Change through the Eyes of a Water Guard

A visit to May Genet is never complete without a moment or two spent with Mr. Gebremedhin, more commonly called Abo Gerea by the locals. A friendly man in his mid-sixties who always seems to be smiling, Abo Gerea wields the energy of a much younger man and remains very active in the community. When visiting his stone house his wife will enthusiastically offer everyone the staple snack of rural Ethiopia, roasted barley and chickpeas. The two are proud parents of four and grandparents to eight, but as in common in Ethiopia, they also act as surrogate parents to many children in town.

Like many Ethiopians living in the countryside, Abo Gerea is a farmer and spent a brief time as a soldier with the local militia when he was younger. What separates him from others is it’s his job to guard one of three water points recently built by Drop of Water.

Abo Gerea can still remember a time when clean drinking water was not as accessible to May Genet as it is today. If one were to ask him to describe what life was like in the recent past, he would tell of a time his family had to walk thirty minutes to gather water from the river. Appallingly, a thirty-minute walk was in fact a best case scenario for Abo Gerea because when the river dries, not uncommon in the deserts of Tigray, the next closest river was two hours away. Obviously this was hardly the healthiest or most convenient option for Abo Gerea and his family.

Picture several years ago, before the water well was not built in May Genet. Abo Gerea was a married father of four daughters, all of whom regularly resorted to drinking water from the closest river. The day inevitably came when Abo Gerea got sick. To make matters worse, one of his daughters also succumbed to a waterborne illness. His only option was to walk with her to the closest hospital in Mekelle, about thirty kilometers away. When they finally arrived they were so dehydrated doctors had to give him eight glucose injections while his daughter received nine.

Thankful he and his daughter survived, he committed to never again drink from the river. Sadly, he often fell short of this commitment and waterborne diseases were still so constant in his life that it was painful to eat the roasted chickpeas and barley his wife made for him. In this case, changing the attitude of one person was not enough. Truthfully, it would take an entire community and infrastructure to make a lasting change.

That’s where Drop of Water comes in. Since the fourth quarter of 2017 we have developed their water access capacity by building wells, but more importantly we have engaged community members and nurtured their commitment to living healthy lives.

Abo Gerea has since become an influential voice on the community-wide water council. It’s here where our team sits down with citizens and watches as the community resolve any water related issues that weigh on them. When asked how his life has improved since Drop of Water arrived in May Genet, Abo Gerea will tell anyone, “I am happy step by step life is becoming more suitable in May Genet, but I am most happy because clean water means I can once again enjoy the food my beautiful wife prepares for me.”

At Drop of Water we are proud the people of May Genet are prioritizing clean water like they never did before. We are proud Abo Gerea now enjoys roasted chick peas and barley pain free. Most of all, we are proud that our work has reduced the likelihood someone from May Genet will have to make a desperate trip to the hospital with their child. It is this that motivates us to keep going every day.

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