath to then have to spend an hour chopping firewood to boil this water so it is drinkable at all. Another hour. Another 365 hours each year. Girls’ lives consumed. Human potential squandered.
I only had to do this once. And I was changed. Moved. Affected forever.
Millions of moms cannot get out of this ravaging rut. Millions of girls cannot go to school since the family’s water-collection chore falls on them. Millions of children dying. They need water. Nearby. And clean. And now.
My family traveled to the Rift Valley Maasai Mara region of Kenya for 3 weeks this summer to work with Free The Children and see where donated funds from B. toys actually go. We helped build schools, we delivered toys, we met Maasai and Kipsigi families—and we carried water.
And, on one incredible day, we took part in the “Maji Ni Uhai” (Water is Life) opening ceremony of water stations Free The Children inaugurated from a 200-meter deep borehole they had dug one year before.
I saw the tears in a mom’s eyes as she poured clear water directly into her child’s mouth. I talked to a granddad who could not believe he was alive to witness this. My kids carried kids on their shoulders so they could crane their necks to catch a glimpse of the transparent liquid coming out of the wall. We felt the irrepressible joy of a village changed forever.
But what about the others in that billion people?!?
PS: It’s Blog Action Day today. We had to add our voice.