TEN STUDENTS AND ONE SAMBURU We had traveled from Nairobi to Marsabit by road, snaking through the busy Nairobi Thika highway, to Nanyuki, Isiolo and finally to our destination, Intrepids Hotel where we were to be hosted. It was a long and tiring journey indeed, having left Nairobi very early in the morning at 5.30 a.mand getting to the hotel at 6.15 pm This training and distribution of water filters were sponsored by friends from the University of Ohio, USA. Some of them had been to Kenya for a holiday and they saw the locals directly use water from River Ewaso Nyiro for drinking and cooking. They got more concerned when they visited the surrounding manyattas (villages) and discovered that there was a high prevalence of water-borne diseases especially on children below five years. This prompted them to fundraise and to purchase water filtration systems for the villagers. Our mission during this trip was to give education on water and hygiene, train on the proper use of the water filters and to deliver the water filters to the Samburu people. The whole process was being coordinated by Tilas who is a local, a friend to the sponsors and works as a Naturalist at the hotel. Tilas is one person who makes everything seem easy and possible through his easy talk, ever-smiling face and good storytelling ability. His genuine concern for the welfare of the people of his Samburu community is touching in many ways and was instrumental in making this water filter project possible. Tilas made our stay very memorable with his stories. One, in particular, was his journey of education and college and how tough it was to get to where he was. Coming from a minority community, people rarely recognized them and at one time in college someone was asked how many people they were in their hostel to which a response was given that they were ten students and a Samburu; a Samburu being a non-entity in this case. Unlike college, this time the water filters were being received by the people of Samburu. Thanks to the efforts of Tilas and good-intentioned friends from Ohio University.
Not long ago, I read a post of a water filter advertisement in a Face Book Page. What caught my eye was not the advert but the reactions of the people in that group. “Family planning in a Mask” responded one person “An African is brought up with all those germs and bacteria, if you eliminate all you weaken his immunity thus allow easy attacks by diseases” responded another “Thanks but NO… I’d rather follow what our ancestors did to kill bacteria and parasites in drinking water”, replied one but went silent when pressed upon to share with others what this process was. “Yah, my ancestors also drank unboiled milk. They lived long “added another Hard to believe but yes I was reading the comments from a platform where I assumed people were more informed in matters technology and safe water. The reality was with me. The perception that water is a natural gift from God and can therefore not be contaminated is so real. The conviction that we have been taking the same water for years and with no side effects to our health is so deeply rooted This reminded me of an incident when we gifted a friend with a water filter but he flatly refused to take it telling us he is more comfortable with his municipal water from the tap as he had been drinking that very water for years and no health issues to date. Five months down the line, I received a call from him asking if his gift was still available. Not wanting to be inquisitive, we had the filter delivered to him without asking any questions. After exactly one more month, I received another call from him asking if he could purchase a water filter and have it delivered the same day. The urgency in his voice made me curious and so I asked to know what it was with the two water filter deliveries. Yes! As if on invite, typhoid had come calling in his house with four cases at ago. He was to travel upcountry the next day and could not take a risk of going without a water filter since the first water filter was for use in his urban home. I could only smile as I ended the call for I knew the thoughts on my side were the same as on the other side; I have been drinking this water since I was born and I am still alive.