The Malta Independent 22 May 2018, Tuesday

FIRST: Not taking 10c for granted

First Magazine Wednesday, 14 February 2018, 11:23 Last update: about 4 months ago

Alexandra Manche, one of the 11th Kilimanjaro team members who has just arrived back in Malta, was struck by what she found in their week-long trip to Ethiopia, the team’s final, charitable stop before returning home.

The six of us gazed at the three, large, open barrels of water.  One looked new, the water clean. The other two were rusty and the water had an oily film on the surface. We had just been instructed to wash with the clean water. The other, dirty water was to be used for flushing.  It was 8pm and we were tired from a day of traveling. 

"So," one of us finally broke the silence, "how are we going to use the dirty water? We're going to have to touch it." The same thoughts were going through all our heads; Is the water safe to touch? What exactly is in the barrel? Would we get a rash from touching it - or worse? Silence. But logically there was only one choice.

"I think we should only use the clean water - we can flush with that too, I'm not touching the others." Yeah, sure, except we would have run out before the week was up.  How would we explain to the nuns that we had run out of clean water while they were living through a drought?

"No, it should be fine - if we dip the bucket in the dirty water without dunking it completely..." I stretched my hand to reach for one of the three buckets that stood next to the barrels. Around me everyone started to voice their panic.

"Now the bucket's dirty!" "You're going to get the water everywhere" "You're touching it!" "Don't!!!"

Thinking back we could not have sounded more spoilt.  That night some of us braved the showering situation. We filled a bucket and used an empty litre bottle to wet ourselves faster with the freezing cold water- the others decided to go without showering because it just seemed simpler.

The next morning we all met at the main convent building. Rest and natural daylight made the situation look less bleak so we got ready to go walkabout in the main village; village being somewhat of a misnomer, where you would picture roads, there were dirt paths, for example. The buildings were constructed from a wooden sub structure covered with a layer of mud. Their ceilings were corrugated metal sheeting.  One of the homes we went into was surreally lined with physics notes - to decrease humidity. A far cry from what you would imagine people call home in this day and age.

Whilst we had water provided to us in barrels, the villagers had to walk for two hours to collect some. Toilets were another foreign concept.

I would be lying if I said I was shocked to see people living in such conditions. By that point it had become expected. As we walked from home to home we spoke to the locals and asked if they needed help - either monetary or otherwise.  Sister Bercken was our translator. We asked how much money they would need to solve small, daily problems.  Instead of handing over money to buy food we asked the nuns to help us buy chickens for the families -two chickens and a rooster would cost around 600 BUR (€20) which would amount to approximately two months' salary in their world. Can you imagine living on €20 for two months? At one point we asked how much eggs would cost if we were to buy them from a shop:  one Bur per egg or 10 euro cents.

No one commented about the dirty water or the cold showers for the rest of the week - except to say that 'it wasn't that bad'. We made sure that no eggs were cooked and left un-eaten.

When the week ended, on the way back home, somewhere in the clouds over Egypt the whole gang started voicing their concerns. Some felt sad, others angry, yet the general opinion was that, evidently, we weren't going to be able to leave behind the charitable aspect of our adventure.

We started thinking about the monetary amounts that would make an incredible difference in the lives of the people we had visited. The idea of a team materialised - 1000 people each contributing to raise fund; annually.  1000Team would be a platform where stories are shared, the lives of these people would be played out together with the sums that would help them; giving individuals the possibility of either joining the team outright; contributing the annual 'fee' or sponsoring a smaller amount  to make a big difference; buying chickens for a family. 

For more information on the project, visit:  www.1000team.org


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