While there may be the small matter of a test match starting at Lords tomorrow, at London's other ground, 72 adults will be living out a childhood fantasy by playing 6-a-side cricket at The Oval. The reason for this is a charity event run by Three Valleys Water and Mace in support of WaterAid.
As one of the organisers of the event (it seemed a good way to make sure I could play) I have been amazed by the work that WaterAid does in providing the safe drinking water that we all take for granted to those parts of the Third World where it really is a matter of life and death. I have also been sent the story below of how cricket has made a huge difference to the life of a village.
£15 is enough to provide one person with a lasting supply of safe water, sanitation and hygiene education. we hope to raise around £40000 tomorrow. If you are interested, you can find out more about WaterAid at www.Wateraid.org
Gautam Gupta, aged 25 is the village animator
He is the founding member of the youth hygiene group which he formed with others from the cricket team. Now there are 29 men in total involved in hygiene education.
“Before we were just the cricket team, then we decided we had to do something to make a difference as well rather than just playing cricket. More members joined us and now there are 29 of us.
We use the posters to explain about the issues. We ask people where they go to the toilet and then explain how many bacteria and viruses there are in faeces and explain the dangers. We then explain that by going outside in the open they are eating their own and other people’s faeces. Then we explain how this is happening – by talking about how the waste mixes with water, and if you drink from open sources you also drink the waste. If you go in fields, flies will sit on your faeces and then they will land on people’s food and vomit and then you eat the food. Dogs also eat the faeces and then come inside the house. We also explain that if you aren’t washing your hands and then are feeding your children you are feeding them with faeces.
After all this we ask them if they don’t want to eat faeces what should they do? Then the people themselves say that they must use latrines, wash their hands, cover their food, use water from handpumps and keep the water off the floor. We then explain which diseases you can prevent by doing this - diarrhoea, amoebic dysentery and typhoid.
At first they don’t accept they are eating faeces, but after showing them the poster they begin to believe it. They used to say that we weren’t telling them the truth but after seeing the flies and watching them they started making changes to their food handling. They are now constructing latrines too and changing their water handling.
In the first year 300 people had diarrhoea and this reduced to 150 last year - a 50% reduction. This year’s data is not here yet but we hope it has dropped even further. We would like to see everyone constructing latrines and carrying out proper hygiene practices then diseases will go down and this will increase their economic standards. If they don’t get sick, they don’t have to pay for a doctor. If you have malaria it costs 1000 rupees. Also, people can grow vegetables with the waste water and increase their income generally.
Twice a month we visit every house in the village and explain the messages. We divide into groups of two or three people and each goes to see different families. Each small group represents different hamlets and they visit the families in their area.
I attended training in February 2004 after which I organised a big village meeting. We identified the water points were a big concern and we made 13 user groups for each one. After forming these I started working with my friends. By focusing on each group the programme started across the village. The first thing we organised and cleaned was the water tank and everyone was very impressed that this was what youths in the village did. After this we started house visits. Then we faced many problems, women didn’t want to talk to us about faeces, food and things like this and so we had the idea of involving girls as well. We spoke to them at school and now they talk to the women about all of the issues and they help a lot.
In the process of forming groups, I have targeted each group in the village. We have women’s groups and a girls group now. The last thing we did was to speak to the Panchayat. They were very happy with what we’ve done and so we started working together. We are now helping each other. The Panchayat help us with cleaning the village and we are supporting them in schemes too. Financial support is also given by the Panchayat.
While we were doing the planning we identified this hamlet had a water problem; that the handpump went dry in the summer. The Panchayat agreed to build the tank and it is already built. WaterAid supported us for pipes and taps. We have already spoken to people about the contributions that they need to make to keep it clean and to pay for the electricity, which is 60 Rupees annually each. We have used a step by step approach in targeting the whole community. This we learnt at training and then passed it on to each different member of the community.”