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Look for the Helpers

Written by: Pam Platt, WaterStep Communications Specialist

Another year draws to a close. In the coming days, many of us will celebrate the promise of new life, wrapped in a holiday both religious and secular.

At the end of every year, we need a reminder of that promise because the story of life is the story of struggle. This year’s struggles, human-made and natural and throughout the world, are particularly bleak, and that can neither be ignored nor minimized.

But neither can this be ignored nor minimized:

Beyond struggle, another narrative exists, too, in the hearts and deeds of human beings who light candles instead of curse the darkness.

As Mr. Rogers said, “Look for the helpers.”

Isabella is a high school senior who did a massive shoe drive for WaterStep as part of her Eagle Scout project

Yes, WaterStep knows all about the narrative of struggle because this organization is dedicated to bringing safe water, sanitation and hygiene solutions to people around the world, empowering them and their communities to improve their health and lives with water, safe water. WaterStep’s resilient machines are only the start of this equation. Resilient people throughout the giving and receiving are the rest of it.

The need for safe water is extraordinary, almost too big to imagine.

But the work to meet the need also is extraordinary, as are the people who show up for that.

WaterStep is also about the narrative of those helpers, for we are a volunteer- and donor-supported organization whose network includes individuals and groups, and that collaboration extends beyond language, culture, and geography, helpers doing what they can to make the lives of people they’ll probably never meet … healthier, stronger, better.

The latter is the sort of news that doesn’t make a lot of headlines, but should … and does on WaterStep’s social media posts and pages.

Like drops of water, Individual names soon build into a flowing stream of effort, bringing more and more people along. And refreshing those building efforts is the work of people far away, doing volunteer duty of collecting shoes and building machines that build better futures. 

Fozia teaches at a school for children with special needs in Kenya

In the past year, you have met WaterStep Kenyan Ambassadors Humphrey Muchuma and Raphael Wanjala, as they announced the opening of their office in Kenya, linking all of the organization’s work in Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia, and Kenya. Likewise, you met Dida Daniel, a Kenyan field consultant also intent on bringing safe water to more Kenyans. They train people, who train more people, who share the blessings of safe water with even more communities. Ripple effects.

Through Raphael, we met team member and medical school student Ian Ndei, present at a clinic Kenya for a WaterStep training session when a woman in labor and in distress showed up for help. He was able to deliver the baby and stabilize the woman for further treatment, ensuring better outcomes with his expertise and by using WaterStep’s BleachMaker for handwashing and sanitized, sterile conditions for the emergency procedures. In her case and untold others.

Through Dida, we met Fozia Muhamud, a teacher at a school for special needs children in Kenya. The lives and educations of the almost 200 children in the school have been improved by the sanitation and hygiene solutions provided by bleach-making equipment and training. Absences and illnesses are down, attendance is up, and so is the sense of community in the school. Healthy children can learn, says the teacher. (The school has received another BleachMaker.)

And we met Domari, at the time 13 and living with her grandmother in Kenya, rising before dawn to walk two hours to collect contaminated water, water that made its users sick until they had access to safe water, for drinking, cooking, and bathing. Safe water, something we take for granted but something all the Domaris never can or could. But her life has changed because of volunteer- and donor-supported safe water.

We have met great young women, such as mountaineers Lucy Westlake, from the U.S., and Hasvi Muriki, from India, who have made safe water awareness and delivery part of their life’s journeys to the world’s tallest peaks, taking WaterStep banners and messages with them as they go.

Mountaineers Lucy Westlake and Hasvi Muriki

And we have met Isabella Mei Lamkin who stands out for her efforts to bring safe water to those without it; her Eagle Scout project was devoted to that.

As we wrote about Isabella, “WaterStep meets spectacular people all the time, champions of caring and giving, and Isabella is memorable among them. For her youth, yes, but also for her commitment to speaking up for the voiceless, especially for children, her wheelchair no obstacle for standing out and speaking out. She is all about hope and confidence, in her words, her beliefs, and in her actions.”

And there are the volunteers who show up to build machinery, carts that bring safe water-producing equipment to communities in Kentucky and around the world; who donate gently used shoes that help raise money for safe water everywhere; who show up at WaterStep headquarters with co-workers and classmates to sort shoes; who join the flow of efforts and become one of the helpers with WaterStep donations of money that give life and reality to the idea that safe water is a human right.

A human right, in a world of too many human wrongs.

What a beautiful thing.

That’s something worth remembering, worth commemorating, an effort worth joining, as we move from one year to another. And please visit our website and our social media posts for daily reminders of candles being lit by spectacular people who show up. 

“Thousands have lived without love,” W.H. Auden wrote, “not one without water.”

In the flowing stream of effort and delivery emanating from the helpers here, we are dedicated to a world in which people don’t have to live without either.

An awesome group of women who spent a day at WaterStep sorting shoes
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