This is from my buddy Mike Hamilton, former Athletic Director at the University of Tennessee, now President of Blood: Water Mission operations in the United States.
A few weeks ago I wrote a blog for Blood:Water Mission to bring attention to a significant need in Northern Kenya. Water is life and folks in Northern Kenya are in a desperate search for water daily…daily. I hope you will read about the need and will join us in this fight at www.bloodwatermission.com/giveadam.
I distinctly remember the crunchy crust of dried silt under my feet, the decaying carcass of a dead baby goat, the whipping hot wind and the feel of desperation as I surveyed the empty reservoir.
I asked the question of where the water is and when it comes, will this silt simply become mud and ultimately limit the amount of water available for use? Why was no one excavating the silt to prevent that? Where were the animals getting their water? Where were the people getting their water? Where is life here and what does the future hold?
These, among others were the thoughts and questions as I led a group of friends, Blood:Water Mission staff and board members and an ABC television crew from the US into this vast desert in Northern Kenya in January, 2011.
What I learned was that this area was in the 15th month of what would ultimately be a 25 month drought. The drought would bring worldwide attention to neighboring Somalia but not so much to this region of Kenya. In fact, as I shared with new acquaintances in Nairobi of our trip to Torbi and the Marsabit region, I received quizzical looks and questions like “Why would you go there, Kenyans don’t even go there?”
This is an arid region with approximately 160,000 nomadic residents located across thousands of miles of rocky, desert soil. There is little to no vegetation. The primary food source consists of a mixture of camel blood and camel milk with the occasional dried meat from a dead animal. Life is hard here. The people of Torbi are proud pastoralists. They have for years lived in this area and value their heritage, their animals and their families. As with every area of the world, water is life- but perhaps even more so here. When your animals are your livelihood and represent your total net worth they must have water. When you personally have such scarce access to food, you must have water. I met people who traveled 6 miles for water and people who traveled 35 miles for water…..35 miles for water.
There is hope. The rains came. As I returned this summer to Torbi, we were met at the landing strip by a large group of men. These same men were not present a year ago as they were gone from the village in a desperate search for water for their livestock and their families. We visited rain tanks installed by Blood:Water Mission and our partners that were used to store water provided by the Kenyan government during the drought.They are now full from the rain. We visited boreholes provided by Blood:Water as well that will eventually provide additional help when funding for more infrastructure is complete. And finally, we visited the dam. Water is in the reservoir. The water is non-potable. However, locals bring their animals and when they do- they also bring yellow jerricans for filling for their own consumption as well. Groups of animals are queued up out into the desert waiting their turn. There is a system and order and hope.
What’s next? The needs for human consumption remain real. So, this year Blood:Water Mission will work with our local partners and build a dam….for $75,000. That’s not much when you consider that 3000 residents of the region will now have a clean, reliable source for drinking water. And when you have that, you avoid disease and diarrhea. You have sustenance, you have life.
We need your help. Will you help us build this dam? Will you give a dam?