By Elizabeth Buhungiro
Manuella Angella, age 9, is a little star. We arrive at her home at 3:30pm on a Monday to find her seated on a locally made chair, looking spotlessly clean and dressed to the nines. This is in high contrast to her siblings and peers, who have evidently played in the dirt or done work around the home. When we ask to take pictures of her family, she shrieks with excitement, quickly jumps up off her chair and runs to stand in position. She strikes confident poses – very clearly the star of the show.
To understand how this little star came to be, we have to start at the beginning, back to when Angella’s father was little. Her father’s childhood experiences with a lack of reliable safe water access made his childhood so unbearable that he made it his mission to ensure that his children would not struggle as he did.
His name is Edson Odong Kara. He is 43. Until he was 25, his village had no safe water source. The nearest water source was a swamp, five kilometers away from home. Kara recalls being 4 and waking up with hunger pangs, but he did not bother to cry because he already knew that it would be at least 7 hours before his first meal of the day. His mother had always left at the crack of dawn to collect water from the swamp. She would be back at around noon, which is when she would start cooking. The first, and only, meal of the day would be served at 3pm, at the earliest.
When Kara was 9, he started joining his siblings for the long walk to collect dirty water.
“We used to wake up at 4am to go to the swamp because we had to go to school afterwards. There were so many mosquitoes biting us and we suffered from malaria very many times,” Kara recalls.
When he was not sick from malaria, Kara was fighting off diarrhea, bilharzia, and a slew of other waterborne diseases. Sometimes, Kara and his siblings would be unlucky and find a long line at the water collection point. They would arrive at school late and be welcomed with several thrashes on the backside.
We ask Kara, “Why would teachers beat you, yet they lived in the same village and were aware of the water challenges?”
He answers, “They said that the challenges outside of school were none of their business, and we had to be at school on time, no matter what.”
He would go on to spend the rest of the school day dozing off from waking up too early, being hungry, and being tired from carrying a 22-pound jerrycan over a long distance. All of this before he was 14 years old. Kara eventually dropped out of school and, a few years later, he started a family.
In 2004, Kara’s village, Acandyang, finally got a borehole. He was relieved to know that his family would finally have clean water. But soon, maintenance proved to be a problem. The water source would be nonfunctional for days or weeks on end and the community would be forced to revert to gathering water from the swamp while collecting money for repairs.
EverFlow, Lifeline’s preventative maintenance initiative, was finally introduced to Acandyang village in 2017, and Kara was one of the first people to jump at the opportunity. He became an advocate, mobilizing people to pay.
“I told everyone; this is the best thing for us!” Kara says. He could not be happier with his decision to pay for preventative maintenance. “People support this program, I tell you. The borehole has never been down for more than one day because they [EverFlow] always check to make sure it’s working and if it stops, they repair it immediately,” Kara reports.
We ask him how his children’s childhood is different from his in relation to safe water access and he replies with pride, “My children are clean. They can even bathe three times a day. They can wash their clothes. They eat breakfast, lunch, and supper. They can go to school and study well. I stopped in Primary Seven but I’m pushing them to go all the way.”
Kara’s home is 300 meters away from the borehole, making it easy for his family to collect as much water as they need for home consumption and for commercial farming. Kara is now a franchisee of EverFlow’s pilot drip irrigation scheme, whose purpose is to subsidize income generated from communities for preventative maintenance.
Kara has a spring in his step as he walks around the neighborhood showing us his maize, soya bean, and cassava gardens. He introduces us to his brother, to his mother and, finally, we go to his home to meet his wife and children. His wife is still on the way back from her job as a schoolteacher.
He calls his children for a photo op and one thing is immediately clear: they are all healthy. The two older children are back from tending to their gardens. The youngest has been playing. And Angella has been seated, looking neat and pretty.
Kara’s children strive a lot less than he did as a child. And because of that, they have choices. And Angella chooses to be a star.
This is what reliable clean water access does. It gives back time that would have been spent collecting water or treating waterborne diseases, so rural communities have the opportunity to lift themselves out of dire situations.
To read more about EverFlow, Lifeline’s preventative maintenance initiative, click here.