There is a resource that we often take for granted, and it’s easy to forget that it’s crucial in determining whether or not a child has the opportunity to dream of anything other than getting through the day. That resource is water.

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Clean water is so easy to take for granted when you don’t have to work for it or think about where it’s coming from.

Here in Canada, so many of us were appalled after learning of how some Indigenous communities in our own country have been without clean water for far too long. Sadly this is also the story of millions of children globally. According to UNICEF, over 700 children die every single day from lack of access to basic resources such as clean water.

For Emeline, 15, a Compassion child in Rwanda, the task of acquiring water for her family is one that took hours.

Emeline’s day would start at 5 a.m., when she would wake up and walk seven kilometres both ways to a lake to bring home water that was needed for cooking, washing, bathing and of course drinking.

Unfortunately, the water from the lake is unclean.

“The water was from the lake and is used by people to do all kind of tasks including washing. Cattle drink from the lake so the water becomes dirty and unsafe for drinking. We would fall sick from diarrhea and typhoid because of the unclean water. Water is life, and without it, we can’t live,” says Emeline.

On the days where the water Emeline had fetched wasn’t enough, her family would have to purchase water—an extra cost that they and those in their community simply couldn’t afford. On top of that, the purchased water wasn’t always safe for drinking either and would sometimes cause the same water-borne illnesses that the lake caused.

Emeline is wearing a black dress. She is standing near a lake and is holding a yellow jerrycan. There are cows by the lake.

A day in the life

On a practical level, for a child like Emeline, one day without access to clean water means:

  • You wake up thirsty and the first cup of water you drink makes you feel nauseous and sick.
  • You have to complete your daily chores and fetch water while unwell.
  • You miss school due to sickness and the added fatigue from the long journey to fetch water.
  • You struggle to practice what you learned about proper sanitation because the water is unclean.
  • You eat dinner and worry that the meal, which was cooked with the lake water, may upset your already sensitive stomach.
  • You go to sleep and know the next day starts with almost three hours of manual labor to retrieve more water needed to do it all over again.

A daily rhythm of laborious work before school, combined with recurrent illness, limits a child’s ability to focus on their dreams and future and ties them down to just figuring out how to make it through the day.

Emeline is wearing a black dress. She is walking up a hill carrying a yellow jerrycan of water on her head. There are cows and trees in the background.

Lack of access to clean water also impacts our church partners’ ability to properly run Compassion centres efficiently. Although the children get clean water and nutritious food at the centre, the heavy cost of constantly buying gallons of clean water was inefficient.

Thankfully, all this changed after the incredible generosity of Canadian supporters who decided that every child deserves the chance to dream! This led them to give towards a clean water intervention for the children at Emeline’s Compassion centre.

Now, a water tank that harvests rainwater has been built right beside Emeline’s Compassion centre! Instead of an almost three-hour walk to safe drinking water, now the water tank is just a few metres away from Emeline’s home, and those in her community.

The day that Emeline saw the rainwater tank by her Compassion centre, she said, “It was like a dream to us.”

Because of loving Canadians on the other side of the world, Emeline’s days now look drastically different.

Radiating joy and excitement, Emeline said, “I’m grateful to my sponsor and the donor of this water tank for loving us and being thoughtful about our livelihood. I can now concentrate more in class without dreading to go back home to fetch water from the lake which is miles away.”

Emeline is wearing a black dress. She is pumping water from the water tank into yellow jerrycans. There are trees in the background.

Emeline’s story is a powerful reminder of the impact that both your sponsorship and one-time gifts can have for a whole community. When you sponsor a child, you are ensuring that they’ll have access to life-saving training on proper sanitation practices to protect themselves, nutritious meals and clean water at their Compassion centre, and ultimately, the chance to dream of a future free from poverty.

When you give a gift of clean water, like through Gifts of Compassion, you’re helping to address a bigger issue that threatens a child’s holistic development and success. By your generous giving, you’re helping to make sure that one more child doesn’t have to be a part of the 700 million.

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Give the good gift of clean water today.

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Written by: Elizabeth St. John

Elizabeth St. John is a Content Specialist at Compassion Canada. She's passionate about crafting stories that shine a light on God's redemptive power in a broken world. When she's not fitting words together, she's either cooking her favourite foods or watching movies with her husband.