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By: Joshua Gale August 20, 2011 Water, in Kenya, as it was referred to so many times during my experience there,

is life. For the entirety of my time in Kenya, I lived with the Samburu people of Northern Kenya, a nomadic, indigenous sub sect of the Maasai tribe. In crossing the expansive cultural divide, I found myself being met with many obstacles; probably the biggest would be the language barrier that held a firm foundation and set an obvious separation between the local people and myself. Amidst those obstacles, my purpose in Kenya remained quite clear; to document the progress and completion of water wells funded by donations of various amounts from people of the United States. With every location I had the fortune of visiting, came a dialog, one that many times, oddly enough, occurred without words, between the recipients of the water wells and me. Sometimes one's presence with his or her stated purpose says plenty enough. The message that was communicated to me from them came in

different forms and the contextual property of every well was changed for each particular location, but that message was always clearand always came with a silent undertone of urgency. The message was simply this: Water is important. [Please or thank you for your] help. Kenya is currently in a drought, as it was in 2006, 2009, and the latter months of 2010. The effects Kenya has been experiencing from the lack of water, and especially clean water, can not be expressed even to a small degree in numbers, and to put them into words is nearly as difficult. Accurate calculations could not possibly be made by even the most skilled analysts because the effects extend well beyond what any numeral can convey. Even beyond the seriousness of the epidemic of cholera and other water borne diseases, other lesser known effects have surfaced, such as clashes or fights between tribes who find themselves competing for the same water hole. The term "water wars" has been coined to describe such an event. For

example, Tribe "A" and tribe "B" may have coexisted peacefully for hundreds of years, but their precious supplies of water have been depleting due to the lack of rainfall and now there are fewer supplies of water to support the two dehydrated tribes of people. What occurs is the same thing that has throughout history; unless a mutual understanding is decided upon, they fight. If tribe "A" is more powerful than "B" then "A" will take control of the water supply and that leaves tribe "B" to either die fighting or to die from dehydration. Dr. Tina Ramme of Harvard University has been working for 7 years trying to help a famished community but finds herself and her funds falling short of tackling other concerning issues because most of her attention is spent attending to the shortage of water. I asked her once, "Why are you so focused on water?" She replied, "I have been trying to help with supplying the community with food as well, and sometimes I manage to get both done, but honestly a person can survive for one to two weeks without foodthey can only make it a few days without good water." Water wells, which in Kenya are many

times called "bore-holes," can be drilled and the development of such wells is clutch for the distribution of clean waterand in Dr. Ramme's case the procedures are being taken for that to happen. Water that is sprung from such water wells is used for a variety of purposes. A few of the wells I visited had made use of the well by starting community organic gardens; it was really interesting to see members of the community walk out to their portion of the garden and pour cups of water on each individual plant. Another community took that concept one step further and harvested the leftover vegetables and sold them at a local marketthe money obtained from this went straight into education through the purchase of school supplies and paying of fees for the children of the community. The water is used for other things as well such as sterilization for operations (pregnancies) and also helps keep the livestock, which is extremely important for a nomadic society, hydrated in extreme cases. Water wells have become an excellent response to the water crisis,

but unfortunately there are factors, geological, governmental, and monetary factors, that are hindering the development of such wells. ---------------------------------The process required to drill a bore-hole is quite simple in theory; an inquiry is made with an engineer, who is responsible for analyzing an area and for testing that area in order to find the prime location to drill; permission is granted from the government to drill the hole deep into the ground; a drilling rig is deployed to the location; the well is then drilled out; piping is laid; and finally people have access to waterand of course monetary transactions sometimes of sizable amounts are littered throughout the process. It's essentially the same procedure required to drill a well in the United States. As I traveled to the location of the first water well site, a place near the city of Maralol, I realized very quickly one key element that hinders the progression of the timeline of procedures; the road we had been taking from Nairobi made a not-so-subtle change from pavement to gravel to

dirt. I could spend time trying to put down in words the texture of that particular stretch of road, but I feel as though an analogy would do it much better justice. Imagine riding a gigantic, old wooden roller coaster at Six Flags for four hours and it would be at a comparable level of comfort. The roads go only from bad to worse. I once had the joy of riding on a freshly paved road with Dr. Ramme, who was an American courageous enough to drive on them, and she said to me, "The trip that you just took back home," which was about a 45 minute drive, "used to take us about 8 hours." About midway through my time in Kenya, I traveled on yet another terrible road that if rated on a scale of awful roads would put the "roller-coaster road" to shame. I have never in my life ridden on a worse road, which I deem from henceforth appropriate to be called a "path." This path wound its way through the Great Rift Valley to a small community of people that found refuge on the outer edge of one the Valley's many mountains that were large enough that only God himself could have

