Article Written by LPGA Tour Member Amy Anderson
The flight was long, about 16 hours, but it was such a small, small sacrifice in a journey that opened the eyes of a kid who grew up in Oxbow, N.D., with the privilege of playing golf, being educated at a high level ... and drinking clean water without even thinking that clean water was, well, a privilege.
Two weeks ago I had the privilege of going to Africa with three other LPGA players and Hall of Fame member, Betsy King. Betsy’s foundation, “Golf Fore Africa,” is bringing clean water to villages in remote areas of Africa. They have raised almost $4 million since they formed in 2007. As a group we were able to see the impact this has made on villages and individuals. “Water is life” was a phrase we heard over and over. I had no idea how true that was before this trip. Two of the girls, Cheyenne Woods and Kendall Dye, had raised enough money over the last year to each fund a well. Among other things we were able to dedicate Cheyenne’s well, see Kendall’s being dug, and give out backpacks in a local school.
As we pulled up to the villages in our trucks, community members would surround us as they sang and danced to welcome us. Before we could step out of the vehicles they were grabbing our hands and embracing us. Their enthusiasm and joy was contagious and we couldn’t help but join in the celebration. Although we were perfect strangers they were anxious to express their gratitude in any way possible. Their thank you gifts included clay pots, rugs, and mangos. One village even gave us a chicken to take home. At each dedication there was singing, dancing, prayer and speeches.
While at one of the villages a women was thrilled that she would have water within a 15 minute walk from her home. She asked us, “How far do you have to walk from your village to get clean water?” How do you respond when you have more water faucets in your master bathroom than they’ve seen in their life?
In rural Zambia steady progress is being made on the clean water mission. Most of the villages we visited have now had water for almost a year. In order to see what life was like before the well, one village took us to the water hole they had been using for years. It was nearby, but it was the color of a Starbucks cappuccino with a swarm of flies nesting on the surface. I didn’t want to stick my toe in it, much less drink, cook, or bathe with it. Contaminated water leads to disease and death, but even among survivors the rampant sickness prevent kids from going to school and adults from going to work. Both of these issues continue to perpetuate the poverty dilemma. Statistically a child dies every 30 seconds because they don’t have clean water. But statistics are hard for me to wrap my mind around. Faces are different. Faces are hard to forget.
Dr. O (Emmanuel Opong) is one of the staff members I had a chance to spend some time with. He grew up in a rural village in Ghana. Through what he calls “the twists and turns of life” he was able to go to high school, college, and eventually earn his PhD, but he still emphatically refers to himself as “a village boy.” When he was 11 years old, his baby sister died from diarrhea - one of the many diseases caused by contaminated water. Now, as a hydrologist for World Vision, Dr. O is one of the most passionate people I’ve ever met. He told me that whenever he is overwhelmed by the need he sees he always remembers his sister. It’s not about saving the world, it’s about saving one life.
As we went through the villages I couldn’t help but wonder how many “Dr. O’s” I was surrounded by. Village children eating one meal a day, walking miles and miles to go to school, with the determination and intelligence to make a difference. All they need is the opportunity. How does clean water play into this? First of all, with clean water there is less disease. Children are healthier and don’t miss as much school. With more accessible water women can plant gardens and feed their families more nutritious food. When they don’t have to spend the majority of their time gathering water, they have time to start small businesses. With water, the doors of opportunity are finally open. They actually have a chance to change their lives.
One of the reasons that these wells are so successful is that they require total community involvement. World Vision is Golf Fore Africa’s partner on the ground. Prior to receiving a well World Vision educates every village on the fundamentals of hygiene and sanitation. Every single household must install 5 basic stations: pit latrine, hand washing station, bathing station, elevated dish rack, and rubbish pit. Each of these plays a crucial role in eliminating disease. Things as simple as keeping dishes off the ground so animals don’t lick them and spread disease seem like commons sense. But just as we were educated about germs they also need to be educated. Even if they have clean water but don’t understand how disease spreads they will still end up sick. If even one household is missing one of these items they will not receive a well. The peer pressure from the village is very effective if anyone is not fully cooperating.
Along with these five items in every household each community must also provide manpower, bricks, and a small amount of money. Although the majority of the well is funded by charitable donations, this requirement ensures total buy-in from the community. The pride the entire village took in their well was evident during our visit. The women would pump the well while children splashed their faces. They begged us to put our hands in to see how cool and clear this water was. Men in the village are trained how to take apart the entire system and put it back together so if anything breaks they are able to fix it themselves. These additional measures promote the long-term success of the well.
Going into this trip, I anticipated seeing extreme poverty and falling in love with the kids. Both of those were a given. I also anticipated coming home feeling guilty for everything I have. But instead of feeling guilty, I look around and see incredible opportunity. Before this trip I didn’t realize how simple it is to change a life. And by changing a life, I mean CHANGING a life. I think everyone wants to be part of something bigger than themselves. We’ve all experienced the truth that it is more blessed to give than to receive.
The impact this trip had on us inspired the other LPGA girls and myself to set a goal of raising money over the next year for a mechanized well. This will bring clean water to 10,000 people reaching a clinic, shopping market, and school along with numerous households. The total cost will be $50,000, but after seeing the life-altering effect of clean water we are excited to play a part in this mission.
As we celebrate the birth of Jesus this Christmas season I’m reminded of his words. “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink…Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?…The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”