Would you like some water?
On a hot summer day, if someone asked you this question I guarantee your answer would be yes, without another thought. Nothing could ever prepare me for what I experienced today and it will forever force me to rethink the answer to this simple question.
Today was our second day in Haiti and as usual, it started with the very tiring hike up the mountainside to our build site, the school. We were told that we could help today by bringing water to the work site from a local well. LiveDifferent is pretty cool because they really get us involved in the community and do things the way the locals would, so this means that we would be bringing the water up the mountain from the well that is 20 minutes away…on our heads!
I was quite nervous about this because while watching the locals they made it seem a little too easy. While walking down the mountain I kept watching to see if I could pick up any tips. We arrived at the well and there must have been about 50 people there filling up their buckets. Everyone from 5 year olds to grandparents were filling up buckets, placing them on their heads, and walking away as if it were normal to be carrying that amount of weight on their heads. What wasn’t normal was the group of white people who were attempting the same, so of course we drew quite a crowd!
We learned the bucket rarely goes directly on your head, you must have a piece of cloth wrapped in what looks to be a donut between your head and the bucket. If the ‘donut’ wasn’t folded or placed right, you had no hope of taking any step towards your destination. As I stood there waiting, I was laughing and joking with my friends wondering how I was going to do this with a full 5 gallon bucket of water in front of me. As I was attempting to tie my extra shirt into a ‘donut’, a lady about my Mom’s age walked up to me, took it out of my hands and tied it for me. As I thanked her in Creole she placed it on my head and helped me place the bucket properly then she walked off. Later while the group was discussing this, another volunteer said ‘she wasn’t even smiling, this wasn’t funny to her because this is her life.’ She made the trip up the mountain everyday, most likely upwards of 5 times a day, but she was willing to help us. The group of LiveDifferent volunteers stopped a few times on the way up the mountain to catch our breath and she was waiting for us every time with a full bucket still balancing on her head, and she helped us retie our ‘donuts.’
It was only after reaching the top of the mountain, when I could empty out my bucket into the large container that it hit me how privileged we are in developed countries.
In our debriefing that night one of the staff mentioned a quote that states, ‘one of the worst parts of being poor is that it takes up all of your time’ and after experiencing the hike up the mountain today, this quote could not have been more true. Instead of spending time with her family, developing skills or even finding a job, this lady spends the majority of her day getting water. This is something that in Canada, we wouldn’t even give a second thought to. An average 8 minute shower uses 40 gallons, one flush of a toilet uses 2 gallons and that doesn’t even include the water we use for drinking, cooking, cleaning our cars, or watering our gardens. It took me 20 minutes and all my energy to get only 5 gallons and I guarantee the next time I turn on a tap I’ll think differently, will you?
Matt ~ Haiti Hero Holiday volunteer 2013