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Clean water courage


WORLD Radio - Clean water courage

A former first grade teacher leads a team helping people in Africa get access to clean water

Photo by Lisa Brodie

NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Wednesday, May 17th. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day.

Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard.

Next up: Clean water!

Most of us don't think twice about it. But in some places, water’s dangerous. In developing countries around the world, dirty water is responsible for eight of every ten illnesses.

EICHER: For many people living in these communities, clean water is right underneath them. But the challenge is getting to it.

It’s not the kind of job that can be done by hand. Drilling for clean water can be time consuming and costly.

But WORLD's Myrna Brown has the story of an unlikely drill team and the difference it’s making.

LISA BRODIE: Oh my goodness! Wow! I still remember it like it was yesterday.


MYRNA BROWN, CORRESPONDENT: The year was 2010. Lisa Brodie was standing on rocky, red dirt watching a steel pipe drill 600 feet deep into the ground. The sun was going down and time was running out.

LISA: It was the final day. There were a few pipes left and our whole entire team had prayed. And I remember hearing the drillers shout and so we knew immediately they’d gotten water. And I remember standing there just crying and looking around. We were kind of in a valley and there were mountains all around us and I remember seeing people all around coming with their buckets.

In the East African country of Tanzania, only five out of ten households have access to clean, safe drinking water. Over the past 13 years, Brodie has led more than 50 clean water projects, digging wells and drilling for water in a country 8-thousand miles from her home. The 55-year-old wife and mother of five isn’t an engineer. She’s a former first grade teacher, full of wonder.

LISA: From the time I was very young, I always was drawn to people that looked different than me.

Growing up in rural Arkansas, Brodie’s parents supported a missionary family that had served for many years in Zambia, a country in Southern Africa.

LISA: They were coming back to the U.S. to retire and shortly before their time to return there were two children, a boy and a girl whose families needed them to adopt the children. And so, these missionaries in their old age, they adopted these two young Zambian children and the girl Vivian became one of my very best friends.

Brodie says she wanted to know everything about Vivian, especially her homeland.

LISA: I just wondered about where she had come from and so I would always say…some day I’m going to go to Africa. Some day I’m going to go to Africa.

Inseparable throughout middle school, Brodie and Vivian attended different high schools. The two eventually lost touch. Decades later, Brodie was living in Alabama, married and homeschooling her five children. In 2007, she decided to join church members on a medical mission trip to Tanzania.

LISA: And I remember a very specific mama had a bottle that was just an empty old water bottle that she had. She had her baby toddler tied to her back and that baby had that bottle and you could not even see through the water. And I just remember thinking I would wish that someone would care enough to do something.

But do what? Her husband Curtis wondered, back in Alabama.

CURTIS BRODIE: I was like…ok I don’t know how to start this because I’ve only been a teacher. I don’t know about drilling and clean water projects.

Brodie was unwilling to move forward without her husband’s full support. She asked him to join her on the next trip to Tanzania.

LISA: There was a church building nearby and it doesn’t have a roof, it’s just the walls. It just has a dirt floor and there’s some little chairs in there. And they started singing this song about blessings. And I look over at my husband and he is weeping. So, I look at him and I’m like, he’s sold.

In 2009, Brodie established the nonprofit, Maji Hope. Maji means water in Swahili. After building her website, she was ready to share her story. She started where she felt most comfortable: in the classroom.

LISA: And what I knew was talking to children. I took the photos that I had taken from my three previous trips and I showed the pictures of mamas walking for water, what the unclean water looked like.

Before long, Brodie and students in her community had raised about $50,000 enough money to pay for that first clean water project… or so they thought.

LISA: What we didn’t realize was that the American driller was over there making money as they would drill. It wasn’t nonprofit, so we paid a lot more for that first well than we should have.

Brodie says about four times more. Not only were they overcharged, some drilling companies shunned outside participation.

LISA: Very few people wanted you to go with them and I mean even less than that would let you take students with you.

Since 20-12 they’ve partnered with a South Korean, Christian driller, as well as other Tanzanians.

LISA: We ask the community to sell some cows and make some money and contribute maybe to the fence or maybe the concrete to finish off the bottom.

TANZANIANS: Maji, Maji, Maji, Water, Water, Water

For more than a decade, Brodie has recorded the jubilant voices and smiling faces of hundreds of Tanzanians celebrating the clean water flowing through their villages. But Brodie says there was one voice missing.

LISA: I was speaking at a school and I was telling these children about Vivian and one of the kids asked, do you still talk to Vivian.

So, after 36 years, Brodie went looking for her long-lost friend Vivian and found her through social media.

LISA: She was like, Lisa, I cannot believe this. She knows from living in Zambia what it’s like to not have water. It’s a big deal.

What started as a friendship has turned into a mission as Brodie has introduced more than 300 people to clean water projects. She says she’s grateful conversations about clean water often lead to an introduction to the Living Water.

LISA: When you come to give water for someone, the first thing is they want to know why. You just say, oh the One who created the Universe loves you so much that He sent people from the other side of the world to come give you water.

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Myrna Brown in Silver Hill, Alabama.

REICHARD: Myrna produced a companion piece on Lisa Brodie and her clean water projects for WORLD Watch, our video news program for students. We’ve included a link to that story in today’s transcript.

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.


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