The Gift of Clean Water – Shega’s Story

Many families in rural Dangla face uncertainty and difficult challenges, but through simple improvements such as building dry, higher quality homes and providing clean water, Project Ethiopia helps lesson this burden for hundreds of villagers every year.

Meet Shega. Shega was born in the community of East Zelessa in the Dangla countryside. After completing the highest level – 6th grade – at the community primary school, Shega’s parents sent her to live with her elder sister in Wollega (located in southwest Ethiopia) to continue her education. With the small salary she earned working in a hotel, Shega’s sister could support both of them. Soon after she arrived, however, her sister became ill. For the next several months, Shega delayed her education and focused on caring for her sister.

Eventually, Shega’s sister could no longer support her financially. Their parents’ economic situation back in East Zelessa was worsening so her sister advised Shega that the best option was to get married and stay in Wollega. Following her sister’s advice, Shega married a local man. After five years, Shega gave birth to her first daughter, Mirtnesh, followed two years later by another daughter, Tigist.

Soon after the birth of Tigist, Shega brought her daughters back to East Zelessa to visit her parents. On this visit she learned her father had lost his sight. Seeing her parents in such a vulnerable situation, she and her husband made the difficult decision to divorce so she could move back to live with and care for her parents.

Her parents’ home was too small for Shega and her girls so together they built a small grass roof house for the family on their land. Life was very difficult and Shega’s daily labor work only generated a very small amount to support everyone, including her parents. In addition, the main responsibility for cooking and cleaning for her parents fell to Shega.

In 2018, Shega learned that she and her children would receive a new, iron-roofed house to be built on her parents’ land with the support of Project Ethiopia. Knowing that Shega and her family were one of the neediest households in the community, other villagers in the area stepped forward to provide wood and volunteered their time to help with the construction. The owner of a larger, higher quality home, Shega now has collateral that can be used for securing a small loan in the future. The future was beginning to look much brighter.

This past June, Shega and her children learned that their village would soon have a wonderful addition to their community – a clean water well at the local school, East Zelessa Primary. In July, Project Ethiopia completed installation of a hand pump well that now provides clean water to the school community and more than 50 families that live nearby.

Having access to clean water for the first time in the village has had one of the most significant improvements in the family’s health and provided them with a daily source of clean, potable water. Prior to installation of the new well, Shega had to collect water from a stream approximately 600 meters from her home, but the water is shared by both people and animals. The family and especially the children frequently suffered from water borne illnesses such as Giardiasis (Gardia) and Amoebiasis (Amoebic dysentery). In a year, the family averaged 6 – 7 trips to the clinic to receive treatment.

Now Shega or her daughters carry empty water jugs 1 kilometer to the school three times a week and fill them with fresh, clean water. There is plenty of water now for the family to meet their needs for drinking water, as well as for cooking and cleaning. While it’s only been three months since the new well has been available, Shega and her daughters have not experienced any waterborne illnesses since using this reliable, clean water source.

What’s next for Shega? With a new home and easy access to a reliable, clean source of water, Shega is hopeful about her future and ready to start her own poultry business. Her community not only stepped forward to support Shega when her new home was built, but they will be lending her 2,000 birr ($45 USD) with no interest to purchase nine hens and one rooster. In the future when Project Ethiopia expands the micro loan program to her community, Shega will also have access to a larger, low-interest loan to continue her journey and support her family.

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