Daw Hia Yee, a 50-year-old mother of five children, is a resident of the Ayeyarwady Delta region of Myanmar. She and her husband are daily farm workers, earning about $2.30 per day, and her family faces difficulties buying even the most basic necessities. Even more challenging is that clean water is difficult to come by in her township. Despite living in a river delta region, she and her neighbors must get water from deep underground aquifers to ensure that it is clean. The river is rife with contamination and disease-bearing pathogens.
To access the aquifer, Daw Hia Yee and her neighbors rely on wells and hand-pumps, which are few and far between.
Faced with the daily burden of traveling long distances to gather water, Daw Hia Yee and her husband decided to spend their limited money to install a hand pump in their yard. Following local custom, they made their pump available to their neighbors, and all felt fortunate for this new access to clean water.
Yet, as is common for the region, their hand pump was built low to the ground. During the rainy season, the pump became submerged by contaminated flood waters, making the pump unusable for three months. Daw Hia's entire neighborhood had to return to traveling long distances or collecting rainwater. Some resorted to drinking water from the flooded river water, risking illness from waterborne diseases.
When the local pump flooded in another neighborhood, Khin San Wai was forced to spend her time traveling to collect water instead of weaving grass mats for sale. Without this income, her family often could not buy even the most basic food. They were forced to borrow at high interest rates, leaving them vulnerable to financial exploitation.
Through a partnership with Church World Service, Week of Compassion supported the improvement of 30 pumps - which serve an average of 21 people each. A grant financed the procurement of construction materials and paid wages to local workers to raise the pumps onto 1.5 meter high concrete platforms. Easily accessed with stairs, the platforms protect the pumps from submersion and the water supply from contamination during seasonal flooding.
Now, more than 500 people like Daw Hia Yee and Khin San Wai have year-round access to safe, clean, and plentiful water.
In addition to constructing these raised pumps, local Week of Compassion partners also provided classes about water hygiene to local village leaders. In the process, they identified existing hand pumps that were contaminated with arsenic and were able to partner with local village leaders to report these to the government.
Through these efforts, people receive access not only to life sustaining resources like clean water itself, but also intangible goods such as education and connections to the broader community.
We know that there is much work to be done to ensure that all people have access to the basic goods of life, but we also know that "whatever we did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me" (Matthew 25:40). Through your support, Week of Compassion is serving Christ in our neighbors in Myanmar and around the world.
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