A group of Water1st supporters will journey to Ethiopia for our 11th Water Tour. Since our first tour in 2006, 130 people have traveled with us to see our work firsthand.
“You have reached me before my time has passed.”
Every Water Tour has its defining moment. For the very first Water Tour, that moment unfolded while meeting with the community of Ilamu Muja, home of several hundred farming families who had been trying for generations to solve their water supply problem. A woman from the community stood and told us, “Most of my time is spent fetching water, and my children are doing the same. Now I believe I will see something in my lifetime. You have reached me before my time has passed.”
The eight Water1st supporters who witnessed that moment in April 2006 will never forget the power of that sentiment. It brought home to us the enormous significance of a water project. We may never understand the depth of her hope, but hearing her speak those words gave us all a glimpse into her soul — and that changed how we all viewed the work of Water1st.
We think every one of the 130 Water Tour participants has a similar defining moment story. It might happen when we try carrying 40 pounds of water for over a mile from a traditional water source (a dirty stream) to a home. Or when we arrive at a home – a simple mud hut with a dirt floor – and unload our heavy container of water, and hear the mother in that house talk about making that arduous trip three times every day with her young daughters.
Maybe the moment comes during the water project work day when we work alongside villagers – trying to mix concrete by hand or dig pipeline trench with a simple pick ax – and gasp with the realization that we can’t keep up the pace for much more than 5 or 10 minutes because it’s such hard work.
Or maybe that moment comes when we attend a community’s water inauguration celebration and hear the children cheer, “Bishaan lubbuudah!” “Water is life!”
On our first trip, we were only able to see the vast need that exists in Ethiopia. Water1st hadn’t completed a single project, yet. Now on our 11th trip, we get to see the impact that our six large-scale projects serving over 20,000 people are having on a region.
Water1st is proud of the Water Tour tradition. We intentionally avoid classifying these trips as work trips. The communities build these projects, not us. Our morning work party is a learning experience. We learn how hard the work is and how woefully unprepared we are, physically, for the incredible effort the beneficiaries will invest in bringing water into their community.
The success of a Water Tour is measured by the depth of connections that are established between people from very different parts of this ever-shrinking globe. A good example of that impact was the decision by the local government in Ethiopia to begin co-funding Water1st projects, in large part due to a Water Tour. The local administrator told us that seeing people come from halfway around the world and carry water with women made an impression on him. He couldn’t stop thinking about it. He decided that Water1st was a group of people the communities could count on. If he worked together with Water1st and our local partner, Water Action, it could be a long-term relationship that would eventually impact everyone in his district. That’s exactly the message we are trying to convey through our Water Tour presence.
Water Tour participants have gone on to be record-setting Carry5 Walk for Water fundraisers, Chicago and Arizona event organizers, Board and Advisory Council members, Middle and High School Board members, even Water Ambassadors. These are all people who are determined to change the face of the future for the people whom they met on their trip. Thank you to each of you who has traveled with Water1st and reinforced this tradition, whether to Ethiopia, Bangladesh, Honduras, or India.
Bon Voyage to the travelers who make up the 11th Water Tour. We hope you, too, experience that defining moment that brings a deeper understanding of what it means to have access to clean water.
If you’ve been curious to see Water1st’s work firsthand, consider joining us on a Water Tour.
Special thanks to our 10th Anniversary Sponsors: