On another day in Tigray, Madison writes about the importance of hearing the stories of the people in the communities served by Water to Thrive water projects, and how those personal stories make the importance of clean, safe water even more clear.

We are about two and a half weeks into our trip now! It seems like time has flown by, but at the same time I think we are all feeling more and more tired from working every day and doing more and more hiking.

We are in Tigray, Ethiopia now, with our partners at REST. As Kendall said yesterday, we have this joke going that “there’s no rest with REST” and so far it’s been true! We have done a good amount of uphill and downhill hiking and it is quite a bit hotter here in Tigray than in other areas we’ve been in.

Sometimes I find myself beginning to complain or wanting to stop hiking and just take a breather, but I am reminded to keep going every time we meet the wonderful and gracious people in the villages we visit. Today we visited two sites and I met the cutest and sweetest kids. We talked to women at the sites who said that they themselves and their children had been sick many times from drinking contaminated water. In fact, one of our guides for today said that he had been sick three separate times with waterborne diseases while he was working in that village.

The diseases that come from drinking dirty water are serious, and sadly many of the people we meet living in these rural areas do not have access to hospitals or clinics. Every 90 seconds in Africa, a child dies of a waterborne illness. When I meet these happy, playful kids it hurts my heart to think that many of them have already been sick and may have become fatally sick without access to clean, safe water.

When I meet parents in the villages I cannot imagine how hard it must be for them to watch their children get sick and not be able to do anything about it. Whenever we visit a site, the warm smiles of the parents who greet us and the laughter of the curious kids who run up to see who we are always makes my heart full.

As soon as we meet the people that Water to Thrive has been directly serving, I am reminded why I am here and what my purpose is for this trip. We have all been trying to focus on learning the stories of the people we meet. We want to know more about them, hear about their hardships, and understand how clean water has changed their lives. It has been inspiring to get to know the people in the communities we serve, and we’re looking forward to sharing their stories with everyone when we get home!