Director of GAiN UK, Frikkie Greyling, spent 10 days in Benin experiencing the Water For Life Initiative. The team saw each stage of a well’s development by going to different villages and got to help with building the concrete base for a well. Emma spoke with Frikkie about his time.
Can you tell us about the villages you visited?
We went to the water sources in each village, walking along the roads that the women and girls take. It’s like a jungle; a little path with bushes and leaves all around you. We travelled for fifteen minutes without carrying anything, but they are so strong and take huge buckets of water on their heads.
The streams are dry, but they dig holes in the beds for water to pool into, some as deep as 10 metres. We heard of accidents where women have fallen in and drowned. The water is stagnant and full of tadpoles with other animals walking and doing their business.
We visited one of the rigs drilling a hole. We saw the expectation of the people standing around and watching the machine working – there’s the anticipation building of “when are they going to hit water?”
When the hole has been drilled, they flush it with air pressure to get all the debris out. At one village they flushed the well and the water spat out four meters high. The women came and put their buckets all around the hole and the water fell from above dropping into them. At first it was cloudy and brown until the fine sand fell to the bottom leaving the top crystal clear.
I watched them as they saw the first buckets of clear water and I could see their lives change in front of me. It’s a long-term, life-altering transformation!
How has the trip impacted you?
I had seen pictures and thought I understood but to be there and to see it, to smell the dirty water… we talk about water poverty but to experience it moves something inside of you.
I asked one man what clean water means, and he said:
It’s life. If you don’t have water, you’ll die. We have a choice: we can drink the dirty water and live for years and be ill, or we could not drink the water and die within days. So, there’s no choice really.
It struck me that it’s so easy for us to open a tap in our homes.
Seeing the thankfulness of the people challenged me to be satisfied with what I have. Sometimes we get very discontented with our lives.
How can people in the UK be involved?
GAiN is about getting people involved. We want people to have the opportunity to be a part of this life-changing work by giving money, going to see the impact in-country, and bringing back that experience to influence others and see water poverty ended and human flourishing restored.
You can read more about GAiN’s Water For Life Initiative on our website at globalaidnetwork.org.uk/water-for-life