Volunteers Write

Observations from Lifewater Volunteers

lifewater village

I was given the name "Kumba" (second born) when I was in Liberia the first time teaching Hygiene. The hygiene I was teaching were things we take for granted, but the lifestyle in Liberia is so different; things like making sure that the animals don't drink from the same containers that the humans use to store their water, to wash your hands after using the "bush" or changing the babies "diapers", and not to withhold food and drink from a child suffering from diarrhea. (Months later I heard of a child being "saved" by the practices I taught - using an Oral Re-Hydration Solution.) The first time I was there (I will be returning for the 3rd time in August), Liberia had just emerged from years of civil war. Many people were forced out of their homes in the country to live in the "city" in conditions that were less than desirable. But they were (and are) such a joyous and grateful people. To give the people the tools to live better and with clean water, thus preventing diseases and possible deaths is so rewarding and so appreciated. I'm sure that I am more blessed my by involvement then they are.

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When we talk about small water supplies for Third World communities, we tend to focus on technology and the schedules for getting water to improve the length and quality of life. L-Linc (Lifewater Liberia, Inc.) and Lifewater Canada influences also extend to deeper levels. Even as civil war still raged in Liberia, they provided a joint example of courageous Christian love through action. In two post-war trips to Liberia, I saw four key dimensions expressed within that umbrella of caring: Hope, Pride, Education, and Health. Hope was seen and heard, as people began to see a way back to social stability and security through working toward a common goal of getting and maintaining village water supplies. Pride built, as people rose from 14 years of gut-wrenching victimhood to taking charge within the context of developing safe water supplies for their families and friends. Through processes of planning and well project implementation, community members re-Educated themselves and expanded management skills, learned some new technical skills. They learned why and how sanitation eases life's struggles and aids their children's ability to learn and prosper. The learning aspect fed back to feelings of Community Pride. Statistics were not yet available to measure community Health improvement. However, even the rudimentary home water sanitation and anti-diarrhea measure training required of communities targeted for well projects, were anecdotally reported to generate almost immediate successes for sick infants. Health tied back to Hope. Women were right up front in all major activities These combine to say, "empowerment", not merely water.

There are findings instructive for both local Liberians being served and for the servers: there is no shortage of local intelligence waiting to be harnessed; and, in recently devastated communities, there is a wealth of insight and desire that need only a bit of catalysis to become re-energized. Safe water supply is a perfect cross-cultural field for expressing compassion and being the catalyst. The author's credentials include one US Peace Corps volunteer tour, six years as a WHO public health engineer with primary emphasis on water supply, participation in several overseas small water supply projects, other foreign travel, and (rarely for an engineer) extensive study and reading in community organization and applied anthropology.

lifewater village
Hello from Liberia, Africa! We are headed out the door to sing 'I live for you' with a 50 voice African choir right now, I can't wait. We rehearsed with them in a big wooden church and when they came in on the chorus it was such a beautiful moment. Africa is beautiful; I'm living a blue minus 3 star beach house on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. It feels like a jungle rain forest here, super humid and the temp reaches 45 degrees everyday.

The most beautiful part of Africa is the people. Their faces are so full of joy and deep emotion. Everyone here has lost someone in the Liberian civil war that lasted 15 years and ended 3 years ago. I've never experienced the devastation of war in a country and the mess that it leaves behind. The country is so torn and ruined from what it came through and the people carry the scars. But still they have more joy than I do most days. We visited a school yesterday and the kids sang for us and we sang for them. I helped out at the Lifewater drill site this morning, amazing to see Liberian men working and being taught alongside Canadian drillers. The work of Lifewater is felt in this country, it seems that clean water and an education is the beginning of a new life, building them a future. Living amidst the people and experiencing such poverty has been overwhelming...but I'm so glad I'm here, I learning a ton! Come visit at one of my concerts when I am back and we will talk! See!

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My body tells me I should be going to sleep now, but the reality of the 'back to work' tells me differently. Part of me feels very happy to be home and in my own bed again, but I also experience a sadness of leaving the new compound we helped our Liberian Driller friends build and the less organized way of life in Monrovia. I'm very thankful for the experience to be able to work with the team and face the many challenges that working in Liberia brings. As a carpenter I now am happy to be able to buy plain lumber in the lumber yard that is straight and consistent in size, but thanks to our Liberian crew we were able to "drag and tug " those "oversized, overweight trusses " up the freshly laid walls that Archie and his crew just days before had finished. To see the metal go up just before we left was a great feeling; God's promises are trust worthy and true. Thanks to Jim, Alex and all the team members for the advice, love and fellowship. Herb and I almost did not make it home because we nearly got run over by 2 stampeding elephants, but we had great fun. I count myself as privileged for new African friends, for helping the well drilling program, for being able to share the gift of life with countless beautiful children, and for seeing afresh how blessed I really am.

