Goodbye Broken Pipes, Hello Renewed Lives

by Jenny Chu, CWEF Yunnan Health Programs Director

When I first visited Yanmaidi village in September of 2018, it didn’t look much different from other villages in this part of Yunnan province. Most of the buildings are made of mud bricks and concrete, along with a few modern-style buildings. However, when I entered my host Mr. Hu’s house, he had a surprise for me. He picked up a wooden board from the ground to reveal a small pit underneath, and he showed me the buried water pipe under his home that had cracked due to wear and tear over time. He had dug up his floor in order to repair it. He told me this was typical throughout Yanmaidi, and that many of the families in the village had the same experience.

Mr. Hu has played a key role in the drinking water project in Yanmaidi. He sought out CWEF’s local partner in Lufeng county through his own contacts, assisted in the pre-project baseline survey, and hosted visitors from a CWEF service learning team for meals at his home in Spring 2019.

Mr. Hu is 37 years old. He was born in Yanmaidi and, together with his parents and grandfather, continues to live and work here as a farmer. The family grows wheat, corn, chili peppers, and yams. They also cultivate chestnut, walnut, and bayberry trees, as well as collecting wild mushrooms in the forest areas surrounding their village. Previously, Mr. Hu had moved away from Yanmaidi to work as a seasonal migrant laborer for two years.

In recent years, life has been getting better in Yanmaidi. A paved road was recently built all the way into the village, and cash crops are increasingly replacing traditional crops, slowly creating higher incomes for village families. In 2018, the average annual income per person was 3,500 yuan (about US$500).

One exception to the positive trends in Yanmaidi has been the village’s drinking water system. The system’s pipes have been wearing out and breaking down for years, and many families’ water frequently stops flowing, mainly due to water pipes constantly rupturing and needing repair. When the water supply gets cut off, Mr. Hu and other families need to walk about one kilometer to go collect water. Going back and forth multiple times every day to carry water consumes valuable time and energy, which they could be using to attend to their farming and other labor work. As you can imagine, the deteriorating water system has created many frustrations and limitations for the families here.

Each family in Yanmaidi is participating in the drinking water project supported by CWEF by contributing a portion of the required funds from their own meager incomes, along with the physical labor needed to dig trenches and lay all of the new pipes and cisterns that will make up the renewed system.

When the project is completed, Mr. Hu and everyone in Yanmaidi will feel a strong sense of satisfaction and ownership in their village’s drinking water system. After years of frustration and limitations, they will be grateful to say goodbye to hours of wasted time carrying water and hello to renewed health, hope and vitality.

Through the end of December, generous friends of CWEF have pledged a 100% match for all gifts up to a total of US$20,000. Give clean water to one family in Yanmaidi, and a second family will also be blessed with the beautiful gift of a reliable, convenient source of clean water!

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