Watering Hole, South Africa - Jullie Pfefffer

My Watermark is a Watering Hole in South Africa.

In January and February of 2015 I had the opportunity to spend some time in several rural communities in South Africa. On January 27th, during a visit to a village in the KwaZulu Natal region, I was introduced to families who lacked access to clean drinking water. Coming from an urban centre in Canada, it was difficult to fully understand what this challenge entailed until the women took us to their only natural source of water.

As we left our vehicles to walk to water, I remember hearing the sound of children's voices in the distance. I had expected to see a meandering stream or small creek but instead was shown a small watering hole that resembled a large mud puddle after a rain. The hole was about one metre in diameter and also about one metre in depth. A woman was kneeling next to the hole washing her children's once white t-shirts in the water and I remember thinking she would never get them clean in that dirty water. My friend instinctively stepped away to avoid getting the dirty water on her running shoe. If we found the water too dirty for clothing, it was unfathomable that this puddle would be the only natural source of water for the entire community. I could not imagine taking a sip of this water let alone giving my children water to drink from it. Perhaps even more startling was the realization that this watering hole was also the only source of water for the cattle grazing nearby and one could only imagine the disease and bacteria flourishing in the water. It would be deadly.

Fortunately in this community an NGO had made arrangements with a nearby municipality to truck in clean water and fill large green holding tanks they had provided. This was done every Monday and the voices we heard in the distance were those of women and children lining up to fill their various containers with clean water. Some women made the trip 10 times every Monday to ensure their families had enough water for the entire week because if they ran out, the only water available would come from the watering hole. The precariousness of their water situation deeply affected us. To see the distances women and children had to travel and the time it took them to collect and carry water back to their homes made me realize the incredible burden they bear.

Emma Stairs
Jullie Pfefffer

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