Have you noticed that in recent years, after you wave at or ignore the beggar that comes to knock at your window, they will ask for your already opened half-full bottle of water. I had never heard of or noticed this until a couple of months ago, in February, when a visiting friend mentioned it. Since then, it has happened to me three times, or every time that I have had a bottle of water in plain sight.
This past Sunday, my best friend called me. I could immediately tell that she was managing distress, I could sense it bubbling just underneath the surface; I asked what was wrong with her son, she respond that it wasn’t him, nothing was wrong. Then she told me a similar tale – a little boy approached her, she had no cash and so she told him, he begged her for water, she gave it to him. But it also broke her heart in two, then she bust out crying again, this innocent child was only a victim of the hand he had drawn in the birth lottery.
She knew that if she gave him money, it would only go to his minders, if she gave him food, it would satisfy for 6 hours. He deserved better, what is the difference between this child and hers.
I know, we’ve all grown up in this society, we’ve seen people have it worse than even this child that she grieves for; we try our best to help as much as we can, to fill an ocean with a teaspoon. I mean where do we even start in solving a problem of this magnitude? We become somewhat immune, bury it under our own problems – everyone here is hustling and struggling.
But water, half-drunk water, filled with your backwash.
These bottles of water, that we open, take a few swigs and don’t don't remember where we left the bottle; these scraps off our table have the power to transform someone’s day. I’m pragmatic: I know that their lives, like all of ours have meaning to them: they laugh, find joy, play, keep hope alive, struggle. I also know that lack exists across the spectrum of wealth - having and not having coincide; there are things that would mean the world to me that won’t matter to someone else and some people in this country would look at my station with the same pity in their eyes.
But water fa! And no, I am not only just coming to the realization that there is a water problem in Nigeria, it just really stinks to face the reality that there are people in the glorious and glamarous city of Lagos who struggle to buy even N10 pure water.
I want to do. something.
So I analyze the problem, what’s the most immediate way that I can bring joy to these children. It occurs to me that children’s day is coming, maybe throw a party (but without press, they will not be used as props). It doesn’t deal with the root cause, it doesn’t address the problem, it doesn’t find a lasting solution, it does absolutely nothing beyond allowing them to be children for 4 to 6 hours. I know I would need to engage stakeholders: their parents, the government, churches, NGOs etc. I speak to my sister about it and she says that I should look at Slum2School, an organization that we’ve supported in the past. I thought they only worked with communities (like their flagship Makoko), but she said no, they do this type of advocacy on behalf of street children as well.
In a serendipitous way that smacks of divine intervention. I go to LinkedIn for the first time in several weeks and the second thing on my feed was a friend’s retweet of Slum2School’s announcement of the closing of their volunteer application window (you still have 24 hours). So I sign up and ask my best friend to sign up as a way to redirect our energy from heartache to action.
What is more, on my way home, it happened to me, but with an older guy. Luckily I had 2 unopened bottles of water, which I gave him. And there and then, I made a decision to always have packs of pure water that I would distribute at every light that turns red on my way home. A similar solution that my visiting friend had come up with. This is a drop, I know, not enough to move any needle or to register to the ocean. But if we all make similar drops, they will become the torrents that form the source of that ocean.
I’m still brainstorming and crowdsourcing a lasting solution to addressing this problem: to see how we can get water fountains in Lagos (I really mean taps) or better yet these children off the streets >> so I welcome any information on organizations that are focused on this subject matter and any suggestions for possible solutions (the wilder the solution, the better).
Together, we are an unstoppable force.
Have you noticed this, what's your take? I'd love to hear. #judgementfreezone