Thursday, August 18, 2016

Intern Dispatch: Namufuma

Water, by Joseph, James, Zoe, Lee, and Ashy

It’s raining today. Water is falling from the clouds in thin sheets, parting languidly before a cool breeze carrying freshly wet dust, thrumming against our roof of corrugated sheet metal, echoing through our village house like a symphony. The rain pools, highlighting the imperfections in our dirt yard made by bare feet and bicycle tires, seeping through the mud before being greedily snatched away by the local flora. The occasional villager strolls by, rice sack raised overhead to protect themselves from water eager to soak them, but the majority of the community takes shelter during the storm.

Take a moment to consider all of your daily tasks that require water. My list includes bathing, drinking, cooking, laundry, washing dishes, washing floors, and washing hands. Imagine having to carry the water required for those basic activities for every member of your family. There are days when we use over 10 jerrycans full of water for 5 people (typically on laundry days). Water is a fundamental need for all people.

In the United States, water is a readily available resource. It’s a simple matter of turning a faucet and fresh, clean, safe water is piped directly where you need it. In the villages, collecting water is time-consuming daily workout routine. Twenty liter jerrycans must be carried to a borehole and pumped by hand. The freshly filled jerrycans are then carried back to the house. Some community members use bicycles, women will balance the cans on their head, and some simply walk. Even at this stage, the water isn’t safe to drink and has to be boiled or purified with Waterguard chlorine tablets. Water in the villages is a precious commodity. Namufuma is particularly limited in its options for safe water. They have only one public borehole in the village, which is nearly at the end of its usable lifespan and breaks down, leaving the community without a safe accessible water source. When UVP announced the construction of a new shallow well in Namufuma, excitement in the village began to build.

Celebrating the new community-constructed shallow well
The process of constructing the shallow well was a collaborative effort between the community and UVP. The community supplied the labor to dig the well and bricks to line the inside. UVP supplied the pumping equipment, mason, and engineer to finish and install the well. The actual construction of the well was a series of escalating processes, concluding with the borehole commissioning ceremony. Each step in the construction process attracted a larger audience than the last. People worked to dig the initial hole for the well. When the mason laid the bricks in the open well, people watched with interest. When the hardware was installed, children flocked to play in the water, splashing crazily in a game of king of the well. When the shallow well commissioning ceremony began, half the village appeared.

The shallow well commissioning ceremony was a celebration in the form of speeches, dance, food, and one unlucky chicken. We interns reviewed the safe water chain with the community. UVP staff began talking about the new water source before it began to rain. The newfound waterfall did not hinder the village celebrations, and the speeches concluded amidst shouts of AI-YI-YI-YI-YIII! We were all served large plates of local food, receiving more than a few laughs at our attempts to scoop rice with our fingers (mostly from our loving Ugandan intern team members). The community brought a set of drums and waves of song and dance broke out. The enthusiasm spread through all the interns. We all joined in the dancing and Joseph demonstrated his skill with a drum.

The construction of the shallow well marks our final large event with the community as interns. It is a very physical reminder of UVPs work in the village. We’re all saying our goodbyes this week; to our hardworking Village Health Teams (VHTs), our lovely and welcoming villages, our newfound friends and fellow interns, and all the awesome people at UVP who work tirelessly throughout the year to ensure this internship is a success. Thanks you guys!

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