The children of Bbanda led Catherine to what she describes as a swamp. But to these children, this “swamp” is their primary source of drinking water. Catherine remembers thinking, “I would never drink this water. If I wouldn’t drink it, then it is not an acceptable solution for other people.”
Fortunately for the children of Bbanda, a village in rural western Uganda, there is an acceptable solution well under way. Catherine is a volunteer with the Engineers Without Borders USA Northeastern University Chapter (EWB-USA NEU), a group of compassionate college students committed to providing the entire village of Bbanda with safe, clean drinking water through a village-wide water distribution system.
Like much of rural Uganda, Bbanda relies on open sources of water — none of which are near the village center. Village children are frequently taken out of school to gather water for their families. These open water sources are breeding grounds for mosquitoes and the deadly malaria they carry. Worse still, the children carry home water tainted with E. coli and other bacteria that makes both them and their families ill.
Engineering a water distribution system that will put an end to this dangerous water collection practice has become the EWB-USA NEU team’s passion. But the true heart of the project lives with the people of Bbanda and the long-held Ugandan tradition of Bulungi Bwansi, a spirit of self-help and community work.
In February 2014, the EWB-USA NEU project team witnessed Bulungi Bwansi in action. A
village-wide meeting was called to give community members the opportunity to discuss the new water system and to learn how they could best contribute to its construction. The
turnout was astonishing, with every available seat filled. Early the next morning, the men, women and children of Bbanda filled the streets, ready to dig trenches and install the pipe for their new water system.
That day, the community laid the crucial groundwork for their water distribution system. Thanks to Bulungi Bwansi and EWB-USA’s supporters, by the fall of 2014 clean water will flow into the heart of Bbanda.