from the field: the Budde Family Well

In preparation for the fall launch of our Water for Schools program,  I had the pleasure of traveling to Ethiopia a few weeks ago with four fathers and five of their daughters, ages 9 – 14. One of the dads, Shawn Budde, has been volunteering as a strategy consultant with charity: water for more than six months and has been a huge blessing to us. On this trip, I had a surprise for him. I took him and his daughters to a well he helped fund through the September campaign. Filming them at the Adiayfela school was one of the high points of 2009. I remember smiling through tears as we saw the handmade signs that read “We love Budde family” and listened to speeches. We asked Shawn to write about his experience. As so many of you have contributed to the more than 1,247 water projects we’ve now funded, I ask you to put yourself in his shoes and imagine the many celebrations around the world you’ve made possible like this one.  I hope this video and Shawn’s words will inspire you.

- Scott Harrison

in Shawn’s words.

I’ve been involved with charity: water for about nine months now and I’ve definitely got an intellectual grasp on the problem of providing clean and safe drinking water to people in developing nations. However, it helps to understand things on an emotional level.

Last August I got an opportunity that most donors will never get — I got to go with charity: water to visit projects in Ethiopia. I remember being struck by how completely different their lives were than those of anyone in the developed world. I came back committed to raise the money to build a well.

In the fall, charity: water started to plan a trip for a few students to Ethiopia, and I asked my two older daughters (Katie, 12, and Julia, 9) to join us. On our second night in the country, I learned we’d be heading to see “our” well the next day. I hadn’t known that our well was even on the agenda.

Our well was in seriously remote territory, a three-hour drive from our very shabby hotel in Adwa. The road was pale, dusty and barren. The cars were unbearably hot with the windows rolled up, yet frustratingly dusty with them rolled down. Julia hadn’t been eating enough and felt sick.

We rolled into the village of Adiayfela just short of noon. We could see a huge crowd, perhaps a thousand people, had gathered to welcome us. As we got out of the trucks, the first thing I saw was our name on handwritten signs — “We love for Budde Family” and “BUDDE FAMILY is a way of development in Ethiopia.” I hung back to see how my girls would react. They were very surprised and excited. And I was in tears. My intellectual side was completely overwhelmed by my emotional side.

In most ways, this celebration was no different than any other. The women “lolled” and threw popcorn. The children held up signs expressing their gratitude and crafts that they had made. We sat and ate with our new friends that would soon drink the clean water we’d been able to provide.  In other ways, this was different from other celebrations- I understood at an emotional level the right for clean, safe drinking water. We got to see the school where children sit 80 to a class on mud benches. Where teachers write on chalkboards with holes in them. Where children make models of radios out of mud. The contrast with the schools my children attend was stunning. My girls left Adiayfela exhausted, physically and emotionally. They also left committed to raising enough money for another well.

Tonight I will be helping Julia assemble the presentation she will make to her class about her trip to Ethiopia. She will tell her peers about a world so different that most of them will never experience or be able to understand the way she can now.

A world where the most basic need is a daily struggle. A world where an $8,000 well can transform more than a 1,000 lives. A world where we made a difference. She will talk about our well, and I will try to not to cry.

- Shawn Budde, February 2009

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