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Wednesday for Water!

11 September 2013

I’m turning 30 in a couple of days, and we’ve been talking about saving lives in India.

(If you don’t care about nostalgia and just want to jump right to saving lives and creating social equality, you do that here.)

All this talk of India has made me nostalgic. Some pictures and some memories:

India 1

A group of children in a village in Andhra Pradesh, 2007

I can’t believe it’s been six years since I was there. It makes my heart ache. What has happened to those children in the last six years? Some of those girls are married now, some may have children of their own. I hope they’re all well.

India 4.jpg

A child’s sandals waiting outside a small church building

India is magical.

There are people everywhere.

Every. Where.

It’s polite to honk your horn in traffic so that people around you know where you are. Except that everyone is always honking, so I’m not sure how that works. Almost every truck has, ‘Please sound horn,’ painted on the back. Bicycles and motorcycles carry entire families. Rickshaws are everywhere. Buses are packed full and people hang off the sides. People and cattle line the sides of the streets. It’s madness.

Driving home from the airport after our first visit, our whole group was creeped out by the silence. It was July, and we drove through whole neighborhoods and towns in Illinois without seeing a single person.

Carpet is expensive, but marble is local, so every building with a floor has marble tiles. The contrast is stunning.

The women are exquisite. Their saris and kameez are almost always brightly colored, sometimes embroidered with metallic thread, and somehow untainted by the dirt and dust that surrounds them. I seriously don’t know how they do it.

Children performing a traditional dance in church

Children performing a traditional dance in church

The people are amazing. They are strong, and they are hard-working, which is probably what makes them so confident and practical. They’re humble, and very reserved, but it definitely comes from a place of wisdom, rather than fear. They speak their minds, but they listen as well.

The first year we worked to raise support to fund our trip, we got push-back from some people who didn’t think it was right to go across the world to, “change people’s religions.” I worried about that perception, because there is an element of respect-bordering-on-reverence for the Americans who came half-way around the world. That concern was quickly squashed and forgotten, though.

An elderly woman in a traditional sari, closing up shop

An elderly woman in a traditional sari, closing up shop

Having those same conversations at home as we prepared to return to India the following year, I heard that argument again and was insulted by it.

I love these people. They are not primitive, easily-swayed simpletons who will blindly do our bidding because we’re Americans. They’re not stupid. They ask questions. They weigh arguments and evidence. They seek and they find. They’re humble people, but they’re strong people.

India 3

I talked with this woman for a good while one day. She didn’t know how old she was. I don’t think she knew her lens was missing. I asked if she would smile for a picture, and I’m honored to think I probably have the only photograph of her.

I wasn’t really aware of the global water crisis in 2006 and 2007. I think most of the villages we visited had wells. I know we sponsored a dig in one village that did not.

But I didn’t know just how bad it is, or all the implications of not having access to safe, clean water, so I wasn’t really on the look-out. We brought our water to the villages in bottles, because we weren’t allowed to drink the water anywhere in India.

Toilets at a truck stop

Toilets at a truck stop

One of the girls on our team did drink the water, on accident, and spent two nights in Indian hospitals (with yours truly). Diarrhea and vomiting quickly lead to dehydration.

The water she drank was fine for the Indian people on our team, whose stomachs were used to the local bacteria, but it was scary how quickly one thing led to another. One morning she wasn’t feeling well. That afternoon she was nauseous and weak, and the next day we were driving her to the nearest city to a hospital that actually had three whole IVs of clean water for her.

Diagnosis, transportation, and money weren’t even issues for us, but by the time we got where we needed to be, the nurses had a hard time getting a needle in any of her veins because they kept collapsing (due to the dehydration).

What is a poor mother with a sick baby – and other children to care for – in a village supposed to do? What choices does she have?

India 2

This guy followed me around all day. I considered how I could smuggle him home. I gave him a toy car when we left, and I’m sure he still has it.

People all over the world need safe, clean water for so many reasons. Charity:Water has chosen India as the focus for this year’s September Campaign, and I love it.

I love these people, and I love these faces.

Charity:Water is not a Christian organization, so if you are not a Christian and you don’t want to support changing other people’s religions – don’t worry about it. This isn’t a scheme where they dig wells and then only let people drink once they’ve listened to the Jesus story.

This is just about water.

Which means this is also about security for women, education for children, lower infant mortality rates, steadier income for families, and social equality in a part of the world where the illegal caste system still rules societies. 

It’s hardly about my birthday, but if it helps to use that as an excuse, I will. I’m looking for 30 gifts of $30 for my 30th birthday. That will give two families showers and two taps in each of their homes.

You can change the world here.

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