Our former Individual Giving Manager, Kirsty, reminisces over our previous sand dam expedition, and her encounter with Malaika self-help group's inspirational Chairlady, Esther Songo.

“It was day two of the sand dam expedition, and we were joining the Athiani farmers’ group to help build their sand dam. Esther had also come to help Athiani - with her self-help group, Malaika, of which she is Chairlady.

22 sand dams and counting

Esther, Chairlady of Malaika self-help group, southeast Kenya“Esther was slight in frame, yet stood there, mallet in hand, ready to get stuck in. Once we began talking, she told me how she had helped to build 22 sand dams – a massive contribution, especially now I know how exhausting the work is!

“My ambition is for my children to have a settled mind and not have to worry about getting water – or how their parents are going to find food for them to eat. Then they can concentrate on their studies.”

Esther, Chairlady of Malaika self-help group.

“It wasn’t until later that I learnt Esther had six children: five girls and a boy. How many hours did she already spend working each day, simply to raise her six children? Yet still here she was, with a leading role in her self-help group and happily getting her hands dirty to support a completely different self-help group to build their dam, with no obvious benefit to herself.

Mwethya - community cooperation

“I thought Esther was remarkable. Yet, she epitomises a deep-rooted Kenyan tradition of ‘Mwtheya’ – community cooperation in working together. Each self-help group we support goes on to also support another group – sharing the labour and skills needed to build sand dams.

“The impact of sand dams on Esther’s group, Malaika, has been life-transforming. Malaika have built three sand dams, four school water tanks and one rock catchment. Before Malaika completed these projects, the nearest source of water was a 5km journey to the River Thange. Collecting water took up to five hours, which exhausted precious time and energy. Now the community have water available locally, so there is time for farming, and children are free to go to school.

Multiplying the benefits

“Esther said she wanted others, like the Athiani self-help group, to experience the same advantages: 'We pray for you, to hope that other people like us can get the help that we have had'.

“It was fantastic to witness this community spirit in action, and see the benefits of sand dams multiply, as communities support one another to transform their lives.”

Create lasting change with sand dams - please donate what you can

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