Imagine that you have no running water in your home. The nearest water source is an hour’s walk away in a low valley; as the dry season stretches on, you have to walk farther away and look deeper in the ground. The water you do find is dirty and contaminated and might make you sick, but it’s all you have for drinking, cooking, bathing, cleaning and gardening.
Women and young girls are expected to fetch the water. They might have to make multiple trips a day, carrying multiple buckets. Hyenas, elephants and lions share the water hole. The girls are out of school for hours at a time.
The long, wandering path through the fields and bush gives both wildlife and men with ill intent opportunity to attack. Teenage pregnancy is normal. So is death in childbirth.
This is everyday life in Tanzania, East Africa.
Kids in Owensboro will soon have a chance to change the lives of kids like these by raising money to drill a clean water well in a Tanzanian village. A new organization called Kids for Kids is kicking off a fundraising campaign with a gathering at 6 p.m. on Nov. 8 in the chapel at Heritage Baptist Church.
Started by Jodi Ekbundit, an Owensboro mom with five children, Kids For Kids aims to “inspire and empower kids to advocate for other kids so they can make change,” she said. While she wants to raise enough to cover the cost of one well – about $4,000 – her larger goal is teach kids how to advocate for other kids who need their help.
“I want them to understand and care about what they’re raising money for,” she said.
The gathering is open to anyone. “I really want kids and parents to be there,” Ekbundit said. “I want this to be kid-driven, not just parents taking a form to work.”
Ekbundit is working with Phillip Crabtree of Owensboro, who spent five weeks last year drilling wells in Tanzania with an organization called Go Drill. Started by Americans Scott and Becky Placke, who live and work full-time in Tanzania, Go Drill owns their own equipment, so they can drill wells significantly cheaper than other companies who contract the work out.
Crabtree plans to tell the kids at the gathering about the four wells he helped install. While the process of digging wells and installing pumps is dirty and difficult, each well gives anywhere from 1,000 to 5,000 people access to clear, clean water from deep underground.
When the pump is hooked up and the water starts flowing, “It’s like that town won the World Cup,” Crabtree said. “Everybody is going crazy. It’s unbelievable to see the joy on the women’s faces.”
Becky Placke said they attempt to build every well near schools or clinics or in the middle of the village, if geologically possible. “We want girls both safe and in school,” she said.
Go Drill’s crew includes 10 to 12 national workers. The village donates labor, sand, gravel and the land for the well. Once the well is drilled, the crew installs a hand pump to keep repairs simple and costs low. Go Drill also asks the village to form a water committee to be accountable for the well’s maintenance.
The wells are necessary because of the remoteness of the area (no roads, water or electricity) and a rainy season that lasts only from January to February and April to May. The longer the dry season stretches, the harder water is to find. Placke said she has walked with villagers anywhere from 20 minutes to several hours one way to fetch water.
“The disparity between children in America and in our area is staggering,” she said. “We know we can’t change all the issues they face, but we can work side by side, shoulder to shoulder to partner with our hardworking neighbors to bring fresh water as a beginning to healthier lives.”
Ekbundit has wanted to get involved with clean water projects for years, but the timing was never right, and she wasn’t sure how to start. When she and her husband heard about their friend Crabtree’s experience in Africa, she jumped at the chance.
“I was thinking I could do something with him,” she said, “then I thought I’d like to involve my kids … then I thought why couldn’t we invite other kids to be involved?”
Her work advocating for women artisans through a company called Noonday has played a role as well. “I’m using those experiences to teach the kids how to advocate for other kids,” she said.
Wells bring clean water. They also bring hope and save lives.
“It’s an amazing thing to invest into,” Crabtree said. “You’re investing in people.”
Kids for Kids will kick off with a gathering at 6 p.m. on Nov. 8 in the chapel at Heritage Baptist Church at 3585 Thruston-Dermont Road. For more information or to contact Jodi Ekbundit, visit the Kids for Kids Facebook page.