My stomach is feeling full as I write this post. Phil and I have just returned from visiting Lemma who owns ‘Big Home Academy’ - a school outside Addis in Oromia. In the middle of the afternoon he had kindly entertained us to a meal of white rice and grated carrot accompanied by bread and a bottle of Sprite. We had been to see for ourselves the progress that has been made with his ‘Well Project’, as we had heard that already they are drawing clean water.
When we arrived, we followed two of the school staff who were carrying the ubiquitous yellow buckets which are very common and made from cut-down oil containers with string handles. They let down the buckets one at a time and, sure enough, brought clear water up to ground level.
Before our July rainy season break Lemma had shown us a deep muddy hole with water at the bottom. His dream then was to fit wide concrete pipe sections 10 metres vertically down the hole to reinforce the sides of the well, allowing easy access to the water at the bottom. During my break in the UK I was given some money raised by the children of Green Lanes School where I used to work. The classes had collected this by holding a ‘Christmas jumper’ day. I passed the money to Lemma on my return. Once the dry season arrived and it was safe to work, construction of the well began.
Here at Bingham we were without water for a couple of days this week, and as this coincided with our sports days all our staff were longing for the water to begin flowing again. However, Big Home Academy would regularly have week-long spells with no water. So Lemma is really excited now that the school has their own independent water source for the very first time.
Incredibly Lemma has also begun building what he calls a ‘feeding room’. The two hundred children who attend Big Home Academy learn in classes from Kindergarten (Foundation) to Grade 8 (Year 9). These very poor children are fed two meals a day - breakfast and lunch. The school fees are waived for sixteen of the poorest. They all receive a basic education which will no doubt improve their life chances in the future.
Whilst we were visiting Lemma’s school compound Meseret (one of our group of Y’tesfa girls who meet weekly at Bingham) and her mother emerged from the small one room mud and straw building in which they now live. Just four years ago Meseret’s mum was dying of AIDS in her home by the river bank several miles away. During the cholera outbreak that was going on at the time her then neighbours became mistakenly convinced that her cough was indicative of cholera and that she would pass it around to others in the community. Mum had started anti-AIDS treatment but she and her daughter were still forced to leave. It was then that Lemma offered them a small dwelling on his school compound. Both now look very well and greeted us with enthusiasm. Meseret completed Grade 8 at the school last year and has now moved onto Grade 9 at another school with her fees paid for by a kind donation. Her mum sells vegetables outside the school wall.
As Lemma and his extended family waved us goodbye, they handed us a bunch of ‘gomen’. This is a popular green vegetable that is a cross between spinach and cabbage - a first crop watered by bucket from the well.
Here's the well when it was just a hole in the ground:
Here's 20 seconds of the well in action: