After a long journey from the US to Nairobi, a short in-country flight, and about 2.5 hours of driving on unpaved and challenging roads, we arrived at the Shisango Girls Secondary School near Kakamega, Kenya. We traveled with The Water Project team and were also joined by BitPesa in the field. What a surprising and pleasant welcome to see “Together We Succeed” on the sign when we arrived!
Within moments, dozens of beautiful girls were surrounding us and excited to meet these strangers who had helped bring them clean, safe water! At first, they were a bit shy, giggling and smiling to themselves, but pretty shortly after they broke into a traditional Kenyan song to welcome us! It was quite surreal; I really opened up to take it all in.
During our visit over the course of a few days, we had the honor and pleasure of spending time with the girls at the school. We shared in their classroom studies, enjoyed a meal with the administrators, and had a very special experience just casually sharing about our different cultures under the shade of a tree. These young girls are bright, committed, and aspiring to do great things! They absolutely inspired me and captured my heart!
The principal of the school, Juliet Washa, is a true treasure! She is very dedicated and knowledgeable and truly gives her life to this school. She perseveres through so many challenges, including lack of basic things that we take for granted in the Western world, to provide a quality and safe learning environment for the students. We were gifted with the opportunity to spend time with Juliet and learn the story of the school and her endeavor to bring clean, safe water to her students. Juliet and I have become friends and she, along with the girls, forever hold a special place in my heart.
We visited the community water source where the girls gathered water before the well. In the morning, the girls would carry water from home, some of them walking up to 6 km in one direction. This water from the morning trip was not enough to last through the day for cooking, drinking, washing, etc., so they would walk to the river midday for more water. This river is about 2 km from the school and the water is far from clean. We witnessed people driving their cars and motorbikes directly into the river and washing them, saw cows coming for a drink, and learned of a 12-foot long black snake (likely a python in that area) that made this river its home. This is where young girls, and the entire community, gather their drinking water. Can you imagine?
Back at the school, I had a truly precious and unique time just being silly with the girls for a bit. It was the end of the day, and they were so happy! They wanted to take pictures and dance around; they braided my hair and took turns wearing my sunglasses. This time just enjoying them being teenagers was definitely a highlight of this whole experience. They are truly shining stars!
When the water began to flow, it was a truly magical moment. The Water Project and their local partners from Bridge Water Project worked hard to plan this well, work with community, and build a reliable water source that will last for a long time. When they completed the well, clean water began to flow just meters from the school!
Next door is also a primary school and surrounding the area for several kilometers is an entire community. Adults and children came flooding in from every direction to see the water begin to flow. Dozens of people joined in to be a part of this momentous occasion!
A huge celebration unfolded before our eyes; it was not expected and we were quite taken aback. The girls were singing and dancing around the field for hours, people were flooding in, and a whole ceremony ensued. There were speeches from school administrators and dignitaries, song and dance, gifts, and celebration!
We hope these photos and video tell the story as best as we can tell it now. It is next to impossible to share this story in a way that truly honors the experience and gives justice to all the absolutely amazing people we met.
Improved health and sanitation, safety from animal and human predators, and more time for studies are just a few gifts this water well has brought to this community in western Kenya. They were so incredibly grateful for the Bitcoin community’s gift of water.
The true potential of these girls, the community, and of students yet to come, has been unlocked with this new well bringing clean, safe water!
For more information about the project, please visit The Water Project – Shisango Girls School.
This is part 2 of a 3-piece series highlighting charitable work by the Bitcoin community for World Water Day. Read part 1 here.
All photos courtesy of Connie Gallippi / the BitGive Foundation and Stan Patyrak / The Water Project.
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