Friday, August 1, 2014

The Fountain for the Youth

by Connor Harty
The story goes, that many centuries ago, pirates sailed the oceans in search of the coveted “Fountain of Youth”. Rumor was that this fountain had the power to turn back time and sizably reduce your age. Whether or not this fountain was ever discovered and/or if it worked is history, but today we discovered it’s antagonist.

Today’s water walk opened our eyes to the fountain for the youth, a tiny well at the bottom of a 70 degree hill, where children hike 2 to 4 times A DAY to provide water for their families. This walk has turned children into adults, as they carry the responsibility to obtain the water their family needs for the simplest things like cooking and drinking. As our group embarked on our journey down to the filling station, the 17 of us were accompanied by a few other adults, at least 2 dozen village kids who were partaking in the same adventure that we were, (but they really needed this water). We, in turn, were getting this water for other people in the village, a simple act from us that I’m sure means a ton to them. 

So we started our walk downwards, carrying our empty jerry cans, a variation between 3 Liters, 5 Liters, and 10 Liters. Safe to say that this was the easiest part of our walk. As we got to the bottom, we saw where we would be filling it up. It’s a little stone structure with about 3 holes with water pouring out. We came closer and saw the competition for the water source, kids slapping each other away so that they could get first dibs of water that is not what we'd consider “sanitary”. 

One of the biggest lessons I learned today was how important water is and how much we actually take it for granted. The average American, we learned, uses around 400 Liters of water per DAY. As a group, we carried up 113 Liters total, but for an average Rwandan, 15 Liters is all they use per day. What we think of as an endless supply back home is extremely limited in this country, and in a lot of others as well. So in the end, use what you need, not what you have. For some people what they need is much more than what they have. 

Jerry cans being filled at the spring


  1. Connor, you really had me with the opening to this story. I have been thinking about your water walk, wondering how it went. What a surprise to see reference to the fountain of youth -- a fabled source of water I tend to envision as big and bubbly and abundant.

    And then you said "antagonist." Ahh, there it was. You shook me right back to the reality we have heard from others who have taken this difficult walk to and from a trickling source of not-so-clean water.

    Use what you need, not what you have. It sounds simple. But I bet we'll all be challenged by that message in the days and weeks and months to come. Our concept of "enough" is pretty warped here in the U.S., isn't it?

  2. Just think how much water WE would use if that is how he had to get it!!! Glad to "hear" your voice. Enjoy your remaining time in Africa.

  3. Connor, I was hoping you would be well enough to experience the water walk. What an eye opener is must have been to see what these families must deal with daily. Which size jerry can did you choose? I know it will make me think twice about the water I use.

  4. I just read that same number about how much water Americans use per day and couldn't fathom that it could be true. Ellie and I always go nuts when we see sprinklers running in the middle of a rain; now that seems even more ridiculous. Also glad you are feeling better.

  5. That sounds like a hard walk, but I'm glad you guys got to experience it!! I always think about how much water I waste when taking a shower-apparently I use about 9 gallons (34 liters) a shower which is ridiculous! I'm glad you are able to post now because I missed hearing from you all!