An impromptu conversation

October 24, 2013

by Karen Dyck, Household Water Program Regional Manager - Africa

Sometimes word that our projects are successful comes from the most unexpected places—like one Samaritan’s Purse staff member’s conversation with two boys about clean water and latrines.

By Karen Dyck, Household Water Program Regional Manager – Africa

Recently, during one of my regular monitoring trips to Africa, some other Samaritan’s Purse staff and I spent an entire week camping in the Mtaa district in southeastern Kenya. We camped right in the community, with our tents next to the local health center.

The experience took me back to my first days in Africa as an intern with Samaritan’s Purse in 2006-2007, when I lived in a village for six months, and where my life was forever transformed.

On this trip too, we decided to stay right in the community instead of in a hotel, which meant that we showered under the stars, cooked on a one-burner gas element, and slept in a tent out in the field. It also gave us the opportunity to walk to the communities until dark in order to see the total impact our projects are making.

After a long day of walking from one community to the next and one household to the next, I decided that I needed some time to myself. I decided to go for a run as soon as we returned to our home base. As I began trekking out on the dusty road, I was promptly joined by two little boys who proceeded to tell me that they would run with me the whole way.

The three of us ran through the village in our matching orange shirts, and I asked them if they knew of Samaritan's Purse. They responded with childlike confidence: “Yes, Samaritan’s Purse brought us those filters that have helped us get healthy!”

“And those water tanks that have helped us have water even when there has been no rain—and the teaching you gave us about latrines,” the other boy filled in the details of his friend’s story.

In a very proud voice he added, “I have [a latrine] myself at my own house. I would never use the bush anymore, even if other people still do.”

They couldn't stop telling me how much they appreciated the filters they were given, the latrines they had now constructed, and the water tanks that were helping them collect water from the heavy rains.

Towards the end of our run, they decided that we now had a ‘run team’ and that we needed a name to distinguish ourselves. I asked them to give us a name, so they called us the Orange Highlanders! What fun and what encouragement to see these young boys taking hold of the healthy behaviors we have been advocating in their communities!

Our impromptu conversation while meandering through the community on that sole dirt road demonstrated to me that lasting behavior change is truly taking place in this area.

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