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Getting Clean Water

mwitikira4.jpgWithout clean, accessible water, people in the village die.  Most vulnerable are young children and pregnant women.  Powdered nutritional supplements available through the health clinic literally do more harm than good if they are mixed with dirty water.  When the village borehole is inoperable, the people must depend on surface wells (often polluted with animal wastes) or other shallow wells.  Even when the borehole operates, if there are few distribution points, villagers (mainly girls and women) must walk very long distances carrying 5-gallon buckets and waiting in long lines to get water.  The lack of accessible water often means that girls cannot attend school regularly because they must haul water for their family.  Therefore, the water projects, led by Roger Whitfield, have been life-saving and life-changing for the people of Mwitikira.

“Without our help the village would not be able to afford a water system.  If a village is going to make any progress, it needs to have reliable water.  The situation is similar to what rural electrification was able to do in the United States.  If a village has water, the people can go to school and start businesses.”—Roger Whitfield, St. Paul’s parishioner

In 2009 Roger, a retired engineer, returned to Mwitikira for the first round of work on the water system.  He oversaw the installation of a new pump and engine, and in the following year the expansion of the water distribution system from 6 to 12 distribution points, or outdoor faucets.  This work by Roger and many villagers established a plentiful, clean water source and greatly improved accessibility, no longer necessitating very long walks hauling water from the very spread out villagers.  An important part of improving the water system, was changing the management of the water committee which had been in the hands of a few people without transparent financial accountability to the village or proper maintenance of the equipment.  Again working with Father Erasto, Roger helped the village reorganize the water committee with the result that income from the water (villagers must pay a small amount for the water at the faucets) was publicly accounted for and used for better care and supervision of the system.

img_273.jpegIn 2011, a catastrophic problem occurred with the borehole, rendering the existing borehole and pump unusable. The end result was that the pump and pipes were lost and a new borehole had to be drilled.  Roger supervised the new borehole and installation of new equipment.  However, repeated problems with the Dodoma contractor have resulted in an undependable system that frequently breaks down.  In fall 2014 Roger will make yet another trip to Mwitikira to supervise the installation of what he expects to be a more dependable system (working with a different supplier and contractor).

“Our relationship with the village is the most important thing.  Our Global Mission work has enabled me to see something outside of self, to see the way some other people live and to appreciate their ability to accept hardship and their resiliency and faith.  They do not dwell on what they do not have.  They are willing to put themselves in God’s hands.  Their faith is stronger than ours. 

People may ask, ‘Why do you need to go outside of the country?’ My response is when, where do you feel called?  Where can you make a difference?  You need to feel good about whatever you do.  For me, it feels right:  that I’m able to do this, that I was educated, and that I can do it.  I’m grateful to St. Paul’s and the backing of our community.  I guess sometimes you have to put yourself out there.”—Roger Whitfield

In recognition of his faithful work in improving the availability of water in Mwitikira and elsewhere in DCT, in 2011 Roger received the prestigious Lettie Pate Whitehead Evans Award from the Virginia Episcopal Seminary.  Link:  The Lettie Pate Whitehead Evans award is given annually to an Episcopal layperson who has given leadership and unique witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ within his or her congregation, community, diocese, and in the world over a significant period of time.  Additionally the nominee must be someone who has exhibited, in a volunteer capacity, outstanding personal initiative in creating and providing leadership for a new ministry outside their parish.