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West Wickham fundraiser takes once in a lifetime trip to India with WaterAid

PUBLISHED: 09:45 21 March 2013 | UPDATED: 09:45 21 March 2013

Richard Allison experiences carrying water in an Indian village.

Richard Allison experiences carrying water in an Indian village.

Archant

In February a West Wickham resident was chosen for a once-in-a-lifetime trip to see India and the work international charity WaterAid is doing there.

Richard collecting water for a family from a standpipe.Richard collecting water for a family from a standpipe.

Richard Allison, 55, joined 11 others who were picked by the charity because of their previous fundraising for WaterAid. They travelled through villages and slums over four days, witnessing the cramped and unsanitary conditions that millions live in. Richard kept a diary for the Bromley Times, highlights of which are printed here...

Day 1: Morning visit to Nayagon and afternoon trip to Madadev Pura

Richard Allison with school children outside toilets in Padli, Madhya Pradesh.Richard Allison with school children outside toilets in Padli, Madhya Pradesh.

On my first morning I visited Nayagon and walked to a nearby spring to collect water. I met people who have to walk for five hours to collect water.

Just visiting the villages and slum areas will leave a lasting memory in me. People are not unhappy but they have accepted things we just wouldn’t tolerate.

In the afternoon we visited Madadev Pura, where hand-pumps and internal toilets had been installed thanks to WaterAid.

It is home to 28 families and has a village water and sanitation committee, established in 2004.

By 2008, new hand pumps were installed and two pumps restored along with the installation of 30 internal household toilets. All this resulted in improved health and much better school attendance for the children.

It makes you realise what we take for granted, just something like going to the toilet in your house.

Day 2: Morning visit to Jonhar and afternoon trip to Kamhar

Soon to get WaterAid’s help is Jonhar, an agricultural village where residents collect water from two nearby wells which are often polluted by water flowing in from the surrounding land.

I accompanied Sonan, a 22-year-old mother with her one-year-old baby on the 15-minute walk to a well.

Standing on a raised ledge above the well I carefully hauled a container of water on a rope from the water 20ft below, not daring to get too close to the edge in case I slipped.

Sonan explained that she has no choice but to give this dirty water to her baby despite the fact it can often cause vomiting, fever and diarrhoea.

I wanted to get an idea of how it felt to carry 15 litres of water and was astonished at how much pressure it put on my neck and back. I was not even confident that I could carry even one container back.

I found it hard to believe that millions of people around the world do this. I just can’t come to terms with quite how they have accepted the situation they are in.

Day 3: Morning visit to Amrod and trip to a school in Padli

WaterAid help families and communities build latrines, which is what we did in Amrod. There was little awareness of the benefits of hygiene and sanitation in the villages I have been to and open defecation was common until recently. Just two households had toilets, but after an initial programme addressing water sanitation and hygiene, 30 houses now have their own water supply and toilets.

Day 4: Visit to a slum in Bhopal

The slums could have been worse. I didn’t know what to expect and I was really surprised to find some people had lived there as long as 15 years.

Cramped conditions make it more unsanitary than the villages where things are more separated out.

We went to a community toilet with space for 20 people, which was being used by about 1,200 people. The litter and mess just wasn’t very pleasant.

People were happier than I thought they’d be, authorities were trying to relocate some of them but they wanted to stay because they were established.

Education seems to be taken very seriously in India. Though the problems they face are huge, with their manpower and focus on education - I’m sure one day they will overcome them.

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