By Larry Austin
Island Dispatch Editor
Islanders who take part in Sunday's Grand Island CROP Walk will see a snippet of the lifestyle lived by the people their fundraising dollars support.
Byaombe Shabani and his wife Marie Etonyemya of Buffalo, natives of The Congo, plan to attend the 2015 CROP Walk and will demonstrate how women in their native country carry containers of water long distances.
Marie will carry water on her head to illustrate how she walked more than two miles to fetch water, a fact of life in The Congo.
"I was living that life," Shabani said of carrying water. "All our life, for years and years and years, every day until we fled the war."
Shabani and his wife left The Congo in 2000 and made it to Kenya in 2001. Marie then came to America with her family of six children, and her husband came a year later. They now have seven children. Journey's End of Buffalo was instrumental in assisting the refugees, who now attend Trinity United Methodist Church. Members of Trinity are longtime supporters of CROP, Communities Responding to Overcome Poverty, sponsored by Church World Service, which raises money to end hunger in the U.S. and around the world. The 28th annual CROP Walk will take place at 1 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 4, in Beaver Island State Park.
Marie will demonstrate how a woman will fasten a container of water to her backs, and then balance another container on her head before beginning the trek home from the river or lake. Sometimes five women, or girls as young as 10 years old, will go to the river together carrying water balanced on top of their heads, Shabani said Wednesday.
A typical day in The Congo includes walks to the river or lake to fetch water in the morning and in the evening, but when the men needed water to make construction bricks, they used water all day, and the women made trips repeatedly, Shabani said. In Africa, people bath in the same water source from which they drink, he noted.
Carrying a heavy load can lead to health problems, Shabani said.
"That's why people are suffering from back and head aches," he said.
According to Church World Service, approximately 783 million people throughout the world have little or no access to potable water, leading to famine and disease. CWS "joins communities to help build and maintain a variety of water systems - from sand dams to wells to reservoirs," according to the CWS website.
Shabani said he hopes that Sunday "when people see a woman carrying water on her head and her back, they think about how this can stop."