Long and Winding Paths

Sometimes, in the midst of very focused program implementation work, where you’re logging each minute and driving the team to be unusually productive, you run into something very special. Notable, even. Something unexpected that brings the flurry of activity to a halt and serves a reminder of how people, purpose and mission are connected.

Julius Ananura, the Executive Director of Reach the Un-Reached Ministries and a RainCatcher partner, has devoted his ministry to helping marginalized groups and vulnerable populations in Western Uganda.

Homer and Julius Ananura

Though Julius is has moved on to the capital city of Kampala, with a lovely wife, an adorable daughter, a modern home and a vehicle of his own, he is a man with much of his heart still in the villages surrounding Mbarara.

In Kampala, Julius runs an orphanage with a little more than a dozen children, but when duty calls, he will jump on a bus to travel four hours to make sure the schools, churches and clinics he’s made commitments to will be fairly and swiftly evaluated by RainCatcher.

The day of our visit to Kabwohe Health Center was, in fact, the third RainCatcher-requested tour of these 10 sites that Julius had made possible. Without him, we would never have been able to find them all, as scattered as they are in remote villages, down winding red-clay paths and hidden in banana groves.

Though all of his project sites are using RainCatcher’s portable clean-water systems, filtering water and making it safe to drink, each site has also waited patiently for this, the construction phase of the projects that promise to make access to water reliable and on-site. They’ve anticipated the day when the need for long walks to haul heavy cans of water can be reduced or eliminated.

As we arrived at the clinic, the sun was beating down and the team was a little giddy with the idea that it was only 1 pm and we only had one more site visit for the day. There were high fives all around and bragging rights when we got back home.

As we measured the clinic and Dave and Dennis ran the numbers and recorded installation instructions for the system, we were quite aware of the dozens of people laying around the grounds for their long waits for a possible opportunity to be seen by medical personnel.

There were sick kids, laying by their moms on mats under trees. There was even a snack hut with a brisk business selling unrefrigerated sodas, bananas, corn and nuts. Made sense: according to Julius some of these people would wait on the lawn all day and not be seen by anyone. Snacks would be required.

The biggest concern, according to the head nurse, Sister Beatrice, was the mothers and babies. The maternity ward was in crisis. The placement of this tank was crucial, because the mothers or their families needed to help provide water; there wasn’t enough of a supply to support both the surgical unit AND the maternity ward. Many mothers and babies die there for a variety of reasons, but the lack of clean water was one deadly factor was one that we could help alleviate.

It was then that Julius turned to Sister Beatrice and their conversation led to a revelation: Julius had been born in that very maternity ward almost 40 years ago – same building and apparently same dire situation. And Sister Beatrice had started working at the hospital as a young woman not long after Julius had made his debut there.

The whole group looked over. Standing there was this nun who had dedicated her life to responding to a never-ending sea of people seeking medical attention in an under-staffed, woefully equipped medical facility and a man whose journey of generous service to the most under-served people in his home community had started on that very site.

It was a moment that reminded us of the big job ahead and who really deserved the high fives and bragging rights. And a gift of awareness of the wonderful ways paths can be intertwined and that we’re all just one small part of bigger efforts and mere contributors to larger solutions.

Capturing Our Hearts

Fetching water is such a part of life in Uganda and elsewhere that groups of children and women lugging heavy yellow cans full of water are ever present along the road.

The burden of collecting water falls on everyone, but in a family with the option, it becomes primarily a responsibility of the girls.

As we drove through Masaka, visiting schools we’d be equipping with rainwater harvesting, we came across this particular group of beautiful, vibrant teen girls.

We stopped for a moment to visit with them and take photos. They laughed and teased each other and we joked with them.

Driving on, our Ugandan partners pointed out that these girls could benefit from the tanks we were putting in at the schools nearby and might not have to miss as much school due to their families water needs.

That realization made us so grateful. Because, although Africa itself has captured our hearts, it is the experience of making a personal impact that drives our pursuit of opportunities to expand our reach.

Knowing that our recent projects might help these girls directly – and would definitely help other girls, girls we hadn’t even met yet – made it a little easier for us to keep driving.

Facts on Water
For a family of six, collecting enough water for drinking, cooking and basic hygiene may mean hauling heavy water containers from a distant source for an average of three hours a day. Women and girls are mainly responsible for fetching the water that their families need for drinking, bathing, cooking and other household uses. (Source: WHO/UNICEF)

Sylvia’s Heart

There are many heroes working behind the scenes for RainCatcher. These heroes work hard every day to provide children clean drinking water. Today we honor Sylvia Bofry, Director of the Kyempapu school district. Without Sylvia our current project in Uganda would not be moving forward and many previous projects would not have occurred.

Inspired to create great change for the children within her district, Sylvia is the key to opening the doors of the schools in Uganda to RainCatcher.

If Sylvia had not partnered with RainCatcher thousands of children would not be drinking clean water today. Many children would have become very sick from the unsafe water they have. Sometimes they would remain sick for months at a time. Some of their little bodies would not be strong enough to battle the diseases that are carried within the contaminated water. Many might not have lived to enjoy the lives they live today. Without the clean water projects that Sylvia has made possible, hundreds if not thousands of children would be unable to attend school at all. Instead they would spend much of their day fetching contaminated water. Water that they know could potentially kill them.

We honor Sylvia today. We honor her commitment, her heart, and her passion. Most of all, we honor her love for her children. Together, we honor the thousands of lives that been saved and changed forever because of Sylvia’s heart.
We are saddened that Sylvia is unable to join the team on this trip. Her daughter was ill with a fever and in a hospital with in Kampala. Sylvia chose to be by her side and we extend our deepest wish that her daughter has a quick recovery.

As this post is being written, our team is traveling through Uganda locating new schools that will need our immediate help. Many children are still needlessly suffering because they cannot get clean water.

These children need your donation today. Only $25 can provide a family clean drinking water for 1 year. It is that simple.

Become a hero. Donate now.

Want to thank Sylvia yourself? Post a few words of gratitude in the comments below!

The Dusty Road to Prosperity – Part 2

After several long hours on the road, the team finally arrived at the first of dozens of destinations. Upon arrival at the Kabandiko Primary School, they were quickly greeted by the teacher of school, Ssebandeko Charles. He came to the car to greet the team before they even had a chance to get out. His ear to ear smile was infectious and seemed to spread as quickly to the team as it did to the curious children standing nearby. After signing his guest book the team wasted no time getting straight to work  on their final assessment of where the rainwater-catchment tank would be located.

The teacher Ssebandeko Charles was very excited to learn how soon they’ll receive their tank from RainCatcher and he shared stories of the many of his students who had perished from the water-borne illnesses that plagued so many. In a short amount of time, the kids would no longer have to make the long walk witnessed as the team drove in to the community. In a short amount of time, kids would no longer miss school or worse due to water-borne disease. In a short amount of time, the entire community would be able to live a healthy and prosperous life… a life beyond the burden and dangers of water collecting.

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