In this photo, taken in 2005, young Malik, Soutout, and Sadeya were digging for water in a drying seasonal marsh. The children played and sang as we walked the twelve miles from their home to the marsh, carefree and relieved to conduct this “short” water errand. The rains had filled up the marshes, and for a few months — as long as the water did not completely evaporate — they would not have to undertake a daylong search for the precious liquid.
Upon arrival at the marsh, I sat underneath a thorny acacia tree in silence, observing the children set themselves up. This was a marsh, I asked myself? All I saw was fly and dung infested mud trampled by cows, goats and donkeys. The children dug and dug, for hours they fervently dug to reach the underground water reserves. Disgusted, I simply could not get myself to help them. Selfishly, I thought of dinner being cooked in the muddy water, and ugh, I wanted to vomit. Eventually, a few women joined us to wash their clothes. Again, I watched them in great consternation. With all the respect I had for them, I wondered if the clothes wouldn’t be cleaner staying dirty rather than being washed in this murky liquid.
The children finally finished filling up their numerous jerry cans. Before departing, Malik scooped some mud into his metal bowl, and took a large swig. Refreshed, he tied his jerry cans to his donkey, and we set off back home.
Today, Malik, Soutout, and Sadeya are married with their own children. I’m proud and happy to say that their children will never have to undergo such hardships, or risk disease or death drinking marsh mud. Amman Imman built them a borehole in 2007, and ever since, they fetch pure water only a few minutes distance from their homes.
Ariane Alzhara Kirtley is the founder and director of Amman Imman. She shares photos and stories about growing up in Africa, living in Niger with her children, and her work with Amman Imman on Instagram and on her website. This post first appeared on Instagram.