“Would you like to stop the women and children walking for water?”
With that simple question to the men of a remote Nepalese village, Pambula woman Jenny Stewart started Pebbles for Nepal, a mission to install 200 water tanks in the harsh mountain areas, where day-to-day life for women and children as young as two years of age involves trekking for five hours to collect water.
Nearly two-and-a-half years on and over halfway to her goal, Jenny said the change in families who have received water tanks is nothing short of remarkable.
“Think about what we do with water; we drink it, clean with it, cook with it, wash with it,” Jenny said.
“Water is life; without it there is nothing.
“With the water tanks I’ve already given, I’ve seen the cleanliness and the hygiene change in the families, and they’re not dehydrated any more.
“And because they don’t have to walk for water every day, the women and children are free to plant crops, grow seed and get an education.
“The girls over there are pregnant at 12, and it’s not that they don’t know any better, that’s their life; they walk for water and they make babies.”
But with each water tank costing $115, Jenny is calling on local businesses to sponsor her cause.
Around $18,500 has already been raised, with Sprout Eden’s campaign to give up the cost of a coffee netting around $700 to date.
Jenny hopes to raise another $20,000 to complete the project, and says donations of any size will help.
“$115 doesn’t just change their life for today, it changes their life and their childrens’ lives, and the next generation after that,” she said.
“They had no way of storing water before the tanks, so an old plastic Coke bottle was like a million dollars to them.
“Having water generates more crops, which gives them food for themselves and food to sell.
“There’s one water tank where they were smart enough to put in the first fish farm on the mountain, and they’re eating and selling these fish.
“The ball has already started rolling for them because they’ve created a source of income.
“I’d like to say a massive thank you to Sprout and the generous people who have donated, and if there is anyone else out there who would like to help sponsor this, please help these people.”
While water is something we take for granted, it’s also vital in helping removing some of the dangers associated with life on the mountains.
The area is heavily targeted by people traffickers, while several people have developed infections as a result of not having water, and others have suffered serious burns and had no means of treating them.
“When a person comes along and says, ‘I will take your daughter and give her an education and a work opportunity’, they think ‘well we don’t have any food or water for this child, so they’re better off going’,” Jenny said.
“So they end up as sex slaves, and traffickers also take kids off the tracks while they’re walking for water, and they just disappear.
“When I first went there, there was a family that had a little baby hanging in a hammock out the back to die.
“He had rolled into the fire during the night, and they had no water so he lost his feet and has badly burned legs.
“He couldn’t walk for water, so they had no use for him.”
Jenny has often encountered criticism from people who suggest that she should focus on helping fellow Australians.
Her response is simple.
“People here have hardships, but it doesn’t even compare to these people in Nepal,” she said.
“We have the dole, unemployment benefits, food vouchers, but these people have absolutely nothing apart from their basic dwelling, frying pan and cooking utensils.
“They may have a few farming utensils and the clothes on their backs, but that’s it.
“The kids don’t know what toys are; I went into one village and there was a little rock with holes in it, and that’s a kid’s toy.”
To donate to Pebbles for Nepal, visit Sprout Eden or make a deposit to Bendigo Bank, account number 633-000, 136212149
If your business would like to sponsor Pebbles for Nepal, please contact Jenny on 0415 155 383.
Jenny covers her own travel expenses.
A fundraiser for Pebbles for Nepal will be held at the Uniting Church Hall, Eden on Saturday, April 27 at 7.30pm.
Diyalee, a film starring Central Nepal villagers depicting their own lives, will be screened on the night.