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We want to make a difference with useful gifts 3

Why we want to make a difference with Useful Gifts

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After 7 years of helping to create the Useful Gifts Catalogue, Tearfund's Melody Murton recently met some of the people behind its life-changing impact.

I was standing with a group of women in the heat of the day, in a small remote village in eastern Zambia. One of them held a cup of water: brown and dirty, collected from the nearest water source, a stream 3km away.

Jasmit, one of the women in the group, told me that some days, she has to make 10 trips to the stream to collect enough water for her family’s needs. I did some mental maths and figured I’d misunderstood, so checked again. Yes, Jasmit assured me. Ten trips to the stream – and back.

I was stunned. 60km walking in a day, for water that must then be filtered and boiled before it’s anywhere near fit to use? I imagined the difference it would make to have access to safe water, closer to home…

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That same day, I saw the impact of improved access to water and sanitation. Nearby, at the small school where Jasmit’s older children attend, students are learning to use taps for the first time, at the new handwashing facility that’s been installed. Run off from the taps is being used to water tree seedlings around the school property, which will replenish the soil and offer shade and fruit in years to come. There were also new toilet blocks, properly ventilated for better sanitation and with a private washroom for girls – so that their monthly period doesn’t hold them back from coming to school.

I imagined the difference it would make to have access to safe water, closer to home…

Later, Jasmit and other women from the community showed me how they were using solar drying methods to preserve vegetables from their gardens. They now had a way to eat seasonal vegetables all throughout the year, meaning better nutrition for their families and food security in difficult times.

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I was in awe of the resilience and resourcefulness of these women, and of the way Tearfund’s partner Reformed Open Community Schools (ROCS) is working faithfully alongside the community to overcome the challenges they face to fullness of life.

I’ve been part of the team working on Tearfund’s Useful Gifts Catalogue for the past 7 years. Each year we gather stories of hope and impact from communities around the world to bring each Useful Gift to life. Meeting Jasmit and her friends in Zambia brought home to me the names, faces, challenges and triumphs behind Useful Gifts. They showed me the impact of a Useful Gift like Hunger Response or a Toilet, and, where there is still need for change, how a gift like a Well or Safe Water could make a dramatic difference in everyday life. And they showed me how a simple gesture of generosity – like choosing a Useful Gift at Christmas time – can be a way to love our global neighbours.

Gifts which support safe water & sanitation

Give a family or community the gift of safe water or sanitation for a healthy life.

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Melody Murton is Tearfund's Head of Communications and Education

Related projects have received support from the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP).