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Their first time not having to skip school

Ethiopian students no longer have to pick between clean water and education.

As the dawn spilled over the horizon each day, the light would find Netsanet heaving her jerry can to her shoulder, and then up onto her head. With the load carefully balanced, she would begin the long walk back to her home in Bunata, Ethiopia.

With no safe water source in her community, 17-year old Netsanet, like hundreds of other girls, has grown up carrying water from the river for her family’s daily use. The hours-long walk and heavy load is not only physically draining for the girls who are responsible for sourcing their families’ water – it’s an obstacle to getting an education and having real choices about their future.

“The journey to the river where we fetched water took two hours back and forth,” says Netsanet.

“We had to get up early in the morning and walk quickly... I had to go to school after fetching the water.”

“Due to the long distance, I used to miss the first period of my class. I would fall asleep in the classroom while the teacher was teaching. Due to this, my school performance was going down.”

Hazards in water

Collecting water from the river brings other problems, too. With no safeguards, the river – shared by livestock, industry, and people from surrounding communities – is contaminated. Waterborne illnesses have been an ever-present threat.

The people of Bunata are not alone. More than two billion people worldwide are forced to rely on contaminated water sources, according to the World Health Organisation, and the problem is growing as climate change and populations expand, putting pressure on existing water sources.

Sickness meant that Netsanet and her friends would often miss even more time at school, and the medical costs were beyond the reach of many families.

Rufo, a mother in the community, says: “I have four children and all of them were affected by waterborne diseases. I used to take them to the clinic often. They used to suffer a lot and I spent all my time and money on medication.”

But with no other options, Rufo says even simple sanitation was not possible.

“Water was a very scarce and expensive resource as it took us time and energy. We did not keep our hygiene and sanitation properly... I used to bathe my children and wash our clothes once a month.”

Hope through Child Sponsorship

For mothers like Rufo and girls like Netsanet, turning on a tap to get clean, running water was a luxury they could hardly imagine – until World Vision sponsors partnered with their community to bring fresh water right to their doorsteps, drilling a deep well and installing taps across the community.

“The water source is at my door, and it takes me five minutes to fetch. My children are now healthy. I am grateful for this life-changing work.”

It’s changed everything for women and girls in Bunata.

For the first time, Netsanet and Rufo and their families had water – clean, safe water – at their fingertips every day.

As the pipe burst into life for the very first time, the mood in Bunata was euphoric.

“There is no friend that I did not call to tell about the clean water source construction in our village,” laughs Netsanet.

As for Rufo:

“When I saw the first drop of water gushing out of the pipeline, I was intoxicated with happiness,” she grins.

“I thought of the end of the long tiresome distance and the merciless waterborne diseases that ate up all our health and finances!

Life-changing work

“Now the water source is at my door, and it takes me five minutes to fetch. I can keep up the sanitation and hygiene of my children and my family. My children are now healthy. I am grateful for this life-changing work.”

Netsanet no longer needs to wake in the darkness and trudge to the river in the pre-dawn shadows. She no longer needs to carry 20-litre jerry cans for hours through the bush.

She no longer needs to fear the next wave of illness that will keep her from the classroom, or what that would mean for her future.

Water is the key that has unlocked a future filled with hope for Netsanet, Rufo, and their entire community in Bunata.

“Since this water source is in place, I no longer miss class,” says Netsanet, beaming.

“My school performance has also improved. I used to rank tenth or so in my class, but now I rank fifth. Thank you for this water source!”

Sponsor a child today and you could make this a Christmas of firsts for a child like Netsanet.

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