imagined them. The path had literally been chiseled, and with seemingly little effort, out of the mountains themselves. The drive to that location with a drilling mechanism, which is mounted onto a large diesel truck the size of a semi, would be at least a full day's journey. After finally arriving, the bush-truck we were riding gave its final sputter and halted. I stepped out onto the ground made of solid rock, looked at the steep slant that fell in elevation ahead of me, looked to the mountains that stood gentle but strong like a council of elders circled around us, and there a moment of enlightenment came over mewe were not drilling a bore-hole in my backyard through soil and clay back home. The skill required for drilling wells in Kenya is of a whole new caliber. Some of the donors from home had gotten a bit flustered at how long this particular well had taken to drill, clearly unmindful of the geological factors that were at play and the present, physical conditions that require diligent work of to time and planning. ----------------------------------

"Don't even employees of the government get tired of dealing with these roads? Why don't they push to have the roads paved if only for their own selfish motives?" I inquired of Mujumba, a native Kenyan man who was taking a break from work at the camp where I stayed for the second half of my trip. He was a large fellow for a Kenyan, formally trained in construction to be a managerthat training is where he learned to speak English. He just let out a haughty laugh in reply to my question. It was not much of an answer; especially not one that I was hoping for and a silence fell between the two of us for a minute or so when I heard the woof of air from a distant helicopter. Finally, in reply to my question he looked at me and pointed to the helicopter, "that's the way the people who actually have the power to change things travel." Kenya's government, as a whole, is broken. In 1963, Britain left its unctuous colonial thumbprint on Kenya and, along with its independence, Kenya adopted Britain's Western idea of parliament. Corruption has

rooted itself deeply into the political ties of "freedom" and from then on that corruption has only run its ridges deeper. Along with its integrity Kenya's legislature has abandoned its duty to serve all the people of Kenya and its members began to serve only themselves as individuals--and those who have enough excessive amounts of money to manipulate things themselves. The newly paved road I mentioned earlier was not paved by the governmentin fact, any Kenyan whatever did not pave it. It was paved by China. China has discovered that there are oil reserves in Kenya and believe that there is enough oil to be refined so that they need their own road to get to it. Of course, the old Kenyan roads would not do, so they simply took control and built one themselves. The roadthat runs right through Maasai territorywas widened, trees were blazed, and any other nuisances that previously stood in their way were removed. Over the following three years, with the last attack occurring this past May, Kenyan policemen committed horrendous crimes against the local people in attempts to eradicate them from their land. Livestock,

stolen. People, beaten and murdered. Livelihoods not helped but demolished at the hands of their own sworn protectors. China has paid off Kenya's debtsonly to cause Kenya to be indebted to China. What China wants is many things and if judged upon their influence in Northern Kenya they limit themselves at nearly no costs to get it; in this case, their desires are land and oil. ---------------------------------"China is selfish," I can still hear a young man lamenthis voice trails off and I hear it again like a track stuck on repeat. I was riding home one day from an unsuccessful expedition where we had hoped to spot a lion or two. The sun was settling below the skyline, the moon had already begun to rise when our car decided it was through with lifea head gasket brokeand rolling to the side of the road we went. When the rolling stopped I looked up at a bus station full of at least ten dark figures, silhouettes in our headlights. Fortunately, those dark figures were not murderers out to hunt Muzungus, "Westerners," like my imagination had quickly

jumped to but were actually very nice people. In fact, nice enough to help and savvy enough that they, at least, diagnosed the problem of our car. The sun was long gone now, far more knowledgeable mechanics than me were there at our aid, and we were still sitting, waiting, so I decided to seize the opportunity to do some night photography. I retreated with my camera and tripod across the road when I realized rather quickly I was being followed. Once again, in complete contrast to where my imagination plummeted to, those following me did turn out to be interested in my camerabut not interested in taking it, just in it, and even more so, my ability to use it. "Where are you from?" A young guy about my age asked as I was fiddling with the exposure settings on my Nikon. For some reason I was a bit nervous about revealing my nationality, but managed to suppress my nerves and calmly let out, "the United States."

There were roughly five Kenyans that surrounded me, all of which had been gawking at my camera, and they were suddenly much more interested in my origin than the "television" I held in my hands. "I hear you put a man on the moon," one man said. His eyes shifted from me and made a slow motion to the moon and with utter amazement those eyes bounced back at me and he asked, "How did you manage that?" Just to clear the air of any potential misconceptions, I quickly reassured him I had nothing to do with that shuttle launch. Following that clarification, I gave a rather brief explanation about NASA and the one space shuttle I had ever seen down in Florida. I also mentioned how the program has actually been cut but left out the fact that there is a lot of doubt that the lunar landing even happened. And with that came the outpouring of questions about buildings and famous rappers and cars and electricity and, finally, politics. "What is your government like?" the one who asked

