Where in the World is Tyler Riewer: The Sahel

Blog Home | by Vik Harrison | from the field
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Tyler is our Content Strategist, and part of his job is traveling to the places where we work in search of inspiring stories about the people we serve in the field. He’s been in Niger and Mali these past few weeks with our media team, shooting footage for our upcoming September Campaign. Here are two updates he wrote during his trip.



UPDATE 1: NIGER

Yesterday was our last day in Niger. I followed a 26-year old woman named Fadoum through part of her morning — just to see and capture what it’s like. She described it for me in advance: waking up before sunrise to collect water, cooking breakfast, going to collect more water, pounding grain for lunch and dinner and then collecting water AGAIN. But witnessing it was another story. I got to see all of the ‘no-big-deal’ things that she left out: bathing and dressing her daughters, feeding her goats, sweeping her home. It was amazing. And it was also painfully exhausting.

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After an hour, I asked when she gets to rest. Fadoum laughed. “There’s no time for rest!”

“What’s your favorite part of the day?” I continued. Without missing a beat, she looked up at me and replied in total seriousness: “Anytime I’m not pulling water.”

It’s crazy. There’s just no break for these women. No escaping the heat. No getting out of chores. No napping when they’re tired. The way they speak of rest is like it’s a dream.

I tell you all of this because I am freaking maxed out.

Five days of working in the sun, and I’m absolutely done. I just have zero energy. When we get into the car, I instantly fall asleep. Yesterday I fell asleep on the cement floor of a health clinic before an interview!

Rest sounds like a luxury to us. We’re all working hard. Who wouldn’t like a nap, right?! But it’s totally different here. You cannot live without rest in this place, and these women literally get none.

But that’s why we’re here. And I’m happy about that.

As if all of that wasn’t enough, toward the end of the day yesterday, the sky started to turn dark (in a midwest thunderstorm kind of way). Suddenly, our security director, Ali, came over and said, “There’s a sandstorm coming! We have to go!”

What?!

We looked again, and you could see it— the brownish gray of the sand pushing at the front. Straight out of a movie. We threw our gear in the car and took off (the rule we agreed on was that if Ali says, “we have to go” you pack up immediately — if you pack at all). Minutes later, we were in a drive-through carwash of sand, and you could barely make out the taillights in front of you.

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The heat. Black mambas. Malaria. Instant-coffee only. And oh, by the way, did we mention the sandstorms?

But the good news is that we’re halfway there! We officially said goodbye to Niger this morning and flew to Bamako in Mali, where we’ll stay tonight before heading out to San (our headquarters for the next week) tomorrow.

We’ve collected some incredible stories already— and the rest of our time here should offer some more uplifting content. Stay tuned for that.

Love, Tyler

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UPDATE 2: MALI

Mid-day breaks. That’s the key.

If I ever run for President, mandatory-30-minute-daily-naps-in-your-underwear will be my campaign platform… because it has changed my life here.

That’s been the biggest benefit of being in Mali. Without security restrictions, we can stay much closer to the communities where we’re working… which means we can easily arrive before sunrise and then go back to the hotel for a 3-hour break during the hottest part of the day.

It’s been a pretty glorious shift.

The other glorious shift has been the communities themselves.

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We’ve spent this entire week visiting villages who HAVE clean water, and the difference is unreal. These people are full of life. Always smiling. Laughing. Kids happily doing chores before school. Women relaxing together in the evening. People literally act healthier.

And kids are playing games here! In the dirty water communities that we visited, kids didn’t play at all. I found one boy with a bunch of straw tied in a big circle and tried to teach him how to hula hoop, but he wasn’t interested. He didn’t even laugh (and I promise you my hula hoop skills are laughable).

Here, children are playing soccer and chasing each other. I played Mancala with a man in the dirt the other morning! It’s the exact opposite. Quality of life is so much better.

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And it goes beyond fun.

I met a woman today who has been making clothes for more than fifty years. She doesn’t own a sewing machine, and she doesn’t buy fabric to piece together. She picks cotton herself, turns the cotton into thread and makes shirts, pants and hats from that.

As you can imagine, it’s not a fast process. A single shirt can take months.

But it used to take a year! Before her village had clean water, she was spending so much time collecting water from the open well that she could only work on her clothing late at night.

Today, she has enough free time that she can kick back in the afternoon and spin thread by hand in the shade. It’s how she relaxes… and she’s producing twice as much as she was before.

It’s just been an amazing past couple of days. I was genuinely bummed to say goodbye to all of our new friends today, but I’m anxious to share their stories — because it’s such a good testament to the impact that clean water can have here.

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Tomorrow we head back to Bamako. We’ll see a drilling team in action on Sunday (and hopefully witness a community receive clean water for the first time), and then we fly out that evening. We’ll be back mid-day on Monday.

Once more— thank you so much for the love and support. I love hearing from you all. Until next time!
Love, Tyler

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