By Bronte Gossling
A soft ray of sun filters through the cracks in the wall of our hut. Sunrise. The first light. A new dawn, a new day. “Anan. It’s time to wake up.” Mama is whispering. She does not want to wake my brothers and father. Bahati is already awake, and she has gathered her things. I am the last of my family to get ready. Bahati passes me my bucket and hands me some millet. I eat it quickly, and have a sip of the leftover water from yesterday. It won’t be long before I am hungry again. We leave the hut swiftly, and begin our eleven-mile walk to the river. I take Mama’s bucket. Bahati gives her the empty scavenging bowl instead. Mama nods in thanks, and kisses us both on the cheek. She is injured, and we will help her until she is better. I know that when the time comes, Mama will do the same. Families take care of each other. As usual, Mama is leading the way. I have been going to the river since before I was born, and I know which paths to take. I could go alone, but it is nice for Mama to be with us. Soon, she will not be fit enough for this journey every day, and it will be only my sister and I.
The three of us make it onto the main pathway, and my feet smile at the softness of the grass. My village and I have been very fortunate. We had a thunderstorm a few days ago, which left the bushes green and soft, as well as our crops. The sun has risen over the mountaintops now, and it gives everything around us an orange hue. The possibilities of a new day are shining all around us, and I see a small smile flicker across Bahatiâ€™s face. I know she is feeling the beauty as well. We have reached the meadow, only two miles from the river. Mama stops to admire the beauty of Mother Nature. She spreads out her arms and a bright smile lights up on her face. She laughs. Mamaâ€™s happiness is contagious. Before I know it, my whole body is overflowing with happiness and I feel laughter bubbling up from deep inside me, bursting from my mouth like water through the floodgates. Soon, Bahati, and I are laughing with grins on our faces, and dancing in the meadow together. Today is a beautiful day, and nothing could spoil it for us.
After a while, Mama starts walking towards the river. Bahati and I follow suit, and we reach the opening of the riverbed. There are two sets of fresh footprints that have sunk into the mud, which means that some other people have come here before us. Not long after that, we see Ajambo and Chika. They are my cousins from my motherâ€™s side. They both look tired, like they have been collecting water for a while. They only have one bucket between them, but when I look back onto the riverbed, I see five more empty containers. If we were not here to help, I do not know how they would have carried them back to the village. Mama utters a quick greeting to Ajambo and Chika, and then starts scavenging for berries and nuts in the nearby bushes. She must hurry, or otherwise the birds and insects will get to them first. Bahati and I help Ajambo and Chika collect water, for which they are both very thankful. Chika kisses me on the cheek and hugs both Bahati and I, while Ajambo smiles at us. The day is really upon us now, and we can see the bright blue sky over the mountains. The water has a blue haze as the sky reflects onto it. The sun sparkles and the water is like a thousand diamonds gleaming in the light. Together, the four of us collect water, and soon we are finished. If we did not work together, it would have taken twice as long to accomplish.
Bahati decides to stay and help Mama with foraging, so Chika, Ajambo and I start walking back to the village. We left a bucket with Bahati, so this means that Ajambo, Chika and I have two buckets each. They are very heavy to lift, and I feel like my arms are about to fall off. The village is alive and buzzing with excitement when the three of us have made it back. Everyone is awake. Children are running around and playing. Adults are joking and laughing while they are harvesting the crops that lie around the back of the huts. Life has blessed us with love and fun. As long as we remain happy, kind and loving, then our life is complete. Chika and Ajambo take their buckets to their hut. When I make it back to our hut, it is empty. My father and my two brothers, Baako and Dumisani, must have already left to go hunting. As I put the buckets down, my arms sigh in relief. My body was in strain. I ache everywhere, and my tired eyes do not help. i reach to rub them for what must be the hundredth time today. But,I am no longer under strain, and for that, my body is grateful. If I carried the buckets any longer, I would have collapsed. The buckets were full to the brim, almost overflowing with water. I pick up two new containers and start walking onto the path towards the river again, but not before stopping to have a quick drink. I need my energy. This is only my first trip, but it definitely will not be my last trip today.
Something is different. I can feel change. It is upon us.
There is a different feeling in the air. The village is changing. The smell of sweet nectar and grass has disappeared. Now replaced with thickness of unnatural substances, hanging over our village like a storm cloud. This envelopes every fibre of our being. The smells, the sounds, the tastes, the sights, the feelings. They are all peculiar to me.
Our village is now moving to the rhythm of the constant beats. Drowning out the safe chirping of cicadas and crickets that are usually prominent when the sun fades.
Our elders whisper excitedly and smile. It seems like they think that this change is for the greater good, but I canâ€™t shake the feeling that something bad is about to happen. Our village is use to a routine, and I do not know how they will cope with a flaw in their plan. This will change our way of life. Is this change good or bad?
Foreigners have come to our village, and for the past few days they have been building something. I asked my mother about what was happening, and she said that some people are building a water pump. This means that we will not have to walk to and from the river everyday. She seemed excited and I think that it is a good idea, but if I have to live with this feeling of being a stranger in my own home, I would much prefer to walk with fifty buckets full of water everyday.
~~~ The people have built it. The water pump is up and running. Blessed is our village. We have access to clean water now, that is not a long walk away. Already there has been an improvement in our villagers health, and it has only been a few days. What will happen in a few weeks? Months? Years? Things are looking up.
“Anan. It’s time to wake up.” The sky is a bright sapphire jewel, clear and bright as I gather my buckets and head towards the pump. The sun would have risen at least an hour ago, and for the first time in my life, I was not awake to see it. After a short walk, I push down on the trigger and watch as gravity takes control of the water. As it rushes out of the faucet, I get splashed. My face feels refreshed as the ice cold water drips down my nose. I want to remember this moment, frozen in time, and cherish the happiness I feel.
In Australia, the average water use is around 180 litres per person, per day. In Europe, it's 200 litres, while in the USA each person's daily consumption can reach an astounding amount of 400 litres. One in 5 people in the developing world struggle each day to find only 20 litres of clean water. Internationally, the amount of water people use is completely related to how easy it is for them to access and how affordable it is. In 2009, 900 million people living in poverty were without clean water. There are many reasons: there may not be pipes to carry water to them, they may not be able to afford to pay for bringing the water closer to where it’s needed or the nearest water source may be too far from where they live. In Africa, villagers need to walk from 9-32 kilometres a day to access water. Not only this, but this water is not filtered or decontaminated, therefore unclean. The consequences of being forced to use unsafe water are grim: constant ill health, high death rates and stunted economic growth. Profound inequalities based on wealth and gender capture families in a cycle of poverty they cannot escape. Access to clean water is a human right for every man, woman and child, regardless of their economic circumstances or where they live. It's also a crucial factor in improving poverty.