I remember when I was around 14 my parents purchased a water cooler. It was the stand up kind, a slight cream color, with one blue button that dispensed cold water from one of those 5-gallon jugs inverted and placed in the top. Sure we had tap water, but growing up in Florida we occasionally got a slight sulfur taste. And besides, it didn’t come out of the tap cold. This new water cooler gave us clean, clear, cold water anytime we wanted. The company even delivered the 5 gallon jugs to our door. My parents still have that water cooler in their kitchen today.
It wasn’t until I grew up some that I learned to appreciate my life as an American. In no way do I fault my parents – they were only living according to their culture – but I began to understand as I matured how I was actually in a privileged minority with the things I had. Yet I don’t think I truly grasped the importance of water and how lucky I am until I came to Haiti.
Myself and two other guys made the trip specifically to produce a fundraising and awareness video about the Haiti Water Project. We had the opportunity to travel to a number of locations to see how people currently get water. Perhaps the most impactful was a small community high in the mountains. We went to the community farm and interviewed the farmer, who then offered to show us where they get water. We walked forever straight down a steep path, slippery, muddy mountain path to a muddy stream. Off to one side of the stream is a small spring that provided their only source of clean water (other than rain). They had to fill up a small bottle and then empty that into a larger jug, then repeat until the jug was full. Once they had a full jug or two of water, they climbed back up that same, steep, muddy path. For this American, that climb out about did me in. I can’t imagine doing that once or twice a day with a water jug. Yet for Haitians on that mountain, it’s survival.
We also were lucky enough to see the other side, how communities that have water resources can thrive. These wells are always in use, with people of all ages using the water for bathing, washing clothes, cooking, and most importantly – drinking. We saw kids having fun splashing around the well. We saw bucket after bucket being filled and hauled away by smiling faces, thankful for such a simple yet precious resource. It gives them time. It gives them money. It gives them
health. But ultimately, it gives them freedom to expand their lives past fighting for survival.
That water cooler back in middle school didn’t change my life – it just made convenient water even more convenient. But wells and cisterns do change lives. They give water. They give life. I may have known for a long time that water is essential to life, but it wasn’t until a trip to Haiti that I learned what that really meant.
David lives in Nashville, TN and works in Communications at Trevecca Nazarene University. He likes rock songs with harmonic interludes, Calvin and Hobbes, and sweet tea. He does not like country music.