A bucket filled with river water sits under the baobab tree, surrounded by men, women and children from the village of Guffa. Brown and opaque with sediment, it represents their only source of water.
One spoonful of alum and a capful of chlorine is all it takes to make the water clear and safe to drink.
A three-hour walk north of Doro in the Upper Nile State, Guffa is remote. There is no borehole and no access to a clean water source.
That’s why two members of the SIM Safe Drinking Water Project Doro Team, John Kaya and Paul Dafalla, made the four-hour round trip on bicycles, navigating the winding, rutted trail, fording a river and patching tires along the way.
Their goals were two-fold: to teach the village residents about safe drinking water and hygiene – but, more importantly, to encourage the local church and to point those sitting under the baobab to the true source of Living Water: Jesus Christ.
The trip might be difficult, but it’s necessary, said Dau Mathew, the project supervisor.
“What we need is to reach the suffering community so that we can help with the water,” he said. “But the most important thing is to encourage the believers to stand firm.”
There are an untold number of remote villages in Mabaan County that face the same predicament as Guffa. Just how many is still being assessed by the project.
The requests for borehole construction come from far and wide. At a meeting with village representatives in Doro, the team heard from about 10 different men – some of whom had walked most of a day to reach the meeting.
But the reality is that building a borehole isn’t the easiest way to bring people safe water, according to Mathew and Project Manager Justin Agnes, an SIM worker from England. The construction of one borehole costs $18,000 – which does not include later costs to maintain and repair it.
Many sit across the river or are at least several hours away from Doro – no easy feat to reach with equipment needed to drill a borehole.
Community outreach, with supplies and materials, costs less. For no more than $1, the project provides the alum and chlorine needed to treat water for one household for a whole month. An education in proper hygiene and water purification can potentially reach an ever-widening circle of people.
During the outreach programs, the project members open with a Bible teaching. They then begin the program. Through demonstrations, visual aids and lively conversation, they show those gathered how to clean their water and simple ways to improve hygiene.
Providing Living Water
Mathew has worked with the project for several years. In that time, he has seen respect grow from the Mabaan – the time and energy spent to get out into the hard-to-reach areas has not gone unnoticed.
It has impacted him as well. “It has really transformed my life,” he said. “I’m telling people in the community about Jesus Christ.”
He believes the personal outreach approach impacts individuals and mirrors SIM’s goals.
“You don’t rebuild because you want to make roads or bridges … You need to build the people first,” Mathew said. “If you don’t build the people and you do the bridge, the person will come and say ‘This bridge, knock it down. I want to put my house there.’ Because he doesn’t understand.”