“It’s an act we consider small because we feel we can do so much more. But to see the impact it had on people’s lives, it made me realize that it is about the small steps that lead to something bigger.”
The accompanying video features OC faculty, staff and students joined together to demonstrate a low-cost hand drilling method and durable hand pump. The event was a partnership between OC’s chapter of Wishing Well, the Water4 Foundation, and the university. Wishing Well works to provide clean water to impoverished people in Africa. For more information, click here.
Five Oklahoma Christian University students from Rwanda spent their summer providing nearly 2,000 villagers with clean water from four wells they built.
These five, along with seven other OC students from the Rwandans4Water organization, drilled, dug and sweated together in their home country. The Rwandan students described the surprising challenges they faced.
“We knew water was a problem, but it only became a really personal project when we got there and saw the state and the conditions people were living in, the water that people actually drink,” junior Gaëlle Nsengiyumva said. “It was an eye-opener. It gave us the courage to go through all the hardships we went through.”
These Rwandan students had not seen their families in two years, but they still chose to drill the wells. The project kept them away from their families most of the summer.
“Seeing how one well can make such a difference in people’s lives gave us the courage to go on,” Nsengiyumva said.
The group drilled four wells in four different villages not far from the Rwandan capital city of Kigali.
“It’s an act we consider small because we feel we can do so much more,” Nsengiyumva said. “But to see the impact it had on people’s lives, it made me realize that it is about the small steps that lead to something bigger.”
Director of International Programs John Osborne traveled to Rwanda this summer to select new Rwandan students to come to Oklahoma Christian. He also visited the Rwandans4Water students and saw some of what they went through.
“We’re exceptionally proud that some OC international students came up with this project, executed the project and made the project happen mostly by their own initiative,” Osborne said.
The Oklahoma land they trained on was much different from the land they worked with in Rwanda, according to Niyonsaba. He said it became much more difficult to drill, and that they needed different and more expensive supplies and also more time. One drill cost $1,500, when they originally thought it would cost $600.
“We got to see other problems in the process, and it’s personally made me want more to go back and be a part of helping develop our country,” Nsengiyumva said.
Although they felt disappointed at failing to reach their initial goal of building 15 wells, the group focused on the task at hand and was proud of the success they achieved despite setbacks.
“It was so cool to see people that had a problem with water now have clean water,” junior Vedaste Niyonsaba said. “They were astonished to see young people like us coming to do things for free. They used to buy water, but the water they get now is free.”
The five students smiled as they spoke of the villagers. They said the people surrounded them as they worked.
“The people that we helped were really willing to help us help them,” junior Emmanuel Muzungu said.
When water finally flowed from the pump, the Rwandans4Water students said the villagers yelled, danced and cried.
The students still have contact with the villagers they helped. According to Niyonsaba, the villagers continually ask them to return the first chance they get.
“It made us all feel proud to be Rwandans and to help our country,” junior Martine Nezerwa said. “We all want to finish school, go back and try to solve as many problems as we can. This was only a start to the many problems we want to solve.”
None of the students realized the impact they would have. Uwimana initially thought the impact on the population minimal, but it actually affected nearly 2,000 Rwandans.
“It showed me that, even if you do something you think is simple, it can have a big impact,” Uwimana said.
The students explained the villagers were not the only ones impacted.
“It made a huge difference in our lives,” Nezerwa said. “It made us more patriotic and want more to help our country.”
Rwandans4Water continues raising money for the projects continued by the students’ successors. While in Rwanda, the students trained several native water engineering students on steps necessary to further the project. The money Rwandans4Water raises this semester will go directly toward assisting those natives.
Niyonsaba and Nsengiyumva both wanted to thank OC president Mike O’Neal for his continual help in the project, as well as the student body for their donations to Rwandans4Water.
“There are actually people out there that are willing to help and that have seen that our project is worthwhile,” Nsengiyumva said.
By Michael Lemmons, OC Talon