Back From Africa: A Little Recap

It’s been a few months now since the Wheels4Water team traveled to Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo to see the work being done in partnership with Lifewater International. We’re always thrilled to take trips like this, but on this trip we were no longer passive observers. Instead, we were able to be actively involved in the projects’ development by listening to and recording the stories of those who’s lives are vastly improved by the availability of clean water.

The first week of the trip was spent witnessing completed projects and those nearing completion, including projects Wheels4Water has helped support since our first year in 2014. During the second half of the trip, we saw areas that Lifewater has plans to address next. When we entered these areas awaiting clean water development, we were able to witness firsthand the “before” state of these communities, and how desperate the situation truly is. Even though this was not the first time we have a observed tremendous need for clean water, it NEVER gets easier. We stared at water that we wouldn’t use to wash a dirty car while the community depended on it for personal use. We watched animals drink and defecate at one end of an unprotected watering location while just 10 feet away someone was collecting water to drink or use for cooking. We wanted to scream “STOP!” and carry the people to a faucet with safe water, or snap our fingers and make it all change. It was humbling to realize that neither of those options are possible. All we could do was reflect on the fact that change was coming, but for now what we just witnessed is all that is possible…for now. It was a tough, unjust, and sobering interaction. We really only had two choices: we could either curl up in a ball and ignore the horror, or each of us could roll up our sleeves and ask, “What can I do?”

One of the many things we were grateful for on the trip was observing healthy children and thriving villages first. Seeing the impact of Lifewater’s process in the communities we are serving was life-changing, providing us with a needed vision for these desperate areas. HOPE is such a powerful part of existence, and the effects of hope enabled us to believe that change IS possible. Hope shows that solutions are tangible, real, and within our grasp — that generations of “bad” can be turned into future generations of “good.”

We were continually astonished by the effect of clean water on health. We all know water is important, but most of us don’t really consider how often we depend on clean water throughout our daily lives. We shower, use the bathroom, turn on a faucet, buy one of five brands of bottled water at a gas station, and never question its safety or availability. For most of us in the developed world, water is easily available and always has been. But in Africa, retrieving water is a chore. It is a mandatory ritual of people’s daily routine, and often one that must be completed both morning and evening. It is IMPOSSIBLE to ignore. When safe water and healthy sanitation practices are present, some truly amazing things happen. The children are healthier. More kids are in school. Communities work together. Moms have more time for other life tasks. When these outcomes are available to everyone, there is an immediate, positive, generational impact.

The UN did a study that found that investing in safe water and sanitation practices is the best ROI in the developing world. Without safe water, every economic development tactic and model is drastically limited in its effectiveness. For the Wheels4Water team, helping these extreme rural, unreached, marginalized areas by riding our bikes and asking others to support us is the least we can do. We’ve learned that ANYONE can do something — all it takes is that first step.

So to our families, friends, donors, sponsors, and anyone who supported us in any way: THANK YOU. 3,400+ Ugandan and Congolese lives have been forever changed because we did something…together. We invite you to join us in person in 2016 for our first community rides, and we ask that you consider continuing to support us financially in these projects. Stay tuned for more info on next years rides and more in country video and images coming soon!

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