Clean Water Initiative, SUA Students in Rwanda
My name is Dani Siems and I am a junior in the Class of 2011 at Soka University of America (SUA). I am currently taking Chinese as my foreign language of study and my concentration is in Humanities. I chose to study at SUA for its mission to nurture diverse individuals into globally minded promoters of change. To promote such a belief that I passionately hold true myself, I had a desire to travel and volunteer. The Clean Water Initiative was first introduced to me last year while listening to Rick Warren's PEACE plan. Then and there, I decided to volunteer in Africa.
This past summer from July 25 through August 7, Jacob McLeish, a sophomore (undergraduate class of 2012) at SUA, and I left our comfort zones and traveled into the throng of post-genocidal Rwanda, Africa. Only ten years have passed since the atrocities, but you would have never known such evil took place if you saw the love and kindness that the Rwandans showed us. Our mission was guided by the Clean Water Initiative directed through the PEACE plan which attempts to strike at the heart of the five global ills: lack of servant leadership, extreme poverty, pandemic diseases, illiteracy, and spiritual emptiness. We had to work for funding which came from several different areas. We auctioned off paintings, had garage sales, and received donations from family, friends and people we did not even know. We even received support and funding from SUA's Pacific Basic Research Center (PBRC). Raising around $8,000 for the two of us was no easy task.
Prior to the trip, we trained with two teams composed of ordinary people in learning the installation of water purification systems, and clean water hygiene. Neither of us could have anticipated nor mentally prepared ahead for the people we were about to meet or what we were about to experience.
Our first project was the Kibuye hospital in western Rwanda. There, we set up two tank purification systems capable of servicing the entire hospital and some of the surrounding community. It is important to understand that more than half of all the occupants in the hospital were there because of water borne diseases. The transformation of the local people to understand our cause while we were there installing and training was astounding. The first day the locals were wary about using the water, but by the time we left there was a non-stop line, 24-hours a day, to get clean, safe water. This was true about all the places we set up water purifiers. We also set up two tanks and a purifier system at the PEACE office in Kibuye.
Through this clean water hygiene program, we trained over thirty-five Community Development Trainers (CDT) who right away went out into their communities and began to teach. They were so successful that their neighbors came to them for appointments. The hygiene team traveled deep into the countryside where the average Rwandan walks 12 kilometers (km) or more per day. We stayed in a local school master's dormitory, vacant from the lack of kids to teach. Ticks, bed bugs, flies, spiders, chickens, and mice became our roommates for a few days.
We were greeted, as all locals greet each other, no matter what part of Rwanda we traveled to, with smiles, hugs, double-hand waves, and forearm handshakes by people we simply walked past in the street. No one expected money from us and what little they had, they wanted to share. We were invited into several homes around the district, by families of varying wealth and backgrounds who wished to share their lives and hospitality. Many of the children, mostly refugee orphans from the Congo, would run up giggling, "Good morning," at all times of the day or, "Mzungu! Agachupa! (White skin! Water bottle!)," whenever we passed. Sometimes there was even an entourage of children following us, curious to watch us work; heads would peep in through the windows as we taught.
Throughout the two weeks we spent in Rwanda, Clean Water Initiative, drilled sixteen of the thirty water pumps promised that month and each struck water successfully. We also just learned that more grants have been put into place to drill another 30 pumps in a different district of Rwanda. Every week we receive wondrous news of the success and impact Clean Water Initiative is having in the communities, where lives are being changed with something that we often take for granted. This next spring of 2010, Jake and I will be traveling back to Rwanda to continue the PEACE plan through Clean Water Initiative.