Tag Archives: Archer’s Post

Samburu Stories: Laresoro Community Well, Yasin’s Story.

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Yasin Lekomon lives just 200 meters from the Laresoro well.  At 36, Yasin has seven children. The oldest, 20, is now a shepherd taking care of the family goats, far from here. The others are in the school, except for her 3 year old who does not separate from her.

“Before we had to walk very far to get dirty and dark water, like a soup of clay, that we collected with a lot of patience, and we carry back to our house. We spent practically all day working to get the water”. Now she comes to the well each morning, and collects as much water as she needs, for the family and also for the cattle.  “I go to sleep peacefully every night.  I know that tomorrow I will get up and I will have water. Before  the well, sometimes, I could not sleep wondering if I was going to be able to collect enough water the next day. “

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The life of Yasin and all the families living in this area and even the families that have settled here after the opening of the well, has changed radically.  From spending almost all daylight hours busy getting and transporting water, the women can now experience the incredible feeling of being able to dedicate the day to other activities, take care of their children, play with them; cook without being in a hurry and having meals that are more tasty and healthy; meet in the shade of the trees to chat with other women while they make their wonderful necklaces of beads.   Yasin tells me, blushing, as if she felt guilty to admit it, “to rest for a few moments when the sun is at its highest in the sky and makes breathing difficult.”  All that, before the well, was simply impossible.

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Drinking water without limits and without fear of contracting diseases. This is, undoubtedly, the main advantage of the well, but it is by no means the only one. The health of these communities has undergone a huge qualitative leap: the incidence of diarrhea, cholera and other serious diseases that were common before has dropped dramatically, and the toilet and cleaning habits have changed radically.  Yasin does not have a doubt about it and tells me that one of the things she likes most about life “after the well” is to be able to wash the clothes and enjoy its beautiful and bright colors. Before our clothes had only one color, the brown color of the earth.”

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The well has made me happy, and the only thing I would like is to get more wells drilled in the area. Many, many people from the area come here once they find out about this well, and sometimes we are too many to collect water. The next well should be on the other side of the river.”  It is then that I realize that the immense road of fine dusty sand passing by the Laresoro well is the bed of a dry river.

Stay tuned for more Samburu Stories as we introduce you to other families in the Laresoro well community who benefit from clean water because of The Samburu Project and donors like you.

 

This Samburu Story was written by Cristina Saura samburuSTORIES_logo_gray

and features photographs by Mamen Saura.

Go to http://www.thesamburuproject.org to read more

Samburu Stories and join the global TSP family to

provide clean water to families in Samburu, Kenya.  

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Samburu Stories: Laresoro Community Well

20140616_Samburu_Laresoro_070After driving about 30 minutes from Archers Post we arrived at the well of the Laresoro Community, our first visit. From the sand, under the shade of the acacias, a wide pipe emerges. On one side a lever to pump, on the other the pipe, and at its feet a small ditch. Here is the miracle of water. The well serves numerous communities in the surrounding area; many women and children are waiting for us, smiling and welcoming. They greet us affectionately with the Maa salutation, “sopa,” in a festive atmosphere. The women sing and dance to give us a warm welcome and their children, suspicious at the first instance, stare at us hiding behind the cheerful clothes of their mothers, clinging to their kangas. 

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This well serves a community of about 1,500 people. Women who previously used to walk up to 8 hours a day to get the water essential to be able to subsist, have, for the last three years, access to clean water in abundance, walking now between 5 and 30 minutes. This is the case of Lingoine Lekoloi, a petite woman, with a smile so sweet that it’s impossible to not smile back while you listen to her, wants to talk to me.   She is here with her little one Mbaa, a 4 year old boy and the youngest of 5 siblings. While Mbaa pushes his toy, a roadrunner with rudimentary wheels made by his older brother with acacia twigs, Lingoine tells me that she comes twice every day, once at dawn and again at dusk to fill a 15-liter bottle. “I am extremely happy with the well. It has provided so much relief.” Drinking water without limits and without fear of contracting diseases is, undoubtedly, the main advantage of the well but it is by no means the only one. The health of the community has undergone a huge qualitative leap – the incidence of diarrhea, cholera and other serious diseases that were common before has dropped dramatically, and the toilet and cleaning habits have changed radically.

