Famo Musa was 5 years old when she first learned how to carry water—carefully balancing a jerry can full of the precious cargo on her head. The dust and heat were unforgiving as she walked, but the trek was essential for Famo’s family to have what they needed to cook, bathe and survive in northwestern Kenya’s Kakuma refugee camp.
“We’d typically go three times a day and you never knew when it would be shut off,” said Famo, explaining how few water collection points were available to the more than 180,000 refugees living in the camp. “You’d carry one [container] on your head, one in each hand and push one with your feet to bring back as much as possible. Eventually, you got used to the weight.”
Now, more than a decade has passed since Famo and her family left Kakuma for the United States. And even though clean water is not scarce here, she and a handful of other young refugee women and girls still commit to walking once a year with jerry cans on their heads. Last month marked their 10thannual Walk for Water with Project Concern International (PCI) in San Diego. It’s a chance, they said, to remember and to raise awareness about the global water crisis.
“We know the struggle others have to go through, and it’s the least we can do since we don’t have the money to send back home,” Famo said. “We still have friends and family there.”
In addition to Famo and her friends, hundreds of local youth and families joined PCI on Earth Day for the nonprofit’s annual 5k walk around Tecolote Shores at Mission Bay. The event raised over $70,000 in support of PCI’s water and sanitation programs and efforts to end poverty worldwide.
“When you ask public health experts what the one thing is that makes the biggest difference in saving lives and giving children a healthier start at life, it’s clean water,” said NBC7’s Mark Mullen, who served as Master of Ceremonies. “… This event gives you a feel for what millions of people in Africa, Asia and South America go through every day just to get water for their daily survival.”
*Photo by Melissa Jacobs.