Baravet and Whitewater are small coastal villages on Pentecost Island. Like many rural communities in Vanuatu, the people living there had no reliable access to safe water.
The whole community had to share just a few water taps. When they were broken and dirty, the water was unsafe. Because they were shared, nobody agreed on who should be responsible for maintaining them.
Thankfully, the COCOA Vanuatu Partnership Community Project provided resources to them! This is one of the projects supported by Safe Water September. Because of this support, these communities could fix their water tanks and pipes, and install a tap for each household!
There were immediate effects — everyone now has clean water! But it didn’t stop there. Having easy access to clean, safe water then rippled out and improved life for Baravet in other ways.
Matan is a teacher and tells us that she used to walk to the next village to bring back water for the school.
“Now the pre-school has a standpipe. We have clean water and do not need to walk long distances,” Matan says. “The children can clean their hands after (using the) toilet and not worry about using up the water.”
The children are now much healthier. Sicknesses like diarrhoea have been greatly reduced. Safe water for all the children leads to increased health outcomes for them!
The sharing of access to water caused conflict in the community. With their own taps, there is now no conflict over water. Another community member said this was the biggest change in their life from the project.
“Before, people had many disputes about the communal taps. Many people were frightened of using the taps and would try to find other taps to use and even get water from the stream, which is dangerous.”
As part of the project, a water committee was established. They agreed to be responsible for maintaining the pipes and collecting the monthly fee from the households. This means everyone can have access to safe water, without arguing over who is responsible for the required maintenance.
“Now people have their own taps and they are responsible for their own taps. I am pleased that there is a big reduction in complaints and disputes in the community.”
Lillian, who was born in the village and has lived there her whole life, said the water project brought people closer. She told us about how the people in the communities came together through the project.
While the men worked to install the pipes, the women gathered and cooked meals together for the community to share. Now Lillian has access to water at her own home!
“Before the project I would watch people go to the communal pipe and wait for them to finish so that I could get my water,” Lillian said. “Now I have my own water. I can get water whenever I want. This makes me very happy – it’s very hard to describe my feelings.”
Working together to improve their community brought the people of Baravet closer!
It’s easy to think of effects in isolation — a water project provides fresh water, end of story. The reality, however, is a ripple effect. Clean water leads to better health. Easy access to water helps resolve disputes. An organised process helps the community take responsibility for their own infrastructure.
The people in Baravet and Whitewater had their need for safe water met — but many people in Vanuatu are still in need! You can make a difference to people like Lillian and Matan in Vanuatu – whether you take the challenge and raise funds, or give generously to those who are.
Go to SafeWaterSeptember.org.au and get involved today!