Monday, December 20, 2010

In Friendship and Respect

In summer 2010, after being enlightened by Mike Yap about a humanitarian campaign called Adopt a Village in Laos, one of my roommates, Ward Weaire, donated $50 to provide a village family in rural Laos with a means to have something which we in North America take for granted, clean drinking water. Months later, the fruits of his donation were finally realised when he received a lengthy email from Steve Rutledge this evening. The email went into considerable detail about this year's water filter distribution project. Attached to the email was a photo of the family surrounding the water filter he had made possible. Affixed to the front of the water filter was a Canadian flag on which was written his name and city of residence to acknowledge his contribution to helping make the world a better place.

To share this wonderful story, I have reproduced the email which Ward received below.

Here is the family with their new water filter.

This is an enlarged image showing who donated this water filter. 
I can't believe how time has flown by so quickly.  We managed to distribute 157 water filters so far and it was probably the most positive emotional experience ever for me.  After months of fundraising, organization and preparation for the trip, the time finally came. We had been trying to contact one of the villages for an entire day to tell them that the shipment was one day late but to no avail.  Instead the families of the village trekked to the riverbank and waited until someone heard an announcement on the radio (our last alternative) telling them to return home and show up the following day instead.  It was a 1 1/2 hour trek each way.  Finally we were to meet the delivery truck and load two blackboards onto it - we couldn't get them on because the driver had picked up some other lady with her load.  So we tied them to the top of our minivan and off we went again to try to beat the truck and arrange for laborers at Nong Khiaw to transfer everything to the boats.  That wasn't to be either.  We had driven only one hour and we heard a pop.  It turned out that it was one of the mounting bolts to the rear axle - sure enough the axle had shifted so that the rear tire was rubbing against the back of the wheel well - yikes.  Stuck in the middle of nowhere we figured we would be stuck there for hours but 2  or 3 km later there just happened to be a road side bike shop.  For $4 they managed to weld a new bolt and we were off again - needless to say we didn't beat the truck.  Once we got to Nong Khiaw, we filled four long boats with filters on the main level and filter stands on the roof.  I asked them to remove the white bags that I noticed but was told that they were the bottles for the systems - strange because I didn't order any.  (I later found out that they were shipped by accident and were therefore provided for free).  We were off on the final leg of the journey.
Imagine this.  84 village families plus the two chiefs waiting for us on the side of the river after their 1 1/2 hour trek.  God knows how long they had been waiting.  Now imagine my euphoria as I drew closer to shore.  I could see the excitement on the running...villagers organizing themselves for a warm welcome.  Tears started rolling, BUT I did manage to compose myself by the time I got to shore.  I was met by ear-to-ear smiles, much like my own except mine were white!!!!
Thank you for your sponsorship in allowing me to experience this memory of a lifetime.
There is so much more I could tell you, hours of conversation in fact but I have a lot of emails to our other sponsors to do so look forward to sharing these stories with you when I return.  This village is Pha Yong.
A word of note:  The villagers are very humble people and really don't know what to do in front of a camera.  I can assure you, as can Ted Amsden, our amazing photographer, that the villagers were smiling from ear-to-ear before they got the filter and afterwards (we also gave them Tshirts, toothbrushes and toothpaste). Some villagers were too shy to have their picture taken.  Another note: I am sending these pictures in high resolution so you can resize, zoom in to see your label, and print accordingly. I will try to update my blog as soon as I finish these emails - perhaps a couple of days.
Each label when translated, starts with 'In Friendship and Respect'.  The labels were glued on just before the picture so on some of the pictures the glue wasn't quite dry - it did dry clear, eventually.  It is hard to find glue of any kind over here. 

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