Today was another adventure filled day in Thailand! I am pretty sure every single day is to be honest. Every day we are doing something that I have never done before or trying find solutions to problems that I have never thought of before. Today was another great example of that!
We started with a meeting with one of our main Partners discussing the needs of people or villages around us. Partners are the native people that we work with for our projects here in Thailand!
After that we were back to the Obstacle Course to work on some projects that need finished. I wasn't there very long at the beginning of the morning. I went to a village that is close to the Obstacle Course with two of the other volunteers I am here with. Several posts ago I posted about us helping carry water up this steep hill for this same village. Since then we have been discussing and have been trying to figure out how we can help them with their water situation. Currently they go up and down this hill 3 to 4 times a day. The last time we were there I couldn't believe that they actually made that journey! It was a steep hill! I couldn't believe that they had to walk up and down that hill with their water buckets that were old oil containers. We went back today with the hopes of solving all their problems and bringing them happiness! (or at least that was the goal!) I left feeling sad and I still feel sad about the whole situation.
We had a 15 min walk from the closest paved road to the village. When I thought of Thailand and third world villages this kind of village is what I pictured. It is by far the poorest village that I have been to since I have been here. It is hard for me to imagine that they live life that every single day. I was so excited about going there for some reason! I just felt like I could solve all their issues and problems! Earlier in the week we had been discussing putting up a pulley system for them to be able to pull their buckets of water up the steep hill that way instead of carrying it. The problem was that it would be a HUGE pulley and there are not any parts here in Thailand to make it. We are having a visitor come from HELP headquarters this weekend so we were thinking that she could bring the parts. When our country directors talked to her she brought up the good point that if they were to get parts from America and the pulley system broke down there would be no where for these people who are already poor to buy another part to fix it. So that idea isn't going to work. I had the idea to see if we could just fix the path that they walk up and down every day. I was thinking we could maybe add switchbacks into the hill so the climb wasn't so steep, or add some sort of step into the hill to make it easier to go up and down.
We went to the hut of the founder of the village and visited with him. He wasn't feeling the best so he was hesitant to have us come and talk to him, but there is a younger guy who has been the translator between us and him when we come, he was able to speak with us. The founder of the village speaks Laotian (I think that is how you spell it, I could be totally off) So one of our country directors will speak in Thai to the younger guy and then the younger guy will speak Laotian to the older guy. Make sense? We went there wanting to know how we could help with their water problems. It was one of the saddest meetings truthfully. Nothing was really accomplished from the meeting, and we are still not sure what to do to help them. The only solution that they can see for us to help them with is to give them money so they can buy fuel to put in a water pump that they have. That does seem like an excellent solution that would help them out for sure, but for only a couple of months or so. The organization that I am here in Thailand with is focused on creating sustainable projects and trying to find sustainable solutions. So if we were to give them money that would only solve the problem of their water for a couple of months then they would be right back to where they are right now. They would still have to walk up and down a steep hill using oil containers that are dirty that they would still not have clean water at the source of their water. Another sad thing about the oil containers is that they get them empty but still with some remnants of oil in them. The young man said that they use them like for about a month for water needs besides drinking. Usually after a month the smell of the oil goes away and then that is when they start to use the water in them for drinking. Can you believe that? It broke my heart when he said that. It was heart breaking to me to see the face of the young man that we were talking. I felt like he seemed hopeless and so sad about the situation that they are in. I also think he was upset that we wouldn't just give them money. It was hard situation to be in.
The young guy took us to be paths that they walk up and down so we could look at them to see if there was anything we could do to help them. The path that we took down is owned by someone else besides the village so there really isn't much that we can do to fix that, luckily it wasn't very steep it just had a lot of ruts rom cars getting stuck and the rain carving out gaps. He took us to where they get their drinking water and where they bathe. They have two different areas set aside for bathing and drinking water, but the source for both of them are the same. Neither of the barrels of water looked like they were very clean, and the area surrounding them was not very clean either. It was hard to understand for our country directors where the water comes from. He was saying that the young guy kept saying a few different things and nothing was really consistent, so he is not exactly sure what is really going on, but from his understanding the buckets are being filled by rain water and there is another small source that feeds into somewhere else. Luckily they are living in Thailand and right now it is the rainy season. Sadly what happens if this country is in a drought? What about the other months where it doesn't rain as much? Then what do they do? They don't really have another option right now for that. The young guy said there was another source that is about 3 kilometers away, but it owned by someone else who sometimes say that they can use the water, but sometimes they say that they can't either, so that isn't a guarantee.
After our meeting was over we walked back to the obstacle course that we had been working on earlier that day and to meet up with the other volunteers that were there. As we were walking one of the girls that I was with made a comment that has stuck with me since then. She said something along the lines that we live in a day n age where there are great medical strides being made, and disease being cured and technology being advanced and we can't figure out a way to get this village water. I know that there is a solution to this issue we just need to figure out what it is!
That night I was brushing my teeth and turned on my faucet and felt so grateful that I even though I am living in not the most ideal living situation, at least in United States Standards, I have running water, I have a bed, I have a shower and a toilet, I have water right at my dispense. I can run across the street and buy a water bottle from 7-11, or we have a water jug at our house I can get water as well. I felt grateful and guilty. I was grateful how I have never had to worry about where my water will come from. I have never had to walk a long distance to get water. I have never had to worry if my water was clean. Then I felt sad that these people worry about these things every single day. Every single day those concerns go through their heads. It is amazing that physically we are all very similar around the world, but we are yet still so different in so many ways.