World Water Day: hope from hot springs

Hot springs - Simoi collecting water22 March is World Water Day. Thanks to your support, we have helped thousands of people around the world to have access to clean, safe water. Donate to our Lent Appeal today and the UK Government will match what you give, £1 for £1, enabling us to reach more of the world’s poorest communities.

If you walk up the slope at the edge of Simoi Masiodo’s tiny village, you’re confronted by a startling sight: thick plumes of steam spurt up from the barren ground. Today, thanks to your support, we’re using this steam to transform people’s lives.

On the edge of Kenya’s Rift Valley, hundreds of steam jets emerge from volcanic hot springs, hidden deep beneath the surface. In some places, these remarkable natural phenomena are tourist attractions. But Simoi’s village – a small cluster of mud huts surrounded by scrubland – is a long way off the tourist trail.

The village is extremely remote, and it’s hard to overstate how difficult life used to be for Simoi. For ten years, this was her daily routine: she would leave her village at four in the morning, along with the rest of her family and all their animals. They would trek through thick forest, taking care to avoid hyenas and buffaloes. Finally, at around midday, they would reach the nearest stream, where they would fetch water. Then they would turn around and set off home again.

The sheer difficulty of obtaining water for Maasai communities like this one is reflected in local turns-of-phrase. If someone is happy, they might say:

“I feel like I’ve drunk water straight from the rain.”

The phrase makes perfect sense when you think that, for women like Simoi, fetching water used to take sixteen hours every single day.

“I felt so tired walking all that distance,” says Simoi. “But we thought we had no choice. We couldn’t cook without water, we couldn’t clean ourselves or clean our utensils. Without water, our animals would have died. Without water, our village couldn’t have survived.”

She smiles, and says: “We didn’t realise we could use the steam.” Donate to our Lent Appeal today

Steam harvesting

Thanks to your support, we’ve worked with Duputo-E-Maa, a local community group, to set up a steam harvesting system just fifteen minutes from Simoi’s home. It’s a stunningly simple project that’s having a profound impact on people’s lives.

“The system consists of a brick building with a galvanised iron roof,” explains Joseph Nkanoni from Duputo-E-Maa. “The steam condenses on the ceiling and runs down a pipe into a 2300 litre tank. Half the community collect water in the morning, and then, after more water has trickled down into the tank, the rest come in the afternoon.

“The communities own the systems themselves, and they’re the ones who maintain them. These are people who have been left behind, and they really appreciate the difference that the project is making. It inspires me to work with them and to see them living with pride and dignity.”

Earning a living

Simoi makes excellent use of the time she used to spend fetching water. Today, rather than walking to the stream, Simoi grows crops near her home and makes bead necklaces, which she sells at the local market to help pay her children’s school fees.

“I am very happy to see my children go to school,” she says. “My hope for the future is to do more farming near my home, to see my family being happy and to see my children being educated. I would like them to have good jobs when they’re older, so that they give our family a good name.”

Improved health

She also says that the new system has made a huge difference to her health.

“When we drank water from the stream, we used to get ill,” she says. “There were cases of stomach problems and even cholera. I had cholera myself. I was in a lot of pain. But no-one has been ill since we used the water from the hot springs. My own health has improved. I get more rest, I am no longer exhausted the whole time. I taste this water and feel satisfied.”

The steam harvesting project is one of many innovative water and sanitation programmes we’re running around the world.

Simoi says: “We used to pray: ‘Oh God, release us from this problem with water’. Today, our prayers have been answered. I am thankful to God and thankful to CAFOD supporters as well. God bless you all.”

Donate to our Lent Appeal today and the UK Government will match what you give, £1 for £1, enabling us to reach more of the world’s poorest communities.

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