What’s in a cliché?
I’ve been reflecting of late on some of the overused and under examined sayings I have been exposed to throughout my lifetime.
“Work hard, play hard”
“You deserve a break today”
“Just do it”
“Have it your way”
“When you’ve got it flaunt it”
Recognize any of these sayings? In my mind the fact that I am so familiar with these corporate inspired jingles, and the fact that they have gained such a prevalent foothold in our collective mindset is telling; exactly what it is “telling” I will let you decide. There is another cliché that we at ICA are very familiar with, and I’m willing to wager that most of the “developed” world has never heard it. The level of its meaning goes beyond profound; it reaches into the personal and collective psyche of cultures and affects the daily existence of hundreds of millions of people. Its brevity belies the incalculable impact it has on the entire globe.
“Water is life”
Water is life, 3 short words; 11 letters in total. Ask someone from your world what water means to them and they might look at you with a puzzled look that is to imply “huh”? But at ICA we have asked that question many times, and we constantly get the same cliché given back to us. “Water is life”. That’s because we are asking that question in sub-Saharan Africa. It is our experience that Africans know the true meaning of water. For so many people in the world water is not about daily showers, washing the cars, filling the swimming pools, or 6 litres per flush. For many people water represents 2 hours fetching some in the morning, and 2 hours fetching some in the evening, and is the water clean enough that my family will not be sickened by it, and will the rains come this year? The routine of their life and the survival of their family is determined by the availability of good clean water. Ask an African what water means to them and if they do not respond “Water is Life” I will buy the beer.
That’s why we have always maintained a focus on working with communities to develop dependable and safe sources of drinking water. We work with communities in semi-urban settings or isolated villages far from any chance of government support. The provision of water changes things. Health increases, education levels are elevated as children are freed from the tiresome burden of fetching water from distant sources, household productivity increases, the benefits are almost immeasurable.
In March of 2016 we will again be heading to Cameroon to spend time in the Lebeliam Valley and the surrounding highlands. In addition to the construction of a school we are financing in the village of Folepi, much of our energies will be focused on working with the surrounding villages on the need for water to determine and implement the most workable and sustainable solution to that need. We are fortunate in that not only will we have the correct team of volunteers to help, but we will also have the donour support and the indigenous teams that will help ensure success.
So what’s in a cliché? I wish I knew. I have heard the phrase “Water is Life” so many times I could not begin to count, but the profound reality enveloped in that cliché has me questioning many of the slogans I have used to define my life thus far.
Check back with us in the spring for some results from this year’s trip.