Meet Acan Margaret
In Uganda, it is not uncommon to find children being raised by their grandmothers. This usually happens when the parents are no longer together or when one or both of the parents has died. Anena Kevin is one such child that we met in the Oturuloya-Lagwe Dola village in Uganda.
Anena and her brother Ezra are being raised by their grandmother Acan Margaret. We met Acan as she was collecting water at the well that Drop in the Bucket had recently completed in Oturuloya-Lagwe Dola village in Uganda. “I have my two lovely children that I take care of. After my daughter (their mother) and her husband separated, she had to take a job in town to make ends meet.”
The girls’ mother sends money when she can but it is never enough. The elderly woman does her best to take care of the children by growing vegetables in her garden. The garden helps, but the main thing the family needed was safe drinking water. Not just for the children but Acan was also struggling without clean water.
Before the well
“We got all of our water from an open well that was 2km away. We used this water for cooking, cleaning and even for drinking,” reveals Acan. The open well she is referring to is an open body of stagnant water that is also used by goats and cows. Even a brief look at the open well reveals green algae, tadpoles, worms frog eggs and other pondlife. Nothing that you would want to see when you are looking for water to drink.
“Each time I saw my children drinking that water, it always felt like I had given them poison to drink.”
Acan felt pangs of guilt whenever she gave that water to the girls. “Each time I saw my children drinking that water, it always felt like I had given them poison to drink.” Acan shudders as she relives the memory. “I couldn’t stop them from drinking it because I knew they were thirsty.”
The guilt was amplified when her children got typhoid or other waterborne diseases. Acan sighs resignedly and says “I am already old and don’t have much to lose, but my children have their whole lives ahead of them”.
On days when she had the energy, she would make the walk to the nearest trading center. The walk was two kilometers away, but due to her age it took her a long time to get there and back. “I used to walk to the trading center when the girls were at school. The walk there with two empty jerricans was okay, but the walk back took longer. It was tough, but it was worth it to see the girls drinking clean water.” says Acan.
Because of the distance, Acan started taking smaller jerricans. This made her return trip carrying the water more manageable. But then they only had enough water for drinking. For everything else they still had to rely on the dirty water.
Another challenge she faced
Besides the distance, there was another challenge with getting water from the dirty well. The well was at the bottom of a hill and you had to climb back up a muddy bank once you had your water. People would often fall on their way back.
“One time I got stuck about halfway down the slippery slope. It had just rained and the ground was slippery. I was carrying water at the time, but I could not go forwards or backwards without falling down.” recalls Acan. Lucky for her, she was rescued in time.
Luckily for her, her granddaughter Acan Evelyn was on her way back from the garden and heard her cries for help. Acan was so happy to see her and get rescued.
Acan Margret looks down at the floor and in a voice barely louder than a whisper says “ If it were not for you, I would have fallen to my death or broken a leg fetching water. She is happy that Drop in the Bucket came to Oturuloya-Lagwe Dola village and drilled a well.
“I am confident that my family will now be consuming clean water since this organization (Drop in the Bucket) has gifted us a new well-functioning borehole. Thank you very much,” appreciated Acan.