MARYSTOWN, NL — In an effort to raise awareness about the struggles faced by women in Kenya just to provide water for the homes, Marystown Central High School teacher Jackie Peach organized a water walk.
The event, held May 10, had students in the Helping Hands group, as well as teachers and parents walk from the school to a nearby pond and fill up containers with water and walk them back to the school.
Peach said the event aimed to simulate what the women and young women go through to get something that for people in the developed world is as easy as turning on a facet.
“We have done a couple of trips taking students to Kenya and Tanzania over the past few years and we saw first-hand the mommas doing the walk,” she explained. “We carried the water and walked where they walked and it’s an eye-opening experience.”
Peach, who is the teacher facilitator for the helping hands group, said they have been working together after school on a number of projects, and when the opportunity came up to take part in the water walk, she had their full support.
“We had decided early on in the year that we were going to host a water well in a community in Kenya,” she explained. “It costs about $5,000, so we’ve been doing little fundraisers through the year.”
The group has collect approximately $1,500 dollar and she hopes that when school resumes in September they can continue to build on that amount.
Peach said that the distance travelled by the women of the communities can vary, depending on the nearest source of water, “some women might walk 5 minutes and some ladies could walk an hour to (the water source) and back, and they do that three or four times a day.”
She said that the role of collecting water is viewed as women’s work, and when young girls turn a certain age they must join in to help.
“The girls can’t go to school because they have to bring water, so by putting a water well in a community next to a school that allows the girls to go to school and lunch times they’ll bring home water- after school they can bring home water.”
Peach said that as the students were filling up their containers from the pond, some commented on the colour of the water, calling it gross.
“What you have over there is even worse,” she explained. Peach added that during one visit she made to Kenya during the water walk, animals could be seen defecating in the water as the women were filling their containers.
She remarked that after returning from her first trip to the region, she felt guilty, “because we have it so easy, you just turn on your tap,” she said.
“I spoke about it before we left Kenya with one of the supervisors and her comment to me was, ‘We can’t help where we’re born, and they can’t help where they’re born, but everybody can do something to improve their situation and improve situations around the world.”
Something to think about
Samantha Allen, a level III student at MCHS, felt the event was a good way to raise community awareness about what happens in places like Kenya.
“This is only a small tidbit of what they go through every day,” she said. “This just kind of gives you a little bit of insight to what they’re doing.”
She said that by taking part and experiencing what it was like just walking a short distance with the water, “(we) don’t have to walk for anything around here and then even just after that little bit your (tempted) to give up.”
Allen said it made her appreciate the conveniences of her own life.
“You take a half hour shower, you use it without even thinking,” she said.
“You don’t realize how much water you need to use in a day.”
Level II student Ashley May said she did it to get a better understanding of what it is women in Kenya go through.
“I just think it is amazing that they can walk so far.”
May explained that she carried the bucket in the style that women from Kenya would, by attaching a rope to the bucket and tying it to her head, as a means to help take the weight off her arms.
Sarah Hodder, who also took part in the walk, said she felt it was a good way to raise awareness.
The pair were joined in walk by Melanie Lundrigan, who also made t-shirts for the event to help let people know what cause they were supporting.
“When you see a bunch of people walking down the road, (passerby’s) usually don’t know what it is for,” she explained. “But we’ve got all the signs, and I figured the t-shirts were another way to show what we’re walking for.”