by Shelton Owen
Hope. Fear. Joy. Pain. These emotions have no borders or bias, no specific target or scope. Every race, gender, culture, and religious group is familiar with these essential human emotions. How enlightening is it to realize that we are all connected, each one of us at the mercy of our innate emotional responses? Third grade teachers don’t pass out books titled What is Pain?, yet each of us could pass the pop quiz on the signs and symptoms experienced when tragedy strikes.
As I have been preparing for my upcoming service trip to El Salvador, I’ve found myself worrying about how I’ll connect with the people of this nation whose lives seem so starkly different from my own: their Spanish to my English, their poverty to my privilege, and their homes 2,532 miles away from my Kentucky life. However, as my team was recently packing up the clothes, hygiene items, toys, etc. that we will be distributing, the missing piece of the puzzle locked into place. Whether I say “Good morning” or “Buenos días” isn’t important, it is the love and service I have to offer that will truly forge a connection. I’ve heard the phrase “actions speak louder than words” countless times, but it wasn’t until now that I realized that this phrase I never paid any mind to is actually very applicable to my current situation. Though our lips may speak different syllables and sounds, our hearts are programmed to sing a similar tune. Who doesn’t feel the warmth of a smile? Who doesn’t swell with gratitude when they receive a thoughtful gift?
Author Deepak Chopra once wrote, “If love is universal, no one can be left out.” “No one” means not the men and women of El Salvador nor the men and women of Niger. The 17 million people of Niger who don’t have access to adequate sanitation, those people are should not be left out. Wells Bring Hope turns “can’ts into cans and dreams into plans” by constructing wells that provide clean water. Change doesn’t happen when we comment on the injustice of 10,000 children dying every year from diarrhea and disease associated with unsafe water, the difference is made when steps are taken towards a solution. The funding of close to 450 wells, the training to ensure well maintenance, and the micro-financing of women to start small businesses-that is what speaks loud and clear for all the world to hear.
The sound of love and progress bounces off the walls and echoes through the nation, fostering hope for a better tomorrow and increasing our motivation to keep fighting for to ensure that everyone has access to basic human rights like safe water and adequate sanitation. Neither Africans nor Americans require a translator to interpret this message of empowerment.
“People may not remember exactly what you did or what you said, but they will remember how you made them feel.“-Maya Angelou
In twenty years, as clean water splashes against the skin of a young girl in Niger, refreshing her after a day in the sweltering sun, Wells Bring Hope’s legacy will live on. The gift of education is a gift that keeps giving from generation to generation as women in WBH training programs pass on the lessons learned to their daughters and set a living example of self sufficiency. Give the gift that never goes out of style-the gift of love-by jumping on board and joining WBH’s efforts today!