Each step brings a piece of hope.
In the southwestern corner of Kenya is a little town called Oletukat. In fact, to call it a town might be a stretch. It is more like a group of scattered homes and shops along the bumpiest of dirt roads. Oletukat is home to a people group called the Maasai: a Kenyan tribe known for their bright shukas (cloaks), intricate jewelry, and livestock. These are people who depend on the land for their resources. Their homes are built from the dirt, their livestock graze on the grass, and many try to grow food to feed themselves. Yet, for Oletukat’s entire history, it has never had access to water.
For as long as people have lived here, they have walked five kilometers away to a river to gather water and carry it back to their homes one jerry can at a time. This water was all they had for bathing, cleaning, cooking, gardening, and drinking. One can a day. And it was filthy. The river carries a heavy load of mud and other sediment, making it completely brown. Animals share the riverbank and their waste mixes into it. To make things even worse, the towns along the river dump their own waste into it upstream from Oletukat. Because of this, diseases like typhoid, dysentery, and cholera have run rampant in this community and the surrounding area. In fact, we have learned that nearly 6,000 people in this area faced the same situation. And this little region, with all its struggles, is home to a little girl named Jolyne.
Jolyne is the youngest of ten kids. She’s nine years old. Growing up, her mom would join the women of Oletukat and the surrounding area in the walk for water. Lining up by the dirty riverbank with her jerry can early in the morning, filling it with dirty water, putting it on her back, and carrying it back uphill five kilometers home. She would divvy out the five gallons she had for her and her family to drink. She’d use a little bit of it to cook with. Then they would have to choose whether to let some of the family bathe, or wash clothes. With ten older siblings, it’s likely Jolyne didn’t get much of the water. There was only enough for her to wash herself once a week. Letting the dirt just build up on her skin each day. This was life for her. And her future seemed to be the same story as her mother’s. The daily walk for water consumed life, and the hope of something different — school, a job, a new life — seemed impossible.
Then, in 2015, things started to change. This is when our partner organization, Nasha, decided to begin the effort to bring clean water to Oletukat — to kids like Jolyne — and we decided to join them. We knew from the start that bringing water would be a challenge. In fact, large organizations like World Vision had tried to drill wells here and no water was found. So through a group of African consultants, we began the process of building a pipeline. Trenches were dug, pipes were laid, and the water from the river was starting to get closer. A huge pump was installed and a water tank was built in the center of town, and for the first time, Jolyne’s mom could walk down the street for water. But it was still dirty. We wanted better for her. So we began the construction of a multi-stage filtration system. After breakdowns, photos by: Josh Petersen & Ezra Bram 4 8 4 9 delays, dump trucks tipping over in the mess of mud that fills the road after a rain, and thousands of hours of labor, the filtration system was up and running. And this summer, we got to see water flow. And to be honest with you all, it’s still not what we hoped it would be. We hoped to turn on the tap and get a nice bottle of Dasani out of it, and unfortunately, it’s not that.
The filtration hasn’t fully worked, but it is a step forward. It has made a huge difference in the lives of those who live in Oletukat, including Jolyne’s life.
Now her mom can walk down the street and get ten jerry cans of water for her family. They are drinking, cooking, cleaning, and bathing every day. When we met Jolyne, her skin was clean. She could feel beautiful. And although the water isn’t perfect, the health clinic in Oletukat told us that cases of typhoid, dysentery, and cholera have dropped drastically. Life is changing for the people of Oletukat.
Jolyne is now in class one at Eltomtom Primary School. Her future can look different. She won’t be spending her days walking to lug water back for her family. She can study and dream of a new world.
It can be easy to look at this project and be disappointed that the water is not perfect yet. But as a small organization, we have seen that every little step we take can make a big difference for people. For Jolyne, her life has been changed forever. We will keep fighting to make sure we do everything we can to perfect our projects, but we want you to know that every little step, each piece added to the puzzle, brings people another piece of hope. It changes the narrative one more time. So thank you to all of you who have believed in us and those we work with around the world. We want you to know we are going to continue to use the funds you generously give to keep taking more steps to chip away at the pain of oppression, poverty, and hopelessness. That’s the adventure we’re on.