Imagine for just a second that your 5 year old child (in most cases girl) had to miss school to walk a 20 mile round trip to collect dirty contaminated water for your family.
I could not imaging having to send our daughter out every day, it breaks my heart just to think about it, and yet this is what young children are having to do everyday in underserved communities around the world.
Playpumps is an innovative working concept to provide clean drinking water through child’s play to rural areas in Lesotho and South Africa.
Most of these rural areas are impoverished and are not serviced with clean drinking water from local municipalities.
Through children playing on a roundabout, clean borehole water is pumped into a reservoir which tends to the water needs of the immediate community.
For over five million people living in rural communities in Lesotho and South Africa, safe crystal-clear drinking water is liquid gold to them as it waters the bounty of life itself.
The difference clean water makes in their lives is like a steady job to city dwellers whose livelihood depends on consistent pay checks.
Now, I’m not going to harp on too much about how much clean safe drinking water can change lives in these rural communities because I want you to celebrate a small accomplishment with us that we at Thula Tula in association with PlayPumps have achieved.
It’s important that our message of hope, support, and appreciation is filtered back to the many people who have purchased Thula Tula blankets and throws from the inception of our drive to service and maintain existing play pumps.
We know what value lies in clean drinking water for rural communities because we have seen first-hand how much of a burden the lack of this liquid gold places on women and children who are tasked to walk miles each day to fetch containers of water for their homes.
It robs them of valuable time that could be better spent on self-upliftment like education and becoming an entrepreneur by starting a small business within the community.
Site BER0045 popped up on our radar, listed as not operational. This specific PlayPump site is situated within a 5000 strong community and was last serviced in 2015.
Thula Tula’s contractor team made the necessary arrangements to service and repair the non-functioning PlayPump borehole. On the first attempt to reach the site the team faced adverse weather conditions and were forced to abandon the attempt; however, the second attempt was successful and the team got straight to work.
One of the borehole columns had to be replaced and fitted with new seals, and the tap also had to be replaced. What was crucial was to completely rebuild the roundabout foundation so the children can play safely without hurting their feet on the worn and weathered original foundation.
BEFORE: The PlayPumps during repairs most pumps have been unusable for some time under this new repair or replace initiative sponsored by all those that purchase blankets from Thula Tula
AFTER: Site BER0045 is Thula Tula's first PlayPump to be completely overhauled.
In the “before” picture at about the 3 O’clock mark, you will notice how the concrete foundation has formed a ridge which is a hazard for barefoot children playing on the roundabout.
From the picture you can also clearly see that the roundabout has been extensively used; enough to wear down the original concrete foundation.
The “After” picture is what the PlayPump looked like after the necessary maintenance to bring it back to what it looked like when it was first built.
The roundabout structure is made from durable material and is sturdy enough to cope with the weight of a bunch of kids having fun.
We estimate that about 420 people in the community benefit directly from the fresh borehole water pumped by their children at play.
In the image below you will get a clearer picture of just how far apart homes are in these rural areas.
You will also see the raised reservoir with the Aranda sign and a smaller sign lower on the structure with a contact number for free pump repairs.
Site BER0045 is just of many such sites that are now getting much-needed repair and maintenance but without your direct donations and a portion of the proceeds from Thula Tula blanket sales, this would have not been possible.
You’re probably wondering why Aranda and Thula Tula got involved with delivering clean water to rural communities.
The answer is quite simple; if statistics are anything to go by then the fact that water-borne diseases are responsible for more annual deaths than deaths caused by violence and war combined; therefore, it is definitely worth the effort to ensure the community has safe drinking water.
Sadly 43% of deaths through water-borne diseases are children under the age of five which in any “first world” country would be a massive scandal.
The PlayPump infrastructure is already in place but because funds for the project dried up, maintenance also ground to a halt.
Aranda’s textile business showcases African art and is responsible for job creation in the process but this isn’t enough so we looked at other ways to help sustain and develop the communities of Lesotho and South Africa whose cultures contribute to our business.
Clean safe drinking water is a great community upliftment program and it was a shame to see it disintegrate before our eyes.
A simplified diagram on how the PlayPumps work. It was an ingenious idea to start but without the proper maintenance most of the playpumps that were installed now sit dormant
Through direct donations and by taking a small sum from every one of our blanket sales and putting it aside in our community upliftment fund, we have generated sufficient funds to begin servicing and maintaining the many play pumps in the region.
Site BER0045 is an example of what can be achieved through UBUNTU. For those of you not familiar with the term, UBUNTU is humility in action.
It means “I am because you are, and you are because we are.” I’m almost certain that there are biblical verses that amount to the same meaning.
Unlike urban schools with rolling green lawns and tartan athletic tracks, this luxury is not afforded to rural schools.
Most rural schools struggle to get funding to maintain their school building (many are built from sunbaked clay bricks that break down in wet weather) let alone get funding for sports or play equipment.
I’m sure you’ll agree with me that the lack of proper facilities at these rural schools impedes a child’s development.
A single dusty playfield is all that many rural schools have so the roundabout concept provides a piece of play equipment for the children to enjoy.
Having the PlayPumps situated at rural schools provides the perfect play opportunity that is not only fun but also provides the school and surrounding area with safe drinking water.
Because of how widely dispersed homes are in these rural areas a PlayPump may only service a few hundred people yet the initiative is worth every cent.
For the children at these rural schools, a PlayPump means they can spend more time in school, and also when they walk into their classes, they are not tired from walking miles to first collect water for their homes.
While at school they have access to clean drinking water which greatly reduces the risk of illness from dirty or unfiltered water.
African culture and heritage are what make Thula Tula blankets and throws unique.
The Basotho people wear traditional blankets as part of their daily attire which connects them to their culture but also keeps them warm in the icy conditions of their mountain kingdom.
Basotho Heritage blankets have deep symbolic meaning to the Sotho nation and because their culture shines through the many blanket designs, Aranda Textile Mill was granted permission to uphold their legacy by being the sole producer of Basotho blankets.
The responsibility of being the guardian of a nation’s cultural heritage is not taken lightly and as a token of appreciation and respect to the Basotho people and the many nations of South Africa, providing warmth through blankets caters to the greater communities but more had to be done to ensure the survival of these colorful African cultures.
Hence the decision to partner with PlayPumps and ensure that through regular maintenance rural PlayPumps remain operational and provide clean water to communities who for the most part have been forgotten.
To every single person who has either made a donation or purchased a blanket or throw from Thula Tula, we say thank you so very much for the small part you’ve played in uplifting the rural communities of Lesotho and South Africa.
Without your support, site BER0045 would surely have crumbled into the dust. It was important for us to talk to you about our community upliftment program but more importantly, to show you first-hand how doing small things like maintaining PlayPumps can have far-reaching effects on rural communities.
Over and above our jubilant message is our deepest gratitude to all who knowingly and unknowingly supported our initiative. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts and look forward to your continued support.
I’ll leave you with a final thought. When next you snuggle up on the couch under a Thula Tula throw or blanket you should smile knowing that you made a difference in the lives of many rural children who face adversity daily. Once again, thank you.
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