Meet Jean Bosco

Photos by Esther Havens. Story by Esther Havens and Taylor Walling.

This shy 15-year-old used to walk hours each day to collect dirty water... until our partners constructed a well in his village.

Our anticipation for the morning radiated. I could nearly smell our excitement as we went to meet the the crew from Living Water International at one of the four selected drill sites funded by charity: water.

For more than a year, I had been aching to see a well installation in Africa. I had donated money, seen photos, watched videos and heard stories. Each new exposure drove my desire. I longed to witness the affect of a water pump in a community, to see the power of clean, accessible water. At long last, I had made it. Today I would witness a village transformed.

LWI selected, along with the Rwandan government, an area of land for the pump to be installed. The land had been cleared of shrubs and debris, and the overbearing drills were set in place, ready to tear into the earth.

Children carrying their sacred yellow Jerry Cans on their heads and shoulders approached the site in a continuous flow of curiosity. As the drills fired up, the air was filled with thick red dust. Red African dirt has become the subject of legend and here we were, drilling deep into its insides.

The diverse and mingling crowd watched and waited for the first signs of water. Finally, at only seven meters deep, the red dust was replaced by muddy water shooting into the air. In continuous flow, the water kept spurting up. Higher and higher it pushed toward the sky. From the crowd came excited whispers, "Amazi, amazi"; "Water, water."

At 20 feet, the workers confirmed that this water well would be long lasting and secure.

Jean Bosco in the field Mother and family getting water from a muddy stagnant pond

In the crowd was a boy named Jean Bosco. Shy and sturdy, he carried an empty 5-gallon Jerry can on his head with a banana as the cork. At 15 years old, his days were filled with little more than water fetching. Four to five times a day, every day, he walked. Back and forth, to and fro, the monotony would bring to me to the brink – but daily he woke up to walk.

In an effort to better understand his story, we decided to join him. We eventually came to a brown, murky, stagnant pond. Small crowds of people filled their cans and despite the smell, Jean Bosco didn't hesitate to wade right into the water in order to fill his Jerry Can.

Hands cupping dirty water

Staring down, I knew then that clean water is far more than a valuable commodity. It is a treasure.

Leaving the hole and heading back toward Jean Bosco's home, we passed leagues of crops and farmers. I couldn't imagine how this brackish substance was being used to drink, cook, bathe, plant and water animals.

The following day, cement was laid and it dried around the tubing of the well. Waiting for the hand pump to be installed, a community of men, women and children gathered again to watch the finishing touches. This creation, this simple new contraption, would change their lives forever.

Jean Bosco in the field Mother and family getting water from a muddy stagnant pond

And then, just like that, it was done. The workers jumped forth and pumped up and down as quickly as they could. As soon as water hit the spout, the crowd rose in huge cheers of celebration.

The children made a mad dash for the water, drinking, bathing and basking in their refreshment. Like liquid magic, joy swept the crowd.

The water gushing out was naturally filtered and free from parasites. Together we drank. Though I had known it would be clean water, I never imagined it would be this clean. Every last one of us should have access to this kind of clean water.

For this village, Murinja, the well means a nearby clinic will finally be able to treat the sick with healthy water. For Jean Bosco, it means less walking and never needing to boil out the inevitable diseases that come from stagnant pools of unclean water.

Eventually, with more disposable time, efficiency and better health, children like Jean Bosco will be able to rebuild this community. They will be able to create a more developed, safe and thriving home -- thanks to the presence of clean, life-sustaining water.

Seeing it once, I couldn't help but want it again. And again and again and again. My world will never be the same. Neither will theirs.

Updates: In June of 2010, Esther Havens reunited with Jean Bosco for a second time. Then, in October of 2013, she got to visit a very grown up Jean Bosco once again.

You can provide life-saving clean water to the people who need it most. 100% of your contribution will fund water project costs in the field.