Thursday, September 23, 2010


A lot of the time, I am a skeptical person.  It's hard for me to trust.  In a former life, at least it feels like a former life after being home with kids for a couple of years, I was a civil engineer.  I spent many days analyzing plans and checking calculations, looking for errors and broken rules.  I'm pretty sure other engineers didn't appreciate my letters, which arrived with lists of my findings; I was the bad guy....or girl.  It was my job to be questioning and even suspicious.

I have to admit that I still have some questions about that water projects that World Vision and other non-profits complete in other countries.  Do they work over the long-haul?  Does the village/neighborhood take ownership of the infrastructure and maintain it?  How does the presence of a new water source change the culture of the community?   Are there any unintended negative impacts?  Sometimes, I feel like I may need to go and live near one of these projects to satisfy my curiosity!

Thankfully, some women from Kenya were able to answer one of my questions.  A couple of weeks ago, while visiting the World Vision Magazine Blog, I read an entry titled Assignment Kenya, which included an invitation for readers to write in with questions about the water crisis.  I commented with a question and received a response.  I'll include the edited version below.  Please visit the actual blog entry for the full version.

One thing that I have wondered is if there is anything valuable that would be lost in providing clean and reliable water sources for these people? Is there anything redemptive about the process of getting water (i.e. is this a community-building time for the women and children?).

World Vision’s first rule is to do no harm. We ensure that our projects will benefit, not damage, communities. But I thought your question was so intriguing I asked several women about it. They told me that getting water at a closer locations will have no negative effect on their sense of community. The women are together constantly. They go to the market together, to church together, they plant crops together, and gather firewood together. When one of the women is sick, the others organize to help her. One woman will bring her water, another firewood, another food, and another will care for her children. It couldn’t be more different from our culture, where our garage doors close us off from our neighbors’ needs. Getting water is just one of the things that bonds these women. They’ll still meet at the nearby water kiosks to talk, laugh, and share. But now they don’t have to walk miles and miles back home.

I have more questions, but I've found that when I wait for all of the answers, it leads to inaction.  To really live, I need to move without seeing the whole picture and rely on grace for my missteps.

1 comment:

  1. So cool that you got a response! Their description makes me want to visit Africa to get a new/refreshed vision of community. I've been craving that lately and have been wanting to re-think "boundaries" and sharing life.