Meet Sarah Addy, founder of Session Japan, who is one of the most culturally aware women that we know. With a background in Community Development, we are excited to feature her and hear more about her experiences helping fight the Global Water Crisis in at risk-communities around the world.
I never expected to find, and then leave a part of my heart at the end of a dusty (or muddy depending on the season) road in Cambodia. The first time I visited the minefield village, the road leading into it was flooded. We had to leave the vans behind, gather our things, take off our shoes, and gingerly make our way through the thick, sticky mud the half mile to the first scattering of huts. It’s interesting to look back and realize that in a country with such a complicated relationship with water, I had to wade through rivers of it during my first introduction to community development.
After falling (not just a few times), and entertaining the nimble villagers who walk through the mud without ever getting dirty, I glimpsed the village for the first time. It was immediately obvious that the general health of the people here was very low. Everyone had a story about a stomach illness, diarrhea that wouldn’t go away, or a family member suffering from a high fever. It wasn’t just the sickness, either. There were wounds that had never been adequately cleaned, and as a result were extremely infected. I remember one boy very clearly who had been riding on the back of his friend’s bike. He had managed to get his foot stuck in the spokes, and half of his heel was missing. He came to us a few days after the incident with a dirt caked wound that was obviously infected. His mother had done what she thought was right, but she lacked the understanding to properly help her son. Had he not gotten help, he may never have walked normally again.
Although at the time it was not immediately obvious to us, the root causing all of these problems was water. The village didn’t have enough of it, what they had was not clean, and they were remarkably unaware that dirty water was the culprit behind much of the sickness, disease, and infection plaguing their loved ones.
It would be lovely to say that as soon as we went to work on this issue of water, everyone was immediately healthy, but that’s just not how things work. Even so, we committed to making progress on this monster of a problem.
We began interviewing and educating villagers about their water usage, attempting with each conversation to draw the connection between illness and dirty water. Many didn’t believe us, or simply didn’t have the energy to convert dirty pond water into clean, drinkable water – but some did! We built a water catch system on the school grounds so that the students would have clean water to drink during the day as they also learned about proper health and hygiene. The catch system was connected to a hand washing station, and students were also required to wash their hands before lunch each day. The first time I saw this happening, tears welled up in my eyes- this was progress in the form of healthy, daily habits that we hoped were spreading to their families.
I realized a year and a half after that initial muddy walk into the village that we were having to perform far less first aid on kids with wounds. I remarked to my coworker that kids really seemed to be doing better, seemed to be healthier. I think this improvement has a direct connection to a better understanding of health and hygiene and increased access to clean water.
One of the most amazing things happened when one of Healing Water’s own, Brooke Arnold, was serving for three months in the village. A woman we had come to know and love, Srey Roth, had a son who had the most sour face. This little boy got very ill and our representatives prescribed him clean water to take with his antibiotics. The change in this boy was nothing short of miraculous. It may seem small, but when I traveled there a few weeks later I saw him smile for the very first time. He ran around, he laughed, and he played with his siblings. His family was astounded by the transformation that clean water had produced. They were finally convinced through the change in their son that using clean water exclusively is imperative for health, and they have become a model for the entire village.
The battle surrounding water is one of the most crucial in the developing world. Fighting that battle in the minefield village has been one of the most interesting, frustrating, heartbreaking, and eye-opening experiences of my life. Looking back after years of wrestling with the water issue in the minefield village, it is extremely satisfying to say that significant progress has been made. People’s lives have been improved, and they are healthier now to care for their children, go to school, do their jobs, and so much more. I’ve learned that a community can’t function properly without the basics of human life. The minefield village hasn’t completely arrived, but with the addition of clean water it is well on it’s way.
*Photo by sarahkaddyphotography.com
We’re on a mission to end the global water crisis. We build holistic clean water solutions and spread God’s love in at-risk communities around the world, empowering people not just to survive, but to thrive – physically, socially and spiritually.