Wise Beyond Her Years

By Dorvilier Vildens, PWW Haiti Office

Nathanael Petit-Homme (pictured left) is only 9 years old. She lives in Fond Cheval, a small community outside of Mirebalais, Haiti. Her family is a PWW beneficiary, meaning they have already received hygiene training and are now safely drinking water from their clean water filter in their home.

Nathanael lives with her parents and grandparents. There are seven people in her home. She is the oldest daughter, with two younger sisters, and is, therefore, the one responsible for most of the chores at home…from getting the buckets of water, to doing the dishes, to watching her sisters when the adults go to the market or when they are working in the farm.

Nathanael is in the 2nd grade. Her friend, Cadestin Gaslé, is in first grade. Both attend a Christian school called “École Chretienne.” And both families, Nathanael’s and Gaslé’s, have safe water filters in their homes.

Recently, our team was in Mirebalais working on filter installations in homes. Fond Cheval was one of the villages where we were scheduled to do installations. Unfortunately, on this day, we had no Community Agent available to help us. It was Market Day, so community members were at the marketplace to trade crops and products for the week.

Thankfully, for us, Nathanael Petit-Homme was home. It was rainy in the morning, so Nathanael had stayed at home instead of going to school. It is common to find children, who live in the countryside, not going to school when it rains due the fact that they have rivers to cross on their way to school that run very high with the rains.

Nathanael leading the way, carrying bag from sand, used for the bio-sand filter installation.

Nathanael is very smart for a 9-year-old; and she is very friendly and patient. She already knew exactly where we had already installed the bio-sand water filters, the names of the families and their home location, and she even knew the exact day that they received their filters. She could probably even give GPS coordinates if I asked for them!

On this particular day of installations, Nathanael graciously joined us to help find homes and install filters. For more than six hours she stayed with us, walking from one household to another, carrying empty bags of sand, guiding us through the mountains. She was very helpful and happy to do the work of a community agent.

She was also very curious and eager to learn more about the bio-sand filter and how it worked. She asked many questions. She also wanted to know why all of the families in her village couldn’t have filters; why some people have a filter, while others don’t.

I, personally, know the importance of the clean water filters, how it works and why it is critical for people to have access to safe water for good health. But, honestly, I did not expect such a list of thoughtful questions from a 9-year-old!

I don’t have the opportunity to work in the field very often, but, today, working alongside Nathanael was exciting and full of insight. She did more than simply guide us; she was very focused on what was next, the long-term impact of having access to safe water, and the future of the people in her community.

For Nathanael, like so many others, safe water is truly a symbol of life, and everyone should have access to it.