Rwanda: Clean water clears Fiona’s path to school

Fiona’s long trek to get water meant she was often late for school — and punished as a result. A new borehole in her community changed that.

By Lauren Fisher, World Vision U.S.
Published September 6, 2013 at 07:30am PDT

Fiona Mukundwa is the last person you would think of as a troublemaker. She is quiet, reserved, and a bit self-consciousness, like most 14-year-old girls.

She also has been punished by her teacher more times than she can count.

Sacrificing school for water

“Sometimes they will punish us in school because we are late,” Fiona says.

Fiona wasn’t sleeping in, or having a battle of wills with her parents. For her, the problem was a small swamp and the rocky, steep, three-mile trail that leads there. A puddle of dirty water only a few feet wide was an impassable barrier between Fiona and her education.

“From home to our water source it would take us 30 minutes, then 30 minutes going back. Plus we would also need time to prepare ourselves to bathe and get ready for school. So in total we would lose a whole hour,” she says.

Not just for drinking

Fiona’s water walk is a path with jutting rocks and deep ruts. Drive there by car and you bounce one way, then another, your teeth chattering together as you descend.

Walk a bit of the road, and it seems like the perfect place to turn an ankle. Fiona used to take the treacherous walk every morning.

As you get closer, you can hear the hum of flies, and you see Fiona’s water source is a small muddy pit, surrounded by bushes covered with brightly colored clothes scattered out to dry.

This isn’t just water for people to drink; it’s all this community has for cooking, bathing, and cleaning clothes. Animals need their share as well. They leave their evidence behind, and it draws flies.

Children line the water’s edge, scrubbing their clothes in water that’s opaque with dirt. Fiona wades in, the mud squishing between her sandals. She has to clean up once she’s done, adding a few minutes’ delay and making it more likely she’ll be late for the bell.

Dirty water is better than none

The routine seemed endless: The walk, the mud, and the return climb. The diarrhea her little brothers and sisters got, sometimes within hours of drinking.

Fiona and her mother had no other option for survival. Even dirty water is better than none.

“I always knew that sending them to fetch water would get them late for school, but I had no choice. I had to always do that knowing that they would still be late,” Fiona’s mother says.

A healthy, new way of living

Everything changed when World Vision installed a water system in Fiona’s town in eastern Rwanda.

It’s part of an effort by World Vision to increase access to clean water around the world. World Vision is bringing clean water to one new person every 30 seconds.

Like Fiona, their lives are being changed. Her new water walk takes just a few minutes. She turns on a faucet — and there is clean, clear water.

With a dedication ceremony and dancing, her town celebrated what the water means to them.

For Fiona, it means the chance to arrive at school on time and not worn out from a long walk.

Now, instead of just making it through the day, Fiona has the chance to dream.

Learn more

World Vision’s Campaign for Every Child is a bold new initiative dedicated to raising $500 million by October 2015 to save the lives of 10 million people. As part of the campaign, World Vision is working to transform the lives of 6 million children and their families by providing access to clean water, sanitation, and hygiene.

Three ways you can help

Praise God for the improved access to clean water for families in Rwanda. Pray that similar stories would take root elsewhere in Rwanda and around the world where safe, life-giving water is out of reach.

Join the Flash Flood for Good. Make a $10 donation and leverage your social media accounts — along with celebrities like Morgan Freeman and Jeff Bridges — to encourage friends and family to donate too. Launching at the Clinton Global Initiative annual meeting, the 72-hour campaign will raise money for World Vision to provide clean water for children.

Make a one-time donation to World Vision’s Clean Water Fund or give monthly to our Clean Water Fund. Your gift will help provide children and families in poverty with access to clean water through interventions like deep wells, water storage containers, piping systems, purification equipment, latrines and hand-washing stations, and more.