This family was at the communal well in the Prefecture of Ruhengeri In Northern Rwanda.
The well was where all the people from several kilometers around would walk to – to fill up their yellow jerry cans with water.
This water station was built by/provided by the government. We learned later from our Guides that 20% of the cost to visit the Mountain Gorillas is turned back to the community, mostly for creating infrastructure. Basically, this water station is a roofed brick structure, open at the sides. In the front were 3 spigots, which people would use to file their containers with water.
These water stations are way better than using the water from local streams. When I saw children filling up their water cans from the brown stream, I would cringe. I am not saying the water was polluted; it’s just the ground in this areas is volcanic soil and very fertile and must be boiled before drinking. I also saw someone urinating into that same stream a little higher up the hill where kids were filling their buckets.
Back to the well
Walking to the well to get water is a daily activity. This could easily take an hour each way. It is an integral, absolutely imperative part of the day. These villagers have no other source of water for drinking, cooking or bathing.
It is also a busy social spot, mostly populated by children under 7 who stand there and wave to visitors. They smile and wave. They are enjoying the daily parade of vehicles and people that stop at their well, which is the beginning of the trailhead to the territory of one of the families of Gorillas, the Hirwa Group. Ed & I were assigned to this family for our second Gorilla Trek.
More about that later.
I asked this woman (mostly with gestures) if it would be OK to take her picture. She smiled and gestured that it would be OK. Then I showed them the picture and they clapped and laughed. We all smiled at each other. It was a beautiful day.
Our guide insisted that we do not hand out money or candy. They do not want to encourage any form of begging. That is not their way. These are people who do physical labor every day, just to survive. And they do it with dignity.
Why was I inspired by the activity at The Well? I’ve involved with the Water Quality industry for 35+ years. As an active author in the industry, I’ve always focused on the people who need quality water. Certainly, this was way beyond that. In Rwanda, I saw how people live without running water or electricity.
Other than this well, these villagers would have no access to clean water at all.