Ethiopia Lesson: ‘Water is Life’

Ethiopia ingera

Jennifer Dyer and Kathryn Buckley-Brawner with a group of children check out a water station in Ejaneni, Ethiopia. Photo courtesy Bill Scholl

In early September, a delegation of diocesan leaders from across the United States visited Ethiopia and Tanzania to get a first-hand look at CRS work. The following is a reflection by Kathryn Buckley-Brawner,CRS diocesan director, Office of Peace & Justice, diocese of Springfield, MA.

The time for our Catholic Relief Services group experience in Ethiopia and Tanzania flew by with each moment filled with information and sensation overload. Beautiful countries, incredible people, openness to relationship, and excited hopefulness in the face of everyday struggles typified the experience.

During several of our outings, the Tanzanian in-country CRS personnel would remark “Maji ni Uhai” — “Water is Life”. This phrase, for me, underscored what we witnessed. I think that most of us intuitively know that water is life. But for most of us, we do not live, daily, the meaning of that phrase. Our access to sufficient clean water is not a challenge.

As we travelled though Ethiopia and Tanzania we better understood how access to water, sanitation and hygiene, proper water and land resource management, social and economic networking, and strong, respectful partnerships with groups like Catholic Relief Services are integral to the development of a community and a people. Water is life, but we also came to understand that in this region of the world, life is water.

Whether it was the people of the village of Kersa in Ethiopia or the Maasai in Tanzania, the time and energy to get sufficient water, or coping with the effects of inadequate sources of water, and lack of sanitation consumes the greater part of daily life.

The water projects supported by Catholic Relief Services, in partnership with the local dioceses, governments and other NGO’s, recognize that the acquisition and proper management of this resource are integrally tied to many of the challenges faced by the people of developing Africa; from food insecurity, to illiteracy, to disease, to land degradation.

In Ethiopia and Tanzania we shared the excitement of our local partners as we witnessed the beginnings of sustainable positive progress for villages through these joint water projects. It is an on-going effort, as the projects take root and must continually expand to include more communities. The life and health of the individuals and communities depends on it Their economic viability and developmental plans are contingent upon it. The literacy rate among the children is impacted by it. And the hopes of a people spring from it.

What an enormous gift to have witnessed all of this and to have joined hand and heart with our global partners in solidarity.

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