[Above: Water 1st staff member, Jennie, hugging Askala in a photo with the water committee.]
What makes a person decide to volunteer his or her time to work on a water committee? There are a lot of different reasons, but none is more compelling than that of Askala Tulu. Askala is in her thirties. She lives in Gonbisa Kussaye, a small farming community in Oromia, Ethiopia. Residents of Gonbisa Kussaye gather water from a muddy stream a mile or more from most people’s compounds. Drinking the water poses major health risks for the community. Askala knows that from experience. Last year, she contracted a parasite from drinking the water, probably a worm or a leech. The uninvited guest grew so large, it caused major complications and Askala had to be hospitalized. The medical staff were able to treat her and remove the worm (she says she kept it in a jar in her home to remind herself of the dangers of the untreated water in her community). Askala’s trip to the hospital cost her 6000 birr, the equivalent of at least 100 days wages. Her illness nearly killed her and nearly ruined her family financially. As a result of her experience, Askala is determined to do everything in her power to insure that Gonbisa Kussaye has a safe water supply in the future.
When Water Action began organizing the community and facilitating the election of a water committee, Askala made it known that she wanted a role. The community whole-heartedly supported her and voted her on the committee. Askala even told us she would sell all her cattle if that would help make the project a reality. We were happy that we could report to her that Water 1st had agreed to fully fund the project and she would not need to sell her cattle. She just needs to contribute her time and her energy to bring the project to fruition. And she convinced us she was 100% up to the task!