Let’s just say Vegas odds were not stacked in favor that the lives of Cate Cameron and Pamela Crane would collide, but this past week in a remote village outside of Mombasa, Kenya, these two women witnessed a miracle.
Pam is a hydrologist by profession and self-proclaimed nomad by way of life Hydrologists analyze the quality of potential water sources and project shortages. I guess the nature of the work demands a wandering existence with more than 1 billion people — thousands upon thousands of villages — shut out of access to clean water.
An American born in Nairobi to Peace Corps parents, Pam didn’t come back to the United States for any meaningful period of time until college, and she stays state-side only long enough to get resourced for her field work back in Africa. She’s only 29, but Pam plans to wage her personal war for water “in some form or another forever.” Today Pam is backed by Blood:Water Mission, an amazing organization out of Nashville under the leadership of another Millennial Change Agent, Jena Nardella.
Born to rural farming parents, Cate’s father was a fireman in Calgary, Canada, and her mom, an office manager for a life insurance company. Cate is based in Vancouver and works as an on-set still photographer. That means she makes her living by being fast on her feet, side-stepping lights and dodging equipment on movie sets to snap shots of stars acting out scenes in Hollywood blockbusters like Brokeback Mountain and Assassination of Jesse James.
Last year Cate decided to uproot her comforts to pursue “something with urgency” using her camera as the tool to allow women afflicted with HIV and alienated from society to tell their stories of how access to clean water changes everything. She’s set a new course to crossover from the make-believe world of movies to the hard-to-believe world of the global water crisis.
And so through the most unexpected turn of events, Cate and Pam were flown to Kenya this past week where they met for the first time thanks to the innovative P&G Give Health blogging initiative (disclosure: P&G is a client of Changents). There they joined Dr. Greg Allgood on one of the many fronts where P&G’s Children’s Safe Drinking Water Program is bringing access to clean water in places where it has not existed for generations.
En route to Gotani — a small village on the outskirts of Mombasa where the community siphons surface water from contaminated sources for survival — the conversation turned to talking about a woman that Allgood had met last May while in the region working with World Vision.
At just 38, Zeineb Karissa was diagnosed with HIV four years ago. Since that time she has been on anti-retros for treatment, but when Allgood met her last May, Zeineb “was not looking good.” Waterborne disease in the form of diarrhea and vomiting is a scourge to those with HIV. Not only are they more susceptible, but the symptoms can be magnified and devastating, starving them of much needed nutrients and meds. Zeineb was underweight, not eating due to the diarrhea, had open lesions on her face and no energy. Allgood and the others despaired at her chances but introduced her to a water filtration technology developed by P&G and the Centers for Disease Control called PUR.
In her dispatch from the field, Cate said that meeting Zeneid “made (her) soul explode.” Within a month, Zeneid had more energy, no diarrhea, and was able to find employment as a home-helper. She put on weight, and due to her new income was able to eat better food.
These two women — one a hard core, seasoned pro in development and the other on the beginning of her humanitarian work — came together for a moment in time to witness a life being turned-around. For each, their journey will continue, probably on separate paths, but they forever will be united by a chance encounter in this remote corner of the globe where the relationship between water, HIV and women runs deep, yet separation between life and death lives right on the surface.
by Deron Triff, Changents.com