January 16, 2012

It is Heartbreaking and Almost Inconceivable

by Kristin Allen

I want to tell the story of each and every experience that I have had in Niger, West Africa…they all deserve to be told.  However, what happened today is the real reason why I am here, and it needs to be told first.

I have been in Niger for 3 days.  We have visited 5 villages so far…some without any safe water, some with a well, and some who have been able to start micro-financing programs now that their villages have safe water (i.e. raising goats and sheep, or selling granite oil).  In all five villages, we have had the opportunity to speak with the women to learn about their lives.  We heard stories of unimaginable suffering, and saw the faces of the amazing children who are the victims of not only extreme poverty, but who are also robbed of the most basic need for survival….safe water.  It is heartbreaking, overwhelming and almost inconceivable.

Today, we were driving from Zinder to Maradi for the next leg of our trip.  As we traveled, we saw a public watering hole with many women waiting to fetch water.  We stopped to shoot some video, because although we have heard the stories, we had not yet had the opportunity to really see the process at work.  There were about 30 women and young girls at the watering hole.  The “watering hole” was a filthy, muddy reservoir of stagnant water.  The women would wait in line until it was their turn to fill their containers.  Once they filled their containers with the murky, brown water that would be used to feed themselves and their children, they would place the large, heavy container on their heads and walk back to their villages…sometimes as far as 4 hours away.

As we approached the women, we were greeted with smiles and warmth (as was the case virtually every other time we approached any Nigerien).  The women and girls patiently allowed us to videotape them and take pictures, and all the children crowded in to be in the picture.  When we were done, they all said gracious words of thanks, and started to walk away…..a long line of beautiful, amazing women and children making their long trek home.

When we got back into the car, another member of our team, Ida, asked me my thoughts.  Ida had been to Niger 3 years ago, so she had some preparation for what to expect.  As I tried to form my words, I started to cry.  “It is so embarrassing.”  I said.  “When I picture my life, and what I think is difficult, and then I see the incredibly hard lives and suffering of these women…yet, they handle it with such grace and dignity.  It’s just embarrassing.”

Very few people know anything about Niger, the second poorest country in the world.  I certainly didn’t know anything about it until a very short time ago….including the fact that so many people in the world were living without the most fundamental basic of survival…..clean, safe water.  But the people of Niger need desperate help.  No matter how hard their government tries, it cannot do enough to help its people.  The people are suffering from a lack of safe water, and now, a lack of food, due to the “food shortage” (which will become a famine in a few months).  It is mind-numbingly horrendous.

It is my hope and prayer that I can help the people of Niger…not only through my own actions, but by using my words to inspire others to learn more about the critical and life-threatening challenges that they face.  $30 brings one person safe water for 30 plus years.  How is it possible not to help?  So little, goes so far.

Please take a minute to read and find out more at www.wellsbringhope.com.  It has changed my life, it can change the lives of others, and it may just change yours…


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