Athuman was the middle child of 7 children and had lost a sister and a brother to Hepatitis A. For those who are unaware, Hepatitis is transmitted through contaminated food or water. When we asked Athuman how he felt about losing his siblings to this terrible disease, he grew very sad and told us he knew many people in his village who had died from water-borne diseases. In fact, water-related diseases kill African children under the age of five more than HIV/AIDS, measles, and malaria combined. Athuman expressed to us how when he was older, he wanted to be a doctor. He had never met a doctor in his lifetime. When he was born, he was delivered in his mud-hut by a nurse and a mid-wife. Although he had never come in contact with a doctor, he heard stories throughout his childhood about these “magical” people who would help others when they were sick and save people from dying. He told us becoming a doctor was an idea in the back of his mind and that he would most likely have to stop attending school in a couple of years to start helping his mother with collecting water and raising his siblings. Athuman was not aware that we were in the village doing the preliminary assessments to install a new solar-powered well in Dudani.
He told us he loved studying and attending school but he knew it was a burden to his family. His family did not have the money to send him to higher education and could barely afford to pay for his school uniform. We asked Athuman if he had ever been out of his village Dudani and he said no, and asked us what reason would he have to leave. After our visit in the car ride back to town, one staff member was inspired by Athuman. She had an idea to bring a health care professional to Dudani. A couple weeks later, we returned to Athuman’s village along with Doctor Jumanne. Doctor Jumanne is a doctor of public health who moved to Florida to obtain his PhD.
Upon completing his studies, he moved back to Tanzania to improve the public health sector of the country. Dr. Jumanne began talking to Athuman about his life and his childhood growing up in Mkuranga District. He explained to Athuman the importance of clean water in health and and how clean water and sanitation has the ability to eliminate many diseases that live in unsanitary water. Athuman was nervous in the beginning but by the end he was firing off questions back to back to the doctor about his experience, his motivation in life, and the idea of clean water. He paused for a minute and looked out the door to collect his thoughts. After a while, he looked back at Athuman and explained to him that every person in the world has a purpose. No matter what difficulties we face and the situations we are born into, it is up to each and every individual person to decide the life they wanted to live. Dr. Jumanne told Athuman how blessed his village was to be receiving a new well and how they would soon see a drastic transformation because of this clean water supply.
Athuman pulled one of our staff members to the side towards the end of our visit and explained how he wanted to be just like Dr. Jumanne and study public health. He wanted to spread the information he learned about sanitation and practicing healthier habits.
Since we do frequent site visits in the villages, we went to see Athuman shortly after the well was installed. He told us with the new well, it was as if his village discovered life again. Everyone was happy and they were starting to move towards better sanitation. He asked us about a new word he had learned learned from Dr. Jumanne, soap. Athuman remembered the doctor saying soap kills germs and he wanted to know if African Reflections Foundation could provide more information and resources regarding sanitation.
Each time we visit Athuman, he tells us about new steps they are taking towards cleanliness.