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La Chica and World Water Day

March 22, 2016

Tracey with chairwoman copy

La Chica often wears her Testigo tshirt displaying ‘water is life’ on the back. A truism if ever there was. But how often do we reflect on what this really means, especially when we’re used to having a constant flow of water at the ‘drop’ of a hat. What about for those people who don’t take having water for granted because they don’t have a source of running water in their house, or even nearby? La Chica has been involved with the Masai community in Tanzania for over 11 years. Traditionally, the Masai are nomadic pastoralists, walking with their livestock to water sources and pasture land. Those Masai who aren’t tending to their livestock are now living in permanent mud hut abodes in villages which usually have water challenges. This means having to go to available water sources and filling 20 litre buckets with water, then carrying them home, often walking for miles. Then, if and when the rainy season comes, and rain (might) finally fall onto the parched land, it rains ‘buckets’. The dry plains become flooded, water finding its own way, breaking down roads and sweeping animals and children away with it. Buckets collect water from tin rooves, dams are filled, and some lucky households with hafirs (household dams) provided by Testigo find their small dams suddenly full and ready to supply them with water for their gardens into the next dry season.

La Chica has seen many seasons pass in Tanzania. She’s seen the worst drought in history in Masai land and she’s walked back from ceremonies through thigh-high fast flowing water. She’s washed with only a mug of water, and has perfected the art of soaping then rinsing using this one mug. She’s delighted in the dry shampoo effect of constant dust, and tolerated feeling like a donkey or elephant who’s just rolled in dust for sun protection – the dust sticks nicely to her sunscreen providing an extra layer of sun protection. She’s also experienced the sheer joy of returning to Arusha from Masai land, returning to a shower, running water, and the feeling of extreme cleanliness. After all, how can we truly know what it’s like to be clean, unless we know what it’s like to be the opposite. But La Chica feels compassion for so many of the Masai she encounters who have never had the chance to feel that joy. Who have never been to town, never had the pleasure of standing under running water. La Chica’s askari (guard for her house in Arusha) is a Masai from Longido. He had never had a shower until he came to work for La Chica. Recently he returned from taking leave in Longido, and told La Chica that he loves coming back to Arusha and being able to stand under the thing that makes rain. Never mind that that thing that makes rain only provides luke warm rain (it’s a cold tap only shower).

So on World Water Day, let’s appreciate the water we have available to us – in Melbourne, La Chica’s home town, the abundance of water that always flows from the many taps that everyone has in their houses. A few years ago La Chica hosted a Masai visiting from Tanzania, in her home in Melbourne. La Chica and La Chica’s family took this Masai around to many places in Melbourne – the city, Puffing Billy….when he saw the Yarra River he exclaimed at how much water was available in Melbourne. He was astounded when La Chica explained that this wasn’t Melbourne’s water source, and it wasn’t clean. It was just a river.

La Chica has witnessed Masai sharing muddy dams with their livestock, drinking the same water. She’s watched Masai kneeling down to this water, and drinking it through their brightly coloured and checked shukas in order to filter it. She’s witnessed the adaptability of the Masai to drink very little liquid, and although La Chica can do the same, she becomes parched far more quickly.

Testigo wants to provide more hafirs to the Masai, so that they can collect rainwater when it does finally pour down. A$400 will provide a hafir to a Masai household – strong heavy duty plastic, and a dam that’s 10 metres long, two metres wide, and one and a half metres deep. Helping others feels good – give it a go!

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  1. John Drinkwater permalink

    Keep up the great work Chica – John Drinkwater (Funny name given the topic!)

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