Now I Am Beautiful…

Posted by on May 15, 2012

I happened upon a story today that felt equal parts devastating and beautiful. I was reading charity: water’s latest blog post about a Ugandan woman who had just gotten a freshwater well in her village. For undoubtedly most of her lifetime, Helen Apio had walked miles daily to and from contaminated sources or crowded water points where fresh water was scarce. At the nearest point, which was a school, Helen had waited hours with hundreds of other women to fill her two five gallon jerry cans. Then she’d made the weighted trudge back to her village. As she did, she would calculate how the water would be used for that day: would she wash her children’s school uniforms or water her little garden? Should she cook with it or let her family drink it? Ten gallons of water a day didn’t go far and careful planning mattered…

But when charity: water’s water project manager, Becky Straw dropped in to check on a village with a new water well, she encountered an exuberant Helen and details this exchange in her post:

“I am happy now,” Helen beamed. “I have time to eat, my children can go to school. And I can even work in my garden, take a shower and then come back for more water if I want! I am bathing so well.”

A few of the men chuckled to hear a woman talk about bathing. But all I (Becky) noticed was Helen’s glowing face, the fresh flowers in her hair, and the lovely green dress she wore for special occasions. Touching her forearm, I replied, “Well, you look great.”

“Yes,” she (Helen) paused. Placing both hands on my shoulders and smiling, she said, “Now, I am beautiful.”

Wow. “Now I am beautiful.” For a second, Helen’s words elated me. Then they made me ache. They made me wince because without even trying I could see women and girls everywhere in South Sudan – bent over at the River Nile’s banks, crouched beside putrid puddles, in long lines at a well. And just as Helen had, these women walk and wait most of their lives for something I have endless access to every day.

Clean water changed Helen’s life and now she feels beautiful. I’m still processing this mostly because the kind of gratitude and joy she has for something so simple (yet essential) feels very humbling to me. Although I appreciate clean water, I’ve never once thought that having it makes me feel beautiful.

But I can say this with assurance: With everything in me I long for my beautiful sisters throughout South Sudan to experience the freedom and joy that Helen describes. I want them to feel as beautiful as they are. And since access to water changes everything for them – from health and education to economic opportunity and gender empowerment – I’m so very thankful that God led us to begin Sister Effect’s work with our 70 Days to Clean Water emphasis. ~ Elizabeth

The Water Effect Challenge - safe water for South Sudan

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