Worse for Water

This is a woman whose face I know very well. I would recognise her anywhere. I have only met her once, but I have looked at this picture more than a hundred times, and seen through her eyes, the faces of thousands of woman. This picture affects me so deeply, that although I have had it for months, I have struggled to post it.

She walks 10 kms, with a wheel barrow, to collect water for her whole family. She fills up her containers and pushes her wheel barrow back and forth in a relay, struggling in the heat, with just enough water to last her family for the day. You can see her feet are sore and her back is taking strain. She considers herself lucky, she has a wheel barrow.

It is not the fact that she has to walk so far, and push a heavy load just to have access to something we take for granted that breaks my heart, its the fact that the water is worse for wear. There are cows walking through it, their droppings clouding the surface. There is a slight smell of decaying plant matter and mosquito larvae thrive in the cattle footprints on the edge of the water. The most dangerous thing in these waters is NOT the crocodiles, or the hippos.

As a biologist, I know that the chances of people drinking this water and getting sick are pretty high. The water is not clean enough to drink. In a region where the HIV/Aids infection rate is one of the highest in the world, this water could kill.

Approximately 37% of Black households do not have clean water piped to their homes. This is an unacceptable statistic. This is not equality. Our government must fix this. Access to clean water should be one of the basic human rights. Water is as vital as air. ALL of the people in this region face the same struggle to get water every day. If they can pump water from the Tugela, why can’t they pump water from Jozini, Pongola and other dams? Why can’t the Government provide water pumps? A lot of poor people think that corruption doesn’t affect them, but this is how it affects them the most. Access to government resources is being stolen from them.

This Photo was taken at Muzi Pan, near Mkhuzi Game Reserve KwaZulu-Natal. It is a beautiful location, with amazing birdlife. The community has tried to start up a tourist friendly picnic site, with canoes. The problem is, there is no one visiting. The site is always empty. If you find yourself out in Mkhuzi, please take the time to visit and support the locals. It would be wonderful if this resource could become something to benefit the community, perhaps even grab the attention of the government, and maybe they could even get clean water.

I asked this lady if I could take her photo, as well as a few shots of her containers and wheel barrow, and chatted with her a bit. She told me some of the children in her house get sick, with diarrhea,  but she did not know it could be from the water. She did not expect anything, and so when I gave her R20, she was very excited. You see, that is not even enough for a McDonalds Meal, but, it is enough to buy food for her family for a day. Just one more example of how things we take for granted, could drastically improve someone else’s life.

Please note, I am busy researching the costs involved in getting a water pump installed, so that at least if people walk for miles, they are getting access to clean water. If anyone can help, please contact me!

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Mfume Baba!

Out in the South Coast of Durban, there is an organisation that helps disabled children, where either their parents can’t take care of them, or they won’t. This area, is a place where there is no electricity or running water. The “staff” consist of volunteers from the community, who not only act as care givers to these children, but also take on the task of walking to fetch water (up to 5kms), making fires to heat water to make sure it is safe to drink and to cook food, among many things.

It is a difficult life that is the reality for most people in these remote rural areas. The thing that makes these people extraordinary, is that they are doing it for children who can not do it for themselves, children that are not their own. There are a few children there, but the child pictured, was born with half a brain and severely deformed appendages. He can’t do much for himself, but he craves attention. As you approach his cot, he sticks his tummy up in the air, and jiggles around, signaling for you to pick him up, or at the very least interact with him. When you do, he laughs and giggles, because you have literally just made his day. He is well loved, and it shows.

This “Baba” (a Zulu term of respect for a man), clearly has a soft spot for him, and what I love about this picture, is it shows on his face. He is not his father, but you would never know!

If you would like to know more, donate, or help in anyway, you can get hold of “Let Us Work” via their blog.

Can a smile change the world…?

When I took this picture of this little girl, she was leaning against me smiling, and I looked down and took the picture. The original is pretty great, but I played around with the contrast so that you cant really recognize her face. She comes from a very poor background, and she had walked 10 kms with her mom to get a wound on her leg dressed. Yet there she is, smiling, like she has nothing in the world to worry about! I really don’t think that a smile could change the world, but I do think a smile could change someone’s day. I know this smile changed mine. So If everyone smiled a lot more, and a lot more people’s days were changed, perhaps the world would change, and be a lot more cheerful. (This is following the Hunters: “If it cools your chinas down…” principle.) Also, this is probably the most cheesy thing you have read today!

A heart for change

In Lower Illovo, there is a “Tree Clinic” run by Operation Bobbi Bear. The Tree Clinic is basically a gathering of rural woman under a Natal Fig Tree (Ficus natalensis). They meet once a week to support each other, get treatment for minor ailments, receive HIV/Aids awareness education, talk about their issues, get advice and assistance with social problems, grants, child care and many other things. Operation Bobbi Bear also hands out second hand clothes and some food items that have been donated by private people and companies. This is one of the Zulu spiritual leaders at the Tree, addressing the woman before a blessing was given to an unborn baby. Some representatives from Keep a Child Alive (one of the funders of The Tree Clinic and OBB) were also visiting that day. The weather was beautiful, and Mrs Ndandwe was excited to see all the woman with a heart to change their communities.