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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Canada and Philippines: The Costs We Carry

Staff and volunteers for HOPE International Development Agency have recently returned home from their annual cross-Canadian tour of film premieres. One of the more important and least pleasant tasks for our audio-visual volunteer is carting a heavy video projector from airport to hotel to airport to hotel, again and again and again. After the about a week of minding this particular piece of luggage, the dreariness of travel can really set in—although our volunteer appreciates the upper body conditioning that the task demands.

However, it is often these types of chores that should connect us more deeply to the families that will be directly impacted by our failure or success in securing the funds for their clean water systems.

For example, let’s consider Befesa Ligmon’s family. They live in the community of Sito Fatima, San Vicente, in a rural community of the southern Philippines. In the Philippines, children are responsible for water collection. So Befesa’s youngest children make 2 one-hour trips a day carrying a 20 litre water jug over a hilly path to an unprotected spring.

This will be an imprecise calculation, but let’s assume that the jug, when filled, weighs 20.2 kilograms, or 45 pounds. According to standard calorie counters, the act of carrying this weight for an hour would cost a one hundred pound child between 350 and 600 calories. So in one day, water collection might conservatively cost that child between 1,000 and 2,000 calories (assuming he shares the load with his sibling).

That’s a big problem. The fact is, their lives are full of laborious tasks and it is extremely unlikely that Befesa’s children are consuming even 2,000 calories a day, the average for Western children. It’s no wonder that malnutrition is so rampant among families like theirs. Their daily lives are energy-costly and food-poor.

When our volunteer finishes a day of highly unglamorous schlepping, he can and should and will have a delicious meal. When Befesa’s children return home, they’re going to be eating just to stay on the right side of starvation.

Let’s carry the luggage, raise the money needed for the water system that will save these children two hours and 2,000 calories, and then everyone can enjoy that fine balance between hard work and replenishment.

Learn about bringing clean water to the people of the Philippines

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