Our footsteps kicked up little puffs of dust as we walked along the fenceline at Trees of Glory CarePoint in Ethiopia.
I shielded my eyes from the harsh sun and my fingertips grazed my nose and cheekbones to see if I was getting a sunburn. I felt in my pocket for a tube of chapstick to soothe my dry lips. My steps jarred sharp stones loose from the dry dirt and they rattled down the slope.
Simret pulled me along by my hand, intent on telling me something important as we stopped to watch women filling large yellow jugs with crystal clear, cold water. In this hot, arrid terrain, even the sound of splashing water was refreshing.
Women and small children gathered at the water-point, talking animatedly. We watched as jugs were filled and hoisted on their backs to be carried home. Water continued to gush from the spigots as toddlers washed their hands and put their mouths under the water. Where the water hit the ground, it splashed and sprayed creating a cool mist. I was mesmerized by the sound and the sight of water against this desert backdrop.
We paused in the shade of a building to watch and I marvelled at how things had changed here.
A few years earlier, Simret had felt a calling to leave her government job, go out into the countryside and start this CarePoint for orphaned and destitute children. The government provided the land and buildings ... and 84 children were assigned to her care... to feed, clothe and educate.
It wasn't easy. No electricity, a harsh environment and water for nearly 100 children had to be carried on the backs of donkeys to the CarePoint every day. A year ago, I could see the worry and the strain on Simret's face. Today her eyes glistened with tears, a huge smile on her face as she pressed my hands in hers.
She had something important to tell me and I could see the emotion welling up inside her as she swallowed hard and pulled me close.
To be continued ....