Monday, August 4, 2014
Wa-ter you going to do?
by Ellie Houhlin
Living next to one of the largest sources of freshwater in the world makes us view water as something we will never run out of, that will be superfluous and will flow out of our faucets, showers and hoses for days. Being someone very passionate about the environment, I know this will not be true. We as Americans are lucky and have water at the touch of button, but that is not the case for everyone in the world. With the pollution, and overuse of water we face globally today, the end of water will come at some time. What we do about it today will determine if it will happen in a hundred years or a million.
After our water walk, our view on water has changed. We realized the value of it as a giver of life. Our walk began at the top of a large hill. We did not know how far the walk down would be. It was indeed steep, something that is physically demanding and continued to be felt the rest of the day. While leaving the top, many children started to follow us, but Serge yelled out, “If you want to walk with the mazungu’s (white people), you need to be carrying a jerry can of your own.” As we walked down the children walked with us. But it was not a path unfamiliar to them. This route had been traveled by many children 2 or 3 times a day just to get the water necessary for the drinking and cooking of the day.
This trek was completed once by us. We could in no way know how it really felt to have to get up every morning and carry water up a hill, multiple times a day. We made it to the bottom in 15 minutes, happy to see the water dripping out of the tapped source. We talked to the kids, took pictures and even went off the explore the cave they led us to. After filling up our cans we were off on our way. The first stretch was straight up hill and very rocky. Carrying a 10 liter can did not make that any easier than the already physically demanding hike we embarked on. We tried our best to put ourselves in their shoes but in a very literal way we could not. We had our nike shoes, our REI hiking boots perfect for gripping rough surfaces. Most of the kids were barefoot or had small rubber sandals, easy to be broken or ripped by the harshness of the trail. Even children half the size of me were carrying jugs similar to mine, easing their way up the hill.
After 45 minutes and multiple breaks, we arrived at the top. In that moment, I set my 10 liter jerry can down, but for some reason, I was so incredibly happy. I had just accomplished a walk that would have been difficult on its own while carrying a jug of water. Happy was not even a word to describe it, I was ecstatic. I had lost so much energy and used up almost all of my strength in the difficult trek, but I was perfectly content. We had made a difference in the community by giving all the water we had brought up to people in the community. It was hard, but it was worth it and I will always remember the happy pain I was in when I reached the top.
I hope that through sharing our story of the water walk the community will listen. That is one of the most important messages we can share out to the rest of the world, the need for water and to conserve it. It is my call to everyone, even to myself to conserve water and use it wisely. It is a precious resource we so easily take for granted. So take shorter showers, don’t run the water when you brush your teeth, don’t use the sprinklers when it has just rained, purchase a rain barrel to collect water for your garden. So many simple, easy things can be done to save water and save the planet.
It was astounding to see that the amount of water we brought up could help multiple Rwandan families but would not even be close to sufficient for one average american in one day. But a change can be made. Let’s equal the playing field. If we continue to use less water and Rwanda continues to improve its water resources and availability, the whole world will be happy, hydrated and abundant with clean water, available for many generations to come.