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I ask her to tell me her daily routines. The first thing she does in the morning is to bathe her children and prepare them to go to school, after that she serves breakfast (milk or tea) to the family and goes to fetch firewood, cleans her hut, and goes to the well to wash. She prepares the food, ”rests” a little while she works with the color beads. Then she takes care of the cattle off-spring, review the boma’s fence and return to the well one more time for water. By then it will be around six o’clock in the evening, when men return with the animals. Then she milks the goats and offers the milk to the whole family, collects the cattle and stores the excess milk after she sterilizes and flavors it with burnt branches (an ancestral technique that, she explains, keeps the milk in good condition for up to five days).  Lingoine’s story makes me think of the universal multitasking ability of women and suddenly I need to explain that, despite all the distances that separate us, I find great similarities between our lives … she laughs.

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Stay tuned for more Samburu Stories as we introduce you to other families in the Laresoro well community who benefit from clean water because of The Samburu Project and donors like you.

 

This Samburu Story was written by Cristina Saura samburuSTORIES_logo_gray
and features photographs by Mamen Saura.
Go to http://www.thesamburuproject.org to read more
Samburu Stories and join the global TSP family to
provide clean water to families in Samburu, Kenya.  

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“If you want to get somewhere fast, go alone. If you want to go the distance, take a team.” –Ancient African Proverb (or so I was told)

Some of you might remember from earlier posts that when I was in Samburu last year  I enjoyed the hospitality and accommodation of the Sarova Shaba Lodge.  It is a lovely spot, slightly inside the Samburu National Park along the Ewaso Ngiro River where elephants and other wildlife often come to drink at sunrise and sunset.  While there, I met a number of lovely people who greeted me with open arms when I arrived back again this summer.

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Moses Mathenge and me with Lodge Manager, Josphat Ndegwa

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Moses Lekomet, and his beautiful smile.

When I had a problem with a flight last year, Moses Mathenge  introduced me to Carol Ndegwa from AirKenya.  Carol helped me with my flight problem, was a lovely dinner companion at Shaba and has come to be a good friend to The Samburu Project. AirKenya is now the official airline sponsor of The Samburu Project due to her efforts.

Going on safari to Samburu is probably a 2 or 3 day excursion for most visitors.  I don’t think many guests have the opportunity to stay for more than a week as I have.  This truly has given me an opportunity to get to know Josphat Ngali, “Chicken George,” Moses Lekomet and the other lovely staff at Sarova Shaba.  They have made my time in Samburu seem like home and have truly become friends to me, Lucas, Eric and everyone associated with TSP.

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After a particularly long day at dinner regaled Josephat with the story of our day, traveling several hours through the deep bush to discover that a HUGE tree had fallen on the well.  We all stared at it in amazement before we could even get out of the car. There were still a few people milling about and lots of donkeys drinking from the trough.  It was quite a shock!

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I went on and on about how the community would ever be able to get that tree removed, never anticipating Josphat would, without hesitation, offer to send a man with a chain saw to cut away the tree.  TSP and the people at the Lerug well were blessed twice!  Once that the tree did not damage the pump and secondly, that our friends at Sarova Shaba Lodge offered themselves to assist with this problem.  We could not have cleared this tree without the generous spirit of our friends at Sarova Shaba Lodge.

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Once again, I was overcome with the impact that this tiny organization is having by really uniting people in so many ways, every day.  For me, that is the true meaning of globalization. While I was in Kenya I was told “if you want to go fast, go alone but if you want to go the distance, go with a team.”  I’m so happy and gratified that the good people at Sarova Shaba are on the TSP team and we are on theirs. Ashe Oleng to everyone there.

Bonus Footage: Click here to meet the one and only “Chicken George” of Sarova Shaba Lodge.

https://youtu.be/xYDjPmb_qjI

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MEET IRIS SCHNEIDER, Journalist and former Los Angeles Times photographer

 

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Mpaayon Loboitangu and Iris

I met Iris when she attended the 2015 Splash Bash. She was quite impressed with the work we are doing in Samburu and later approached me about the possibility of visiting Kenya on an upcoming trip.  We kept the conversation going over several months until earlier this spring we put the wheels in motion to travel to Samburu together this summer.  Iris has wanted to do a story on African women for a very long time.  Naturally,  I am thrilled that through TSP her life long dream came true.  (Personally, I was thrilled to have her on our team. I don’t often travel with a journalist.) Together we shared some amazing experiences in Kenya. Here is just a taste.

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Iris stayed with me for a week in Samburu, visiting village after village, talking to hundreds of women about their lives, what it is like to be born into the Samburu tribe, their culture, their rituals, their beliefs and their dreams for themselves and their children. We both received quite an education.

