Think about social studies. What is the number one thing people need to live? Stable food supply, right. And what is the number one thing they need to establish that stable food supply? Water. It’s kind of a big deal. Did you know that the Earth is over 70% water, but less than 1% of that is available to us as drinking water? Most of us have it pretty easy in that we can turn on our sinks and get water like it’s magic. Or we can go to the store and just buy a bottle of water, no problem. We are very lucky. The video above is just one example of how people struggle to collect water, each and every day. The book I just read, A Long Walk to Water, is another example of what life is like in another country.
A Long Walk to Water tells the stories of two children from Sudan: Salva, whose story starts in 1985, and Nya, who is a child in 2008. The book goes back and forth between their stories, but it is not confusing to read. Nya spends her days walking to and from the pond to collect fresh water for her family. It takes two hours to get there, and longer to get back because she must carry the heavy water back to her home. She does this twice a day, every day. She cannot attend school and her family depends on her to complete this task. Salva’s family is fairly well-off in their village, compared to others, and he does get to attend school. However, Sudan is in the middle of a civil war* and one afternoon the fighting comes to Salva’s village. The teacher tells all of the boys to start running, just start running away so they don’t get caught up in the crossfire. Salva is separated from his family and joins a large group of people who set out walking towards a refugee camp that will hopefully take them all in. It is very dangerous to walk across the desert, having to face lions and crocodiles, not to mention the threat of soldiers at any time. The adults in the group are reluctant to help Salva because it is not safe to invest energy and resources into someone who could hold them back.
*A civil war is when a country is fighting with itself, and the people are divided against each other. Here in America, we often refer to The Civil War, which took place in the 1860s between the northern and southern states.
Meanwhile, Nya notices some activity going on her village. Strangers have appeared and they seem very busy. They bring in a large drill and say they will find water and build a well, but the people of the village do not understand how this is possible. They are very skeptical about this new situation, and life continues on as usual, with Nya making the long walk to water every day. In his sections of the book, Salva continues to face many challenges. He becomes a leader of a group of boys, who became known as The Lost Boys of Sudan. They walk and walk and walk. For years. YEARS.
Eventually the two timelines catch up to each other, and you will be truly humbled by these stories. Salva’s story is true; Nya’s character is fictional, but based in fact. She is what we call an amalgam, or a combination character based on many different sources. I remembered the story of The Lost Boys of Sudan from the news, so I sort of knew how this story would end, and it still moved me to tears. The book tells a tale of a life that we can barely imagine from the comfort of our homes where water flows freely, our toilets flush, and our refrigerators are stocked with fresh food. This is why we read, and this is why we travel– to open our eyes to different possibilities, to be thankful for what we have, and to help those in need when we can.
Salva is now an adult, and here is a link to his project if you’d like to know more about what he has accomplished: http://www.waterforsouthsudan.org/
A Long Walk to Water has an AR level of 5.0 and is worth 3 points.