We got on the road early. It was going to take hours to reach Sylvia’s village and, due to her solid scheduling the night before, students from six local schools were traveling to Kyakajwiga Primary School to meet us at lunchtime. Many of those school groups were traveling on foot.
That road trip is how we learned so much about Sylvia and about a day in the life of the average Ugandan student. We had ample time to witness her determination, her brilliance, and her heart.
On the way, we passed children hauling a variety of water containers, many clearly empty. Gathering water is a daily, time-consuming chore. Crowds of children gathered around open pits by the side of the road and we knew that water was surely teeming with life-threatening microbes.
After about four hours, we pulled up to the school and a sea of different colorful school uniforms worn by unbelievably well-behaved children. How they managed to remain quietly seated as we got out of the car, started taking pictures and pulling out equipment is a mystery. Later, knowing how thirsty so many of them surely were, we would marvel that they still demonstrated such restraint as we passed very few cups of water around for only some of them to taste.
Sylvia was impressive. She had their complete attention as she alternated between making the students and the teachers laugh and impressing upon them the value of the systems. The children already knew the dangers of their drinking water.
Sylvia posed the question, “What are the bad things that happen when you drink unsafe water?” Their hands shot up as they answered her: diarrhea; fever; dehydration; cholera; typhoid…
With their training from the night before, Sylvia and her sister Noelene led the demonstration, with Jack’s assistance.
They gave clean-water systems to the headmasters of all six schools: Kyakajwiga; Mirembe Muslim; Kabandiko; Makukuulu; Bulenge; and St. Jude of Kirinda. Previously they’d had to either try to keep up with demand by boiling water or watch their students drink the dirty water they brought to school.
With this simple solution, each school now has an endless, clean water fountain for their students. Sylvia vows to do the same for the district’s remaining 51 schools and there is no doubt that she will do it quickly.
By the end of the demonstration, Jack was ready to initiate some fun. With the headmasters’ permission (the students would not have moved a muscle without it), Jack ran to play soccer with the children, balls donated by Nike, and a resident cow.
Their playful shrieks and laughter filled the air. When they had worked up a thirst, they were able to easily fill their cups with safe water for the very first time. And there was no threat that the supply was going to run out.
To see a slideshow of images from this day in Uganda, including more pictures of the students having a blast playing soccer, please Click Here