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Fertility is a point of much pride for the Samburu people. It is quite common for women to forego formal education and marry as young as possible so as to start bearing children. A common conversation starter is, “how many children do you have?” When speaking to women at the Lolgerdad well community, we asked if they had any desire or need to learn to read.  At first they said they could never attend school because it was too late, they couldn’t sit in a classroom with their own children.  When then asked, if they would want to learn if they had a special class, just for them, they resoundingly said, YES!  Mpaayon immediately told us, “I would at least like to know how to write my name.”  That simple request started a name writing session that lasted for quite some time. Turned out that everyone wanted to know how to write their name. We found a willing teacher in the crowd by the name of Rose Paula.  She helped us translate and the name writing began!

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Mpaayon Loboitangu writing her name for the first time with assistance from Rose Paula and Jackie.

We’ve heard that Rose has continued her classes with the women of the Lolgerdad village. They’ve borrowed the chalkboard from the local school and are practicing their new skills that way.  They are holding classes three times a week.  TSP has plans to expand their thirst for knowledge when we launch the Samburu Sisters program later this year. 

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Iris spent the day, from sun-up to sun-down with the ladies of the Ntilal well community. They generously invited her into their huts. She collected firewood with the women there, witnessed the slaughter of a goat and yes – walked for water with them. Stay tuned for future articles about her time in Samburu and a possible book later in the year. 

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Hello Aldo

I met Aldo Lesuutia last fall when I spent time at the  the Lekiji community during their well drill.  You might remember reading that Aldo showed up one morning and never left my side. To say that Aldo is an unusual person is a bit of an understatement. Aldo grew up in Samburu East but as a young man, headed for Mombasa where he met and fell in love with an English tourist. They married and he subsequently spent four years living in East London where he was introduced to Chinese and Italian food, the underground, and a vastly different life than he knew in Kenya.  Eventually he returned to his tribal community where he is now married with a new baby and occasionally cooks Italian food for his family.

Aldo is one of the many Samburu volunteers that work directly with TSP in the local community.  He is always available to report on the goings-on in the community and the status of our wells. As you can imagine, Aldo’s understanding of western culture and command of the English language are invaluable to The Samburu Project (and who can resist his smile and keen fashion sense). Aldo sends a big Thank You to all the TSP donors and supporters for the water wells they are providing in Samburu East.

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Saipani and Aldo Lesuutia.

 

 

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Greetings from the Lekiji Well Community

As some of you might remember, last October I spent 5 days with members of the Lekiji Well community as their well was being drilled.  It was a long process. Day after day, we all watched the drill bit go round and round, adding more rods as the borehole got deeper and deeper.  Finally, the water came gushing out!  It was a big day that I shared with the community.  I knew then that doing work for The Samburu Project was a gift – not without challenges but a gift nonetheless.

Now, on my first official visit to Samburu as the Executive Director I wanted to visit the Lekiji well community to see the finished well and witness first hand how the lives of the people there have changed because of the water.  We arrived to find a small group of women doing laundry as the children helped to pump the water.  I was told again and again, “Ashe Oleng” (Thank You)!  “We are so happy that we don’t have to walk far for water anymore!” I am sharing these expressions of gratitude with everyone who supports TSP and especially the ABAR Foundation who sponsored this well.

 

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Lekiji Thank You

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Meet Eric Lekolii, TSP’s Newest Staff Member

With 84 wells and more on the horizon, the area where we work in Samburu East is growing.  We realized that TSP needed more staff on the ground to ensure our wells continue to function properly and offer support to our well communities.  We were very lucky to find Eric Lekolii in early 2016.  

A native of Wamba in Samburu County, Eric is 100% Samburu through and through. Married and the father of three children, he grew up in a traditional Samburu village and knows every tree, bush, valley and village in Samburu.  In addition to his knowledge of all things Samburu, Eric is also a graduate of Nairobi University and a bronze level tour guide.  He spent five years as a guide at the Samburu Sabah Lodge.  Ask Eric the sound a Golden Breasted Starling makes and he’ll tell you along with its scientific name and mating habits. Ask him if he’s ever come face to face with a leopard and he’ll share a good story with you.  Spending time with Eric on this trip was quite a treat. 

Eric first knew about The Samburu Project when we put a well near his village in 2007. Now, he is quickly becoming the second face of TSP on the ground as our new Field Manager. Engaging in this type of work requires a unique skill set; first of all they must be Samburu, speak the language and have the trust of the people, have a knowledge of wells and mechanical issues is equally important, being able to communicate with our California staff and pass on information to our donors are all important traits.  We found all of the things and more in Eric.  We are thrilled to welcome Eric to our Kenya team on the ground and I can’t wait for you to meet him in person.

