It’s easy to fall into the mistake of seeing the individuals we help as only that – individuals. We sometimes miss the richness of their family, community, history, hopes, and relationships that are some of the most significant factors in their health and wellness. To recognize this better, Lifewater builds into its programs the opportunities for families and communities to come together and recognize how each individual’s access to safe water and behavior affects the whole when it comes to sustaining health.
When some people in the community don’t have safe water or sanitation, it can affect the whole group by contaminating groundwater or spreading disease. Most communities are quick to pick up on this and do everything they can to make sure their neighbors are on board. Community members also recognize that not only do they have the power to help themselves, but they have the power to help others who are more disadvantaged. Individuals with disabilities, the elderly, and child-led households are often given special attention by their neighbors to ensure everybody receives the benefits from safe water and sanitation in their community.
This kind of neighborly love and concern was demonstrated in the story of Mme. Jessica in Mtito Andei, Kenya:
An older woman told us that she would like to live longer. She said, “In my life, it is the first time I have a latrine with hand washing facility of our own.” Because she was older (76) and not as strong, her neighbors constructed the latrine for her. Mme. Jessica explained, “It is a clean environment and I got labor and material support from my neighbors. It is a sign of true love; praise be to the Almighty.” When asked a follow up question about why she wishes to live longer, she replied, “Since I am drinking clean water and living in a clean compound, I want to enjoy this lifestyle longer. My neighbours are helping me and I love them. I don’t want to miss them.”
Me. Jessica waited 76 years for the dignity and renewed health brought by safe water and sanitation, but the final piece of this transformation occurred when her neighbors used their own time and resources to help her dig and construct her own latrine.
It’s humbling to recognize that our work and support is just one link in the effort to bring lasting change to the 780 million people without safe water and 2.5 billion without sanitation. It’s encouraging to know our brothers and sisters around the world are joining us.