Thank You for Bringing Water to Haji CampPosted on December 2, 2011 by Kirk
By Kirk Anderson, Water 1st staff
What is the best measure of success in the business of bringing clean water to the world’s poorest? I think Meselech Seyoum (a founding member of our partner organization in Ethiopia) said it best: “In these poor communities, the struggle to survive is so difficult that there is not much laughter in the family. When you complete a water project, you relieve these families of a very big burden. And they have the energy to laugh again. I think every family deserves that.” It shouldn’t be the only measure, but I think it is important to pay attention to smiles and laughs. One place that we found smiles and laughter on our recent Asia trip was a place called Haji Camp a slum area in Chittagong, Bangladesh. Earlier this year, our partner organization, DSK, succeeded in finding a suitable water source for them and we were there to see it in operation.
Less than one year ago, I stood in the middle of Haji Camp. It was clearly one of the poorest areas of a poor country. We were there to inspect a couple community toilets that had been completed in 2010 for a group of shoemakers who were concentrated in a small area in the center of the slum. The toilets were a great addition to their lives, but while I was speaking to them, I didn’t see much happiness in their faces. Once we concluded our discussion about the toilets, a couple of women said to me:
“We appreciate the toilets, but we would really like to have a well. Our biggest challenge is finding water. There is a public water point a few hundred yards away, but the line there is very long. If we try to place our water containers in that line, the people who live closer to that water point get rough with us. So now we have to wait until night to go out searching for water for our families.”
DSK, our partner organization, was working on a solution to their water problem, but hadn’t found the right approach, yet. DSK feels it is better to spend a year developing a comprehensive solution that will meet needs for decades, versus taking a quick action that merely reduces the severity of the issue. So my biggest hope for 2011 was to return to that enclave of families to find their water supply issues resolved. I was not disappointed. DSK had identified a local landowner who was interested in constructing a well and installing a large capacity submersible pump that could serve hundreds of people. Neighboring landowners entered into an agreement with him to establish water distribution points for the people living on their property. One group of beneficiaries was the group of families I had met the year before. They were able to collect water from a set of four taps that were shared by about 400 people and in operation when the pump was running. They also had a storage tank in their compound with two taps that they could access when the other taps weren’t running. Their lives had changed dramatically and it showed in their faces. The stress lines gave way to smiles.
Our thanks to DSK for finding creative, effective solutions to difficult problems. And our thanks to the Water 1st community for supporting this work. Our strategy of funding local partners who work over an extended period of time in a specific region leads to comprehensive and long-lasting solutions to the challenges faced by the world’s poorest. DSK takes the time to build projects that truly meet people’s needs and place them in a position to work their way out of poverty. Water 1st believes that is the outcome our donors truly seek when they make a contribution. Our monitoring efforts demonstrate that our partners are delivering on that promise. We’re looking forward to reaching 75,000 lives transformed just like the lives of the Haji camp families before the end of 2012.