Bridget, by all accounts, should be just another hopeless statistic of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Kenya.
Bridget lost both parents to HIV. She's an orphan. She grew up in a part of Kenya with no access to clean water. Her community struggled with a lack of food. Add it all together and she shouldn't have been standing there... the day we passed by.
This wasn't a planned show and tell...
But a few years ago, something started that would forever change Bridget's life and ours.
We met Bridget by chance and in all honesty, we've only heard a bit of her story. That day, as we were out visiting a previously constructed water project in her community, we were introduced to her by one of our partners. He was just the kind of guy who meets people everywhere he goes.
And so, we had a chat. As we did, we noticed that she was holding a binder, so our partner asked her what it was for. What was she up to, out here in Mitaboni. And in an answer no one expected, we met hope.
It turns out that her green binder is an accounting log. Bridget's a treasurer. She's keeps the books of a small business that she and other orphans in the area have created, growing and selling tree seedlings for a profit in the local market.
No one there could honestly take credit.
It took a while to sink in. She was intelligent, well spoken, organized, motivated and proud. And she was a teenager, with no parents, in a desperately poor part of the world.
She was hope. Not just hopeful. Bridget was hope.
And none of us could honestly take any credit. This wasn't a planned "show and tell" of some non-profit trying to prove its worth. Bridget and what she's accomplished is entirely Bridget's. All any of us could claim that day was that we had a hand in getting a few obstacles out of her way.
You see, there was no water here just a few years ago. The Africa Brotherhood Church, one of our field partners, and some generous donors helped provide the local community with some concrete, iron bar and a bit of engineering to build some sand dams. The reservoirs that were created provide the water Bridget needs to grow her seedlings. But we didn't grow them...
Bridget was also cared for in a "Guardians of Hope" supported home, an orphan care program that the ABC has developed with our partner The Sharing Way. They keep orphans in their own villages with a family they know, and they support them there instead of a group home. Water projects help provide enough food and water for everyone. But even still...Bridget did this.
...her answer humbled and inspired us.
Bringing clean water to places like Kenya is not, in the end, just about the water. It's about clearing obstacles. It's about allowing Bridget to be Bridget and it's about allowing Kenyans to be Kenyans. It's about removing the things that keep intelligent, well spoken, organized, motivated and proud people from being themselves.
We just help move some stones.
As we were leaving we asked Bridget, "What are you going to do with all the profit?"
Her answer humbled and inspired us. She explained...it's being re-invested into other orphans in her community so these children and teens, just like Bridget, can become...
The Mitaboni Water Project was built in partnership with The Sharing Way, Canadian Baptist Ministries and the Africa Brotherhood Church (ABC). We were blessed to visit this successful project, as it reminds us why we work with these great partners.
The project has grown to over seven sand dams and has enabled sustainable agriculture and even shallow wells in this formerly dry area.
“This project started with two girls just wanting to help, but finished with a whole school contributing to what we feel is a very helpful, compassionate cause.”
- Shelby C., H.S. Student