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Before and After: The Difference a Water Filter Makes

One of life’s simple pleasures is enjoying a cool, refreshing glass of water on a hot summer day. In Kenya, where 13-year-old Miriam lives, there is no shortage of hot days, but the fresh water is much harder to come by. But with the gift of a household water filter, Miriam can also enjoy safe drinking water, any time she wants... and what a difference that makes in her life! Before receiving a water filter, this is what 13-year-old Miriam’s day looked like: Every morning, it’s Miriam’s job to go buy water for the family. Her small community has no fresh water source nearby. Instead, water is trucked in by a water vendor each day. Miriam carries her two empty jerry cans to the vendors each morning, and pays to have them filled. Normally, it costs about 5 cents for 20 liters of water, but during frequent water shortages the cost can skyrocket. Worst of all, there is no way for Miriam to tell if the water she is buying is clean. There’s no telling where the vendor filled his truck. Was it at a lake? A contaminated pond? A scummy well? Even if she knew where it came from, she wouldn’t have a choice. Her family needs water, and this is the only place to get it. Knowing the water could very well be contaminated, the majority of Miriam’s day is spent foraging for fuel, so that they can boil their water and make it safe to drink. On her way to and from school and Life Center she is constantly on the lookout for sticks, grasses, or anything flammable. But so is everyone else. The common paths have already been well picked over. So after school, Miriam spends most of the afternoon wandering further afield, looking for any material she can burn. When she can’t find enough fuel, they have no choice but to drink the water as is. Drinking the water unboiled is an unwinnable gamble - will it be a stomachache this time? A bout of diarrhea? Maybe giardia or some other parasite? Or something even more dangerous like typhoid or cholera? Miriam and her whole family suffer frequently from various waterborne diseases. When she’s ill, Miriam often spends days in bed, missing both school and discipleship at her Life Center, too weak to do anything at all. When it gets really bad her family takes her to a nearby clinic, paying for medical care they can’t afford just so she can survive. When she recovers, the cycle starts all over again. But after she received a water filter, Miriam’s the cycle of dirty water was broken forever! Here is what Miriam’s day looks like now: Every morning, Miriam still goes to buy water from the vendor. But she walks more quickly now, not pausing to search for fuel. Instead, when she gets home she simply pours some in the new filter and waits for it to trickle down so she can get a big drink of fresh, clean water! Well hydrated and relaxed, she heads to school or her Life Center. On the way, she can now joke, laugh and play with her friends, freed from the worry of searching for fuel. At school, Miriam thrives in class. She is no longer missing long stretches due to illness, and she can actually finish her homework now that all her spare time isn’t spent searching for fuel. As she progresses in school, she has more time to focus on her future. She dreams of being an architect some day. Maybe she could build her family a big, beautiful new home so the six of them no longer have to crowd into two rooms. When she gets home from class she pauses for a drink of water, and to refill the filter, marveling at how simple it is to get fresh, safe drinking water - right in her own home. After that she’s off for a busy afternoon. She can finish her homework, and help with chores, her favorite of which is taking care of the family chickens. And even after all that she still has time leftover to play with her friends. In the evening she helps her mom cook dinner. With much of the expensive charcoal removed from their budget, they can now afford a more varied diet. They can even buy meat sometimes, a treat that was nearly unheard of before. With improved nutrition, Miriam is growing stronger and healthier by the day. As she goes to sleep each night, Miriam smiles happily, full and well hydrated. All day, she has enjoyed drinking water that she is confident won’t make her sick. And she knows the same will be true tomorrow, too! What a difference a simple water filter makes!

Written by:
Caitlin Sakuma

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