Celebrating Water. Celebrating Life.
From some of the earliest recorded history of mankind — think cavemen dancing around bonfire — to the grandest celebration in the modern era — arguably the overrated-yet-much-loved new year’s eve countdown in Times Square, New York — celebration has without a doubt long been a part of our existence.
As a self-proclaimed celebration enthusiast, or as my friends like to call me “the party girl”, I do enjoy the festive energy, delightful company, good food, (and sometimes free-flowing booze) that come with most celebrations. But then, random questions come to my mind: why do we celebrate? From all the festivities, what are we celebrating, essentially?
To answer this question, we can simply look at its definition in the Oxford dictionary:
The action of marking one’s pleasure at an important event or occasion by engaging in enjoyable, typically social, activity.
Pretty straightforward, really. But it was not enough for me. Celebration after celebration, I am still left with the question unanswered: what drives humans or mankind to need celebration?
Then I travelled to West Timor, to attend a humble celebration in a small village named Sunsea. There, I might have found the answer, in one of the most memorable celebrations I’ve ever enjoyed.
ON THE BORDER AT SUNSEA
Sunsea village is located exactly at the border between West Timor, Indonesia and Timor Leste, with a small population of 1,410 people. Living at the border of these two estranged countries makes life in Sunsea challenging to say the least — even long after the separation of Timor Leste has been resolved.
Everyday, with their own eyes, the people of Sunsea can see how the neighboring village in Timor Leste continues to grow so rapidly in such short amount of time. Unlike that village, in Sunsea electricity is non-existent, harvests have failed over a couple of seasons, and even the most basic need, water, is lacking.
Getting fresh water means walking for 30 minutes each way to get to the source and then boiling the water over a smoky three-stone cookfire. Relatives in Timor Leste often invite their loved ones there to move across the border to live better lives, but for one reason after another, they still call Sunsea home.
GOOD NEWS FROM THE EAST
So, what’s the good news exactly?
Kopernik’s local partner in the village, Jamstercurement, led by John Amsikan, has been working alongside the local government to maximize Sunsea’s potential, from both an agricultural and health perspective. As our local partner, they are also distributing Kopernik’s technologies in the area — promoting the importance of drinking safe and clean water using our water filters.
Realising the importance of safe and clean drinking water for Sunsea’s overall health and livelihood, the local government together with the people of Sunsea have agreed to declare their village as both ‘Desa Air Minum Sehat’ or ‘clean and safe drinking water village’ and ‘Desa Sayang Ibu’ or ‘loving mother village’ within the region.
These declarations were commitments of Sunsea village to make safe and clean drinking water available in all households through distributing Nazava water filters. And by providing access to clean and safe drinking water, the village shows appreciation and support of the mothers and women of Sunsea as they now spend less time preparing water for their families.
The initiative itself is planned to run from June until December 2016. Lusianus, the village head of Sunsea, believes that this declaration will serve as a real-life example to others of how local stakeholders can collaborate and work together to provide the essential needs of last mile communities. He hopes that it will inspire other villages around the area, or even around Indonesia, to follow suit.
I myself agree and hope the same too.
WATER FOR LIFE
There I was, in Sunsea for the first time to join their big declaration celebration — or so I thought. From what I had heard before I arrived at the village, this was going to be a massive event. I expected village heads, government officials, traditional music, and journalists. I was wrong. It was just a small gathering at the village office, attended by representatives from a few households in Sunsea.
There was no fancy food, just some traditional snacks made by the villagers. The men were smoking cigarettes, while the women chewed betelnut until their teeth turned red. And there were no fancy drinks either. Just water. Safe and clean drinking water from the Nazava water filter. As a matter of fact it was water that brought all these people together. Even the most important moment of the celebration was when all of us drank water from Nazava at the same time!
As the party continued, we were all holding hands and dancing in a circle to a traditional music. I did not know the language, but I could tell that everyone was having such a good time, intoxicated with joy and happiness.
We were all high… on water.
“I’m so grateful for the water filter. It tastes amazing and I’m sure this will be healthy for my whole family,” said one of the villagers. He was excited to have a Nazava and can’t wait for others in his community to have one as well.
To see how these people were celebrating and giving thanks for what I thought of as such a simple thing — water — made me realise a lot of things. I understood how I had taken basic things for granted. Where I live I can get drinking water easily and have never needed to worry about how it might affect my health. But for people in Sunsea, limited access to clean water, means extra hours of hard work and risk of waterborne diseases — restricting their true potential to grow as a society at the most basic level.
Now, women and children no longer need to walk for hours getting water, collecting firewood, and boiling water. They can spend the extra hours in their day to do other things: like studying, socializing, or being more productive. Having access to clean water, is like having hope. Hope for healthier and better lives, hope for growth, hope for Sunsea, the place they call home.
Through the humble smiles, laughter, and endless dancing, I finally found the answer to my burning question about celebration.
The people of Sunsea were not just celebrating water. Essentially, it was life and hope that they were celebrating. Perhaps the same thing also applies to almost every celebration known to mankind, no matter how simplistic or trivial it is. We are all celebrating life.
Satisfied with the answer, I continued to dance in Sunsea until the water ran dry, and my time there sadly ran out.
Photographs by Aditia Priono and Saraswati Ratnanggana for Kopernik.
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