I know something is “off” the moment we pull into the village of Denyo. Deep in the bush of Wulu County, it takes over half a day to get here by SUV and I’m particularly eager to visit them. There had been some resistance during our earlier site assessment and I need to pay my respects as the Founder and also personally confirm that we are working hard to bring them water.
I’m usually greeted warmly when I arrive at a village, but not this time. Six men sit under a tree and simply stare at me, not moving a muscle. Normally I can soften up anyone, but they are immune to my efforts. Bitterness and mistrust radiate off them.
After some lengthy discussion I discover why: for three years, another organization (one that is established, well-respected and international) has been coming to Denyo offering guarantees of clean water. And for three years, nothing has been done. At this point, the people of Denyo have received only broken promises and, as a result, they have lost all hope.
I try to assure them that we will be different. We will be the organization that keeps our promises. We will restore their faith in humanity. We will help them trust again.
In the end, they tentatively agree to work with us (although I suspect it’s more to get me to leave!). As we say our goodbyes, an elder grabs my hand and beckons me to get a close look at their current water source:
This disgusting roadside mud puddle is the only option for every man, woman and child to drink water. No wonder they’re disheartened. Tears overwhelm me as I try to imagine my own children having to drink this sludge.
The elder tells me, “We are forced to drink this water. Please be the one to change that.”
I stand beside the village elder – a man who has been through so much, who only wants this basic necessity for his people – and I vow that he will have clean water when I next see him. This is the only comfort I take from today.
The STALK scarf is still selling on our website, and when 500 are sold we will be able to drill a well for the people of Denyo, keeping our promise and changing their lives forever. Please consider buying a scarf, spreading the word and being a part of this change.
More stories from the journal.
How a Well is Built
We want our donors to learn about what it takes to build a well.
An Update on Amedichi
Meet the entrepreneurial women of South Sudan.
Meet Stella (and Jennifer)
Stella was completely dependent on her 11-year-old daughter, Jennifer.