about the moon wondered again, but now with even more sincerity in his voice. "Umm...it's okay, I guess." I said, unsure how to approach the topic. "It's very big and I'm very small. Like all ruling bodies it has its bit of corruptionyou know, some pretty self-serving individuals at the head of things." "Not like ours." He said drawing back some. "You know Westerners are the ones who set up our governing structure..." "I do know that... I knew that our Western philosophies had infiltrated their Eastern approach to life and from that chaos has nearly devoured Kenya's legislature. All the pieces are there, people delegated and put in power for their government to work in a way very similar to ours in the United States, but the functionality is misconstrueddestined for anything but success. Their past is different from ours. Our histories

unalike. And thus they think dissimilarly. And now, owing to the faults of a multitude of people or possibly to the fault of none, their government has fallen into a subdued, internal chaos. None of that is ever as real as when you are actually talking to someone affected by it--the ones who carry the burden of a truly apathetic government. I decided to avoid that conversation all together though and, with a sense of empathy, I continued, "...you're right. The violence you guys have experienced would never fly back home." "Well I like the United States." He retorted rather quickly and I was thankful, for it brought the mood of our conversation back up. "China, they're just selfish. They build this road for themselves--not for our benefit. And they brought the corruption and violence that came along with it. An American is the one that bought the computer we have in my school for us...and the books for our library too." ----------------------------------

John Burnett, an accomplished journalist and speechwriter for members of congress on Capitol Hill, found himself growing weary of the clap-trap of politics and ended up pursuing alternative careers where he found himself working for the United Nations as a relief worker for the country of Somalia, a country located just north of Kenya. In Where Soldiers Fear to Tread, Burnett recounts one of his many experiences. A young Somalian mother approaches him holding an infant. She hands Burnett the baby and walks away from him. Just like that. Clearly the mother is unhappy and Burnett shouts for her to come back to get the child but she disappears around a corner down the street. Shes gone. Utterly confused he whips around to Harun, his driver and Somalian coworker, and asks what to do with the baby. Harun replies, It dies, captainMalaria. Compelled to action, he writes: I cradle the baby in my arms as we speed out of the port, down the dusty road toward town

Harun drives up the roadside hillI clasp the baby tightly, protectively. Before, this was just a job, a duty. Now it is a mission. I want desperately to get this baby to the hospital; I want desperately for this child to live. The babys fever has abated apparently, for he is no longer shivering and I relax. I look down at the infant and smile, talk to him softly. The childs eyes, heavily lidded, stare back at me. They are glazed and old tears are drying on his cheeks. I wipe his eyes and try to reassure him, soothe him. But now I sense, I suddenly realize, that there is nothing there! A second agojust a second ago there was life. Now there is nothing, not a living thing, not a soul, not a smile. [At the hospital] I hand the baby over gently, and withreverence [the nurse] takes the little body in

his arms, turns, and walks through the hospital doors. I am left stunned. Emptied. It is written that a child dies from malaria every thirty seconds in Africa. But why do I have to be a part of this childs death? Is there a purpose? Am I supposed to get some sort of message? Are we merely statistics? Make sure to buy a few malaria treatments, my father gives me one final instruction as he leaves to go back homehe was with me for the first half of the trip. They cost about a dollar. A dollar. One, single, dollar, I remember thinking. Thats Less than one pack of chewing gum these days My father, Bobby Gale, directs Unto the Least of His, a non-profit organization that in various ways has raised enough money for the installation of 14 water wells and also for whom I was in Kenya to do such documentation in the first place. "We have all the money necessary to help," I have heard him say. "It's just still

sitting in people's pockets." Money, inherently, really is an easy issue to resolve. In fact, the lack of funding is quite possibly the most common of obstacles that surfaces when people try to make a significant change anywhere. The sad irony is that it is also one of the easiest to be resolved if it were handled honestly. It is at the hands of those who see compassion as a weakness and greed as rebuttal that people are dying from problems derived from a lack of humanitys basic and essential needsin this case, water. When the monetary efforts recede, unfortunately a helping hand can only go so far and so many times it ends up falling short. ---------------------------------As with every fire that needs but a small spark to ignite or as with any crop that needs but one seed to sprout, compassion is igniting from within communities all over the world and from that hope is being planted in the hearts of millions of Africans because of the relief efforts that are being made. The Kenyan water crisis is not one

just of natural calamitythe true fabrication of this notso-natural disaster that has landed itself on the Eastern coast of Africa is one derived from a mix of corruption and global apathy. If the blinds were pulled back and our worlds potential to help were to be revealed, the drought that is impacting those communities with such brutal force could be withstood and the people of Kenya relieved. It is my prayer that people continue to open their hearts and minds to a world beyond their borders, and that we, as a global society, learn to love across boundaries because that is the solutionnot only to the water issue but to many others as well.