Philip in the Field: Dots on a Map

May 16th, 2022

Philip’s on his first trip into the field. Read more about his journey…

Philip is currently a dot on a map of Zambia, standing in a small, sandy village, with his camera in hand. It’s his first field trip since joining Village Water in 2020, and although he’s not new to African landscapes and cultures (having grown up in Kenya) it’s his first time meeting the people that he’s been writing about for our website and socials.  

For me, this trip is all about the people we’re supporting. Getting to know them is a privilege and I want to bring their stories to life for our supporters back home.

Philip (L) with village headman Ronald Chapewa, Matt from Co2 Balance (one of our partners) & members of a Mumfwafyashila community

I spent my first day in Zambia learning the ropes, the unfamiliar names and getting to spend time with ECHO – it’s great finally meeting team members I’ve met so many times virtually, over Zoom or email.

ECHO will be improving water access for 310 communities this year – completing on average 25 projects a month! – and most are in rural districts. The roads to get to the communities in these areas are sometimes hard going, as Philip found out.   

We braved the Lusaka city traffic to visit some of the nearest communities we’ve supported – but, dots on the map really don’t translate well to ‘on the ground’ out here. It is slow going on dusty roads, some only just big enough to fit a car! But it would take a lot more to fluster these drivers, they are pros.  

Sunflowers are grown & farmed by most communities visited just west of Lusaka

Philip – a keen photographer – has the chance to capture people’s lives and homes

Often it felt like we were driving to the middle of nowhere, but we were always rewarded by the appearance of a waterpoint – at last!! Then before long, very welcoming villagers who drifted out of nowhere to see who the new visitors were!

Molya from Chisengamanga waves for the camera

It’s our goal to connect the dots between every rural, hard to reach village, to identify them to the local council, to ensure they have support and access to safe water and to link them with trained local well construction teams who can help them maintain their pump long-term.

Living in the UK, the necessity of water is really not something we pay attention to, but out here, travelling on seemingly endless roads out into what feels like nowhere and witnessing so many women and girls alongside the road carrying water below a blazing sun, I really feel the dependence.  

A single pump breakdown will suddenly take water away and that is no small issue.

We visit our partners when we need to. Sometimes to train teams in new processes or technologies to make our communications and projects run smoothly or sometimes to support them during particularly testing times, like when Director Clare happened to be heading to Mozambique as Cyclone Idai hit, and was able to help organise our emergency appeal.

Read the next Philip in the Field: The Simple Gifts in Life