In celebration of our 10th Anniversary, we will be sending you a “then and now” story once a month through the end of the year, highlighting the changes that the Water1st community has made possible around the world. We hope you enjoy this look at the impact you’ve had these past 10 years.

Mari Tuji—then and now

Mari Tuji is from Kelecho Gerbi in Oromia, Ethiopia – a rural subsistence farming community. In this region, 90% of the people do not have access to clean water and 93% do not have a simple toilet. 50% of the women here are illiterate. Carrying water multiple times a day prevents girls from attending school, perpetuating a cycle of illiteracy among women. Mari and her community completed their water project in 2012.

We first met Mari Tuji at a Kelecho Gerbi community meeting. Hundreds gathered in an open field, lined with yellow ‘jerry cans’ (water containers), to share with us their problems with water. Mari (pictured below in the yellow scarf) spoke on behalf of the women in her community. She was one of many women and girls who gathered to collect water at the traditional water source, a dirty stream. She struggled to provide for her family and water was central to that struggle.

Mari shares her ‘before the water project’ story – watch video here.

She told us her life was “miserable.” She spent 4 hours every day fetching water from a dirty stream.


And her children were often sick. She spoke of the burden of purchasing medicines to treat her children’s diarrhea caused by dirty water, borrowing money from neighbors and selling their only oxen to pay the bills…driving her deeper into extreme poverty. “The medicine makes my children better, but the water is still dirty. I know they will just get sick again.”


Thanks to Water1st supporters, in 2011 our Ethiopian partner began construction of a water project for Mari’s community. Six miles of pipeline were trenched and installed by community members themselves. The pipe distributes clean water to 9 different water collection stations throughout the community, making it easy for villagers to access. In 2012, the water system was completed and Mari and her community received clean water from a tap for the first time.


Life is “The Best”

On a recent visit to Ethiopia, we sought Mari out to see how she was doing.

“My feeling on the day the water project was finished was really more than words can express,” said Mari. “I felt like I was born again. Especially when I saw how happy the others were. We were all ecstatic.”
We watched Mari collect water at a public water point close to her home, paying the equivalent of 2 cents (US) for 5 gallons of crystal clear groundwater. “(The fee) is affordable for us,” she said. “This money goes toward maintaining the water system. It is a payment that benefits all of us.” Mari had been elected to serve on the community water committee and play a central role in keeping the project functioning.


With convenient access to clean water, Mari said they now wear clean clothes and live in a clean home, and above all, are raising healthy children. Her new baby hasn’t made a trip to the clinic for treatment of diarrhea even once. Having water supplies close to every home makes it easy for people to use more water, particularly for one of the most cost-effective, preventive medicines known to humankind: hand-washing.

Mari shares her ‘after the water project’ story – watch video here.


And they are able to save money. Money that they previously spent on medicine and trips to the clinic is being redirected to other needs—the family was able to purchase two new oxen to help with plowing. These important benefits add up and help people move on a path out of extreme poverty.


Mari said her youngest child is here because of the water project. After the water project was completed, she said she felt it was safe to have another baby. She named her daughter, Challa—literally translated as “The Best.” Mari told us that life is ‘the best’ now that they have the water project.


Thank you for making life better for Mari Tuji and thousands of other families.

Mari’s before story – watch video here
Mari’s after story – watch video here

Special thanks to our 10th Anniversary Sponsors:

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