In praise of Practical Action

December 21st, 2012

Sadly, today is my last day here at Practical Action because in January I will be starting a new job at another international development charity. I have worked here for three and a