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Eric Lekolii (left) with TSP Project Manager, Lucas Lekwali. (Photo courtesy of Iris Schneider)

 

Bonus Fun Fact: Just one of the fun facts we learned from Eric during our long bush drives; we all know the “Big Five” to look for when on safari: Rhino, Buffalo, Lion, Leopard and Elephant.  Can you name the Little Five?  Hint: their names bear resemblance to their larger namesakes. (The rhino beetle, buffalo weaver, ant lion, leopard tortoise and elephant shrew).

 

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Mzungu, How Are You?

In Swahili the word “mzungu” means a foreigner, usually a white person.  It can be used in a derogatory manner, but when I hear it from an adorable little girl in a purple dress, smiling and waving to me as our 4Wheel drive speeds by her hut on a dirt road, I am delighted to smile and wave back. She means no insult. The fact that she speaks English to me means she is reaching out, wanting to connect with a foreigner in her home. I am flattered and wonder, sincerely, how am I?

It’s been four months since I became the Executive Director of The Samburu Project (TSP) and I have been in high gear ever since. Volunteering for TSP had been my pet project and hobby for more than 5 years before it became my job. In between our Walk for Water, re-vamping our website and going through my first financial audit, I’ve been asked several times, what makes TSP different than other water charities? There are so many water charities as there is such a tremendous need around the world for clean water. We all know we aren’t as big as Charity Water or Water.org but with 84 wells and providing water to more than 80,000 people, TSP has done some fantastic work in ten years.

In addition to providing clean water, eradicating death from water-borne diseases, and sending more girls to school, the fact that people around the world are connected through TSP is something of which I am particularly proud. As the director of an art gallery for so many years, one of the things I loved most about being in the art world was the people I met along the way. The artists, collectors, scholars, writers, who became friends and brought their gifts and talents into my world was something I absolutely LOVED about being a part of the art community. As the ED of TSP, I am finding a similar sense of community in our work.

Our interns and volunteers who are so young and passionate and want to change the world inspire me every day.  Kiki Swanson, my right hand and “gal Friday” has made the ED transition as smooth as silk.  Not only is she organized and capable of 101 things at once, because of her passion for all things African, she has connected her family and friends from all over the country to TSP.  Our staff in Kenya who know every bush, hill, tree, manyatta and family in Samburu impress me immeasurably. Lucas and Eric each speak Samburu, Swahili and English and probably more languages than that. They know how to survive in the bush and get the car moving when it’s stuck or broken. They are diplomats in the community, engineers in well maintenance and are the face and voice of TSP in Kenya.  The donors are our lifeline. Without them, there would be no water, no sense of community, no TSP. The lives they lead as global citizens give us all purpose to do the work – and some of them are art collectors! The people I have met since becoming involved in TSP have already enriched my life in ways I couldn’t have imagined.

Now, that I am in Kenya, in Samburu on my first official visit, I am meeting the people in village after village whose lives have been changed because of TSP, and that feeling of connecting is stronger than ever. When we roll up to a village in the TSP truck, people come to meet us to say “Ashe Oleng” (thank you in Samburu) and begin to sing and dance as is their way of saying thank you. I want to share that feeling of connectedness with everyone back in the states and UK. We are all connected through this small but mighty organization. As the Dalai Lama said in a lecture I attended before leaving LA to come to Kenya, “we must respect and love eachother, we are all inhabiting this small blue planet.” Through TSP, I truly feel the power of that sentiment.

So when people ask me why TSP is different than the other water charities, I answer that we are a charity that truly connects people, connects them through water, around the globe, on our tiny blue planet. And in answer that that little Samburu girl in the purple dress, this “muzungu” is great, happy to be in this place, right here, right now.

I hope you will stay tuned and continue reading my “Samburu Stories” as I share my adventures in Kenya with all of our TSP friends and family.

Ashe Oleng

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Members of the TSP team for this trip (left to right): Me, Eric Lekolii (TSP Kenya Team), Brendan Curran (Intern), Lucas Lekwale (TSP Project Manager, Kenya Team), Iris Schneider (Journalist and former Los Angeles Times photographer) and the members of the Lolgerdad well community near Archer’s Post, Samburu County, Kenya.

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Linda’s Samburu Story #2

It is HOT in Samburu. The weather widget on our phone says it is 90 degrees, and it’s the end of October. Lucas informs us that we are still waiting for the well drilling rig to be operable but he will give us a tour of the area and two other TSP well communities.  It is best to get an early start to avoid the afternoon heat and to see the wells in full action. Lucas picks us up at 9am and off we go. He tells us that he saw about 8 elephants on the road to our camp this morning. I hope they are still there when we pass by that spot.  Sad for us, they have moved on but but we do come across a lone giraffe – a nice way to start the morning. We exit through the gate of the Samburu National Reserve, past the local “Duty Free Shop,” over the dusty, rocky, lava etched road back toward the main highway.  We pass a animal crossing sign with images of elephants, giraffe, zebra and baboons as we work our way toward Archer’s Post.

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Archer’s Post is a bustling town of 6,000 people that hosts businesses and stores of all kinds; hair shops, butcheries, refreshment establishments, lodgings, a bank with an ATM, a Saturday market and several churches. Archer’s Post serves as a general store for whatever one might need in this neck of the woods.
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We arrive at the Loosupulai Well where there are thousand of animals; cows, goats, donkeys, camels and a few dogs. So many animals I can hardly see the well itself.

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There are a group of men happy to greet us, including Jackson, a handsome man with a blue hat and a beautiful smile. He speaks very good English.  With a wink and a smile, he tells us that he learned English in the bush which cracks us up. Later he confesses that he had 3 years of school and seems quite proud to be able to converse with us. He explained to me that they have devised a very organized system for using the well; livestock begin drinking at 4am. Each household has a designated time to use the well and this goes until mid day, after which the women return to collect water for home use. This continues until 11pm. The well is being used from 4am – 11pm every day, 7 days a week. The community estimates this well provides clean water to 2,000 people each day and approximately 5,000 animals.  The men express their gratitude for the water and ask me to take their Thank Yous back to everyone at The Samburu Project.

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Women and children of all ages are taking turns pumping water. OMG – did that goat just give birth? Yes it did. That’s not something this LA girl sees everyday. As you look around it is obvious to see how the well is effecting the community. We see a little girl washing clothes and a mother giving her toddler a bath. I can’t help but ponder what would they do without this well?

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Lucas introduced me to Nikini at this well.  She tells me that she comes to the well twice a day, once to water her animals and again in the afternoon to get water for her family. Before this well she would leave her house at 6 in the morning and return at 4pm in the afternoon in search of water, sometimes encountering elephants and lions along with way. Since this well was installed, her life has changed in so many ways for the better.  She sends two of her five children to school now which makes her very happy. She is grateful for all the people who did this for her and her community.
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As we are about to leave, someone has shown up with a herd of camels and that new borne goat is now walking, chasing it’s mother for milk.  It’s just another day at the Loosupulai Well.  Off to the Longerdad Well next.

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Gratitude is Abound

Archer’s Post, Samburu – This area holds a special place in my heart as it was my introduction to Samburu in 2005. In 2011, The Samburu Project expanded its reach beyond Wamba and moved into Archer’s Post and Sere Olipi. With six wells in Archer’s Post, Lucas and I had a full day of visiting communities.

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Evelyn and Miriam

I met a young girl today named Evelyn. Her father is one of the elders in the Lolgerded Well community. When Evelyn was five, she was attacked by a hyena. Miraculously she survived and after two years in the hospital in Nairobi she was able to go back home. She’s now in Class 7 at Lerata Primary School and dreams of becoming a nurse. Math & Science are her favorite subjects. We had the great fortune of driving Evelyn and her sister Miriam back to school after our visit at Lolgerded.

Lolgerded is the kind of community that really inspires me to work harder. They take great pride in their well which was drilled in 2012 and were overflowing with gratitude during our meeting. The women adorned Lucas and me with jewelry while the they shared their future plans for the well.

Before the Lolgerded Well was drilled, women in this community walked six hours each day in search of water. The water they drank was from hand dug wells that were contaminated and salty. Many people in the community were afflicted with diarrhea, the common cold and eye infections due to drinking and using dirty water.  Thanks to their well, overall community health has improved significantly.

Art Project

Art Project

One of the highlights of our visit to Lolgerded was our art project on the back of the truck. Everyone gathered around to make a sign to thank Pittsburgh Children’s Foundation who funded the well. The big topic of conversation was the crayola markers. None of the children had seen anything like them and were incredibly fascinated. A great reminder to be thankful for what we have!

The Final Product

The Final Product

 

The rest of the day was filled with more wells: Nakwamuru, Supalek, Laresoro, Lolparuai and Lerata  B. With each well and every community there are handfuls of stories to tell. The one story line that runs throughout is that access to clean water changes lives and for that everyone is grateful.

Lolparuai

Lolparuai

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