We heard sad news recently that the people of Moruasia village may soon be getting clean water.
Until now, some of them have been making the long journey to Nakasien or Nakaale to get water from boreholes there. Most of them have been collecting water from rivers and streams through which cows travel and in which people bathe. Obviously, this leads to a number of water-borne illnesses being prevalent in that village.
Around ten years ago, the mission put in a borehole for this village in exchange for free access to the loose rock that is found all around, which we needed as a building material. This borehole has provided clean water for Moruasia until several months ago when the pump finally broke down. Of course when this happened, the people came and asked us to fix it, and the response was that they needed to pay for the materials, which came to a few hundred thousand shillings ($100-200). To put things in perspective, an unskilled worker may make two to three thousand shillings per day. A goat can sell for sixty to eighty thousand shillings, and a large bull can sell for over one million shillings. The mission also regularly buys aggregate from the people of Moruasia at around one hundred thousand shillings per truckload. Once a month, the old people of our area also receive a government pension of fifty thousand shillings each. In other words, resources are available.
Hundreds of people used this borehole. Each person using it would be able to pitch in a few thousand shillings each, and it would be fixed. But no one will do it. We have been in a waiting game, both sides hoping the other will cave. But now, another charitable organization has come and promised to fix the pump free of charge.
It’s a complicated situation. We obviously want to see people healthy and practicing good habits in obtaining water. From a financial perspective, fixing the borehole would also make good sense, since we are also providing subsidized healthcare to this community. But in the long term, we don’t want the people of Moruasia to be dependent on the mission. We would like to see good stewardship practices taking root in the community—practices like saving for future needs, and taking an interest in their health and the health of their families and neighbors.
The problem comes that refusing to provide clean water for poor, helpless villages doesn’t look as good when you write your organization’s progress reports, or when a charity is out fundraising. A ragged child pumping away into a plastic jug and the promise of more of the same does much more to pull at the heartstrings (and purse strings) of potential donors than complicated explanations about the long-term needs of community self-sufficiency. When you treat people as though they have nothing to give—as aid agencies have done for many years in Karamoja—more often than not, they will meet your expectations. Let us pray that as the gospel continues to go forth among these communities, the attitudes of their members will begin to be transmuted into something prepared for the kingdom of heaven, and that their material lives will be transformed thereby.