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My volunteer experience with began 2 years ago when I decided to sponsor a well in Africa. I wanted to see first hand what conditions were like for the people of West Africa so I bought a plane ticket and travelled with Jim and his entourage to Liberia. Like most people, the only thing I knew about a third world country was what I had seen on TV, my first trip to Liberia changed all that. The first thing that hits you when you arrive is the heat. It is ALWAYS very hot. One of the first rules Jim explained was to ensure you are fast asleep BEFORE the generator kicks out (there is no water or electricity in Liberia). Some other "rules" to live by when in a third world country are: 1. ALWAYS treat your drinking water (that was my job) 2. NEVER walk alone at night 3. Don't eat anything served fresh (see rule #1) 4. Dress plain, nothing flashy 5. Early to bed, early to rise, this is NOT a vacation 6. Smile and try to remember how lucky you are to be there

My days began early and ended late, in between was full of new sites, sounds and smells. I loved spending the day in the villages outside of the capital of Monrovia. It is cooler out of the sun and quieter away from the crowded city. A village typically has about 100-200 people with 3 generations living together in the same simple mud brick home. With no water or electricity, day to day life is a constant struggle to survive. Yet amidst all that, I was surprised to see close knit families with laughing kids enjoying life's simple things. After spending time there, you realize the luxuries we take for granted here in Canada.

Within 4 days the well was drilled in Bosso Town and the villagers and Lifewater team held a grand opening ceremony. A choir of 50 school children sang giving thanks for the privilege of clean drinking water. With the help of my friends and family we were able to make a difference in the lives of 200 villagers in Bosso Town. To know that you've made a difference is encouraging. Two years later, I am now the Treasurer of and am planning my fourth trip to Africa this fall.

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I have been involved in fundraising for various causes for many years. I always felt that I didn't need to travel to the places we raised money for. I knew the causes were valid, I knew the needs were great and I was happy to do what I could without spending the time and money to travel. After helping to raise money for several safe water wells in Liberia with, they felt it would be good to visit the people and see the wells. I saw young girls unable to go to school because they had to spend their day fetching water. I met schools where the teachers haven't been paid for 2 months. I met an orphanage that didn't have a well and so they had to spend a large amount of donated dollars they received on buying water in containers to keep the children safe from disease. The fact is $1 buys one person in Africa one year of safe water. Knowing that 1 of every 4 children die due to water related diseases, it's time for each and every one of us to donate $5, $10 or $100..on a monthly basis to Lifewater so they can continue to drill wells. I have been to Africa. I have see the lives changed. If all of us do our part, we will change the world!

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Having just come back from Africa, I have seen for myself that your giving does make a difference; one well or child at a time. It is so difficult to appreciate the water we have access to, simply from a tap! I will never forget the village where we successfully placed the 300th well and celebrated with the people and local government officials. Their former source was really a drainage way or swamp and had caused many deaths and illnesses. Just clean water, what a difference! I recall the few times in all my years in the bush when I had to drink from a creek or river and I never even gave thought to water borne diseases. Yes, I knew about giardiasis or "beaver fever" in our streams and lakes, but also was thirsty or so I thought. My trip to Liberia was an incredible experience. We rented a house that had been severely damaged during the war and we hired night guards to ensure our safety while we slept. Electricity was periodic, so if the shower was not working the ocean made do - wonderfully cooling after working all day in the hot, muggy climate. Even though I had worked in Ghana and ran a business in Chile, I was not prepared for the incredible damage to roads, electricity and homes and I was overwhelmed by the poverty, the stinking market place, the throngs of people, and the continual asking for help. But as I met and began to know the Liberian Drill team and see their dedication to their task, these issues faded away and my heart was glad to be there. I helped them build a secure operations base and improve business practices. The compound construction project was challenging but at the end it was completely amazing to see what had been done. The comradeship that developed among the volunteers and Liberian workers and local villagers was awesome. It is wonderful to be able to help and it gives one a sense of accomplishment (I know that is self-serving but it is true). The need is so great. When people ask me how was your trip to Africa? I say" we are so rich" and "they are so poor". If you ever get asked to go to help on an overseas trip to a developing country do it. All of our young people would benefit from seeing the "other side of the world". It sure makes you realize the world is a small place and we need to help each other as much as possible. I did struggle for some time with feelings of guilt when I returned. Buying presents for the grandchildren at Christmas with an amount that would feed a family for three or four months in Liberia. As the world wide recession hits here in North America, it is even more devastating in developing countries in Africa. Your support is needed and it does make a difference. As long as we continue to receive support for providing clean water, Lifewater Canada will pursue its mandate.


Every $1 you give provides a child with safe water for a year!

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