Last Saturday (not today) was the AGM of the excellent charity Water for Kids. This was held in the outskirts of Bradford and was an opportunity (a) to catch up with the work of the organisation and (b) see a few old chums. Set off really early at four in the morning and was down there two hours early, so read the Grauniad from cover to cover and rested the weary bones before the meeting.
Lunch came first, comprising an excellent selection of the finest products of Bradford’s curry houses, with fresh fruit salad to follow.
The meeting itself was the usual business of any AGM, but two of the trustees gave presentations of some of the work that the charity is doing to bring clean water to people for the first time in several parts of Africa. It is astonishing how much a village spring supply can be cleaned up for the sake of a few hundred quid – source protection, improved drainage and better access for filling water containers makes a dramatic difference to people’s health and therefore their education and life chances. Where water supplies have been cleaned up, school attendances improve by up to 20%, because children are no longer suffering from diarrhoea from dirty water and risking their lives for the sake of something to drink. People involved with Water for Kids also tend to take other aid to rural communities, and examples were given of building simple (but effective and hygienic) pit latrines to replace two holes in the ground that had to serve a school of 2000 kids. It is also astonishing to discover that schools of that size may have no water supply of their own at all, again something that can generally be remedied for what are to us small sums of money. Perhaps the most moving story was of a couple of women in one village who had asked for second-hand wedding dresses to be sent out so they could start a small business of renting them out to local women who were getting married, but who literally could not afford any sort of new dress, let alone a wedding dress, for their big days. This scheme is a great success and is an excellent example of how small things can make a huge difference for people who have relatively little in the way of material things, but much in the way of imagination, enterprise and a joy for life.