Poverty is widespread in Soe on the island of West Timor in Indonesia. Poor infrastructure, lack of educational opportunities and little access to basic necessities creates major challenges for people living in rural areas.
On my visit there, I met with Nakor Sabu, a community leader in Oeulasi village outside of Soe, and his wife Maria who have three children. They told me about the problems they used to have with water—a problem they shared with people in most of the villages in the area. There is a spring about fifteen minutes walking distance from their house, but the water was contaminated because there was no structure to protect the spring from animal waste and falling leaves.
“The well was really dirty. It had small insects that would lay eggs in the water,” Nakor said.
As you might imagine, the lack of safe water and the resulting poor sanitation led to health problems, including skin rashes on the children. Showers were infrequent and food preparation wasn’t the most sanitary.
“We usually used the dirty water to prepare rice and vegetables, but if we don’t have enough water we don’t wash the vegetables,” Maria told me.
But bad water goes beyond poor health and hygiene. For families around the world, like the Sabus, water greatly affects their time. They make trips to get water twice a day. If there are too many people waiting in line at the well near their home, or if it is dry season and the well is too shallow, they must make the difficult walk to another spring more than a mile away. The trips back and forth to the well, including waiting in line and carrying heavy water, take about three hours. For one family, it meant waking up at 5 A.M. in order to be able to complete the journey before noon.
And, as if the trip itself was not difficult enough, it also was dangerous. “It is very steep climb and was especially hard on the women,” said Nakor. “The road to get there is really muddy, so that made it difficult as well.” Women would slip and sometimes get injured making the journey.
In 2010, CWS began working with Nakor and a committee of 36 men and women from 18 different households to design and build a well that would be protected from contamination.
To empower this community to develop, manage and maintain their new resources, CWS provides not just financial support but training in the skills necessary to sustain water projects. In building the physical well, the community has ownership to maintain the structure.
“We worked every day, morning to evening to finish the well,” said Nakor.
The villagers provided rocks, wood and rope and CWS provided cement, sand, a roof, nails and a pulley—items that were not available in the village.
“Within two weeks, construction was complete,” said CWS Field Officer Maria Natalia.
The end result? Plenty of water for cooking and bathing, in addition to shorter lines at the well, has a huge impact on the community improving their health and hygiene. Getting water has decreased by more than half the time, taking only 40 minutes out of the whole day to get water.
“I have more time to do household chores, prepare meals, get firewood and garden behind the house,” said Maria.
And Nakor has more time to farm and to work on local construction projects, which brings in more income for the family. He estimates that his income has increased by about $130 a month, which has made it possible for him to pay fees so that his children can stay in school, even though it is rare for children in the area to continue their education beyond middle school. Nakor’s son now is in high school and it is very likely that his two daughters, now in middle school, will follow.
A closer, cleaner water source has an amazing ripple effect. This is just one story. Thousands of villagers in West Timor alone could tell the same one. And what’s mine? I walk a total of five steps, across a level carpeted floor, to have immediate access to hot water from my apartment faucet. Talk about a different world.
My visit allowed me to witness just how different life is for some people and just how much the care and concern of people who want to walk with them in their journey to self sufficiency matters.
So, whether you are a CROP Hunger Walker or a monthly donor, it is people like Nakor and Maria who you are helping. In walking with them, their lives are forever changed and they couldn’t be more grateful.