Pete’s Kenya Trip Reflection

Words by Pete Yao
23 November, 2012

Scratching the side of my face, I could feel the heat radiating off my badly sunburnt skin. It was definitely going to sting tomorrow.

We had just finished our last day on the field and were now heading back to Mombasa, our home in our ‘safari’ Jeep. The week was finished and we had visited the communities of Mazola, Rorogi, Chirima Cha Uha and Gangani (you can visit to see the impact that TW drinkers have made in these communities).

My blue shirt now resembled a dusty orange shirt, with blue stains mixed in between. My body was soaked in sweat, and let’s be honest, I smelt bad. Really, really bad.

But I loved EVERY part of that week; from the two and three-hour journeys trying to get to these remote places, to meeting the people in these communities and seeing how they lived.

One thing that was struck me while visiting the villages and communities in Kenya was the obvious similarities that the land and its people shared with Australia. Firstly, the landscape reminded me of outback Australia – with the iconic red sand, and the burning hot sun.

And the people, well, they were just as friendly, resilient, and laid-back as we are. I remember hearing a story that it was not uncommon for Kenyans to pick up a total stranger walking on the side of the road, drop what they were doing and take them to their destination which could end up taking them hours in the opposite direction.

But as I spent time with these people in their communities, the reality of the World Water Crisis hit me.

We passed children on the road at night carrying 20 kilogram water cans by themselves, left alone and unprotected in the dark. We heard stories of terrible diseases which had ravaged entire villages – diseases so bad that people were afraid to urinate because every time they did, they passed out blood. We heard stories of how elephants would attack and kill children if they happened to arrive at the same time as the elephants to collect water from a shared water source.

But in addition to these stories of pain and hardships, I also heard stories from the same communities of hope and change happening through the provision of simple water solutions funded by Thankyou Water drinkers.

We heard stories upon stories of how, before the introduction of the BSFs (Biosand filters), families would have suffered terrible bouts of diarrhoea (a term in Australia usually associated with embarrassment; but for people living in these communities, it could potentially kill them) due to parasitic infections from drinking contaminated water. But since the introduction of these BSFs, they no longer had to suffer from these illnesses. The above-mentioned village affected by bladder infections (producing blood in their urine) have had no more incidents of this occurring after receiving BSFs.

I also had a chance to see our wonderful project partners conducting community health and hygiene classes (which is also included in the funding that Thankyou Water drinkers contribute to).

And hearing about the flow-on effects of having safe water was amazing. Apart from improving the health of these communities, the economic savings for a family (due to not having to visit health clinics as regularly) means more money available to being reinvested into agricultural produce – improving the overall wellbeing of the family and surrounding community.

Safe water and hygiene training also meant children could now attend school more regularly. This means that they have a better chance of being educated, therefore having a wider range of opportunities for their future.

Reflecting on all of my experiences in Kenya makes me grateful for what I have here in Australia. Every time I drink water from the tap, every time I simply choose something from the fridge or pantry to eat and every time I come to work and get paid, I’m thankful.

To see the difference made by Thankyou water drinkers was remarkable and inspiring, and made me realise that there is truly no greater honour than to play a part in someone else’s story.

— Words by Pete Yao