All of our projects are gratifying. Each one is literally saving lives and establishing sustainable solutions that will, for quite a long while, continue to bring life-giving water to the communities they’re serving. That’s part of why we’re driven to this mission with RainCatcher, collectively and individually.
But, with RainCatcher, it’s not just dropping off filters and tanks and presuming our job is complete. In many situations, we encounter habits, traditions and some justifiable skepticism. This is why strong relationships with community leaders and continued monitoring are so crucial.
That HIV has had a devastating impact in Africa is not news, but it can be easy to forget what that looks like, day-to-day, in villages across the continent.
In the serendipitous way they sometimes do, a couple of the filters we’d donated in a community halfway across the country had made their way into a small area near Masaka via a small grassroots aid organization focused on serving orphans, CBIRD.
The director, Jude Muleke, was eager to meet us during our brief visit to Masaka town in February and had contacted us via our partner Sula, who’d been helping bring portable clean-water systems to villages around Mbale. Sula had passed along the filters that were in use now, unbeknownst to RainCatcher, just a couple miles from the hotel where we were staying.
Jude wanted to both express gratitude and request our assistance in helping a woman he knew. We scrambled to fit in this unexpected visit as soon as we heard her story.
Resty had taken in five of her young relatives who’d been orphaned when their parents succumbed to AIDS. She was the sole relative and sole support for her five young charges and her own child, all younger than 12. She’d come to the attention of Jude because a couple of the orphans were being sponsored at their school by CBIRD.
He wanted us to meet her, because not only was she single-handedly keeping these kids out of an orphanage and off the street, but she is HIV positive. Jude had given her a filter, because, though Resty had gained access to medication, she was still quite weak, needed clean water to take her pills, and he wanted her to be able to leave the girls in school, rather than pulling them out to haul water and boil it for her.
The day we met her at her home, she brought out her bucket with the attached filter and proudly explained that she had boiled the water and was now going to filter it for us! Jude gave us a knowing look and we instantly understood the primary reason he wanted us to visit and visit TODAY. Resty needed a thorough demonstration of how the filter really worked and that she didn’t need to waster her limited resources “double treating” the water.
We sprung into action. Dennis, RainCatcher’s Uganda Country Director, conducted an impromptu filter demonstration in one of their shared languages so there would be no misunderstanding. Dennis and Fred, RainCatcher’s best teachers, trained the CBIRD reps on-the-fly and a crowd gathered on the road in front of Resty’s house, watching from a distance.
As the unexpected demonstration on the lawn progressed, curious passersby moved in closer. Boys on their way back from a dirty water source about a mile away, pushing bikes weighed down by heavy yellow jerry cans, stopped, transfixed.
The curious weren’t necessarily brave enough to try the filtered water, though. Dennis drank some. Then the American RainCatchers drank some. Then Resty. Then a brave volunteer from the crowd stepped up, leaving the other spectators to murmur and express their disbelief and disapproval. Though the courageous water sipper was the only “risk taker” in the moment, the crowd remained.
After saying goodbye to Resty and making further arrangements with CBIRD, we rushed off to our previously scheduled obligations. We were feeling really fortunate to have a partner like Jude in Masaka and looked forward to maybe meeting with him on our next visit to see what could be done next.
The very next day, Jude called to share the great news: Word of Resty’s magic filter had spread through that small neighborhood like wildfire and requests for demonstrations had been passed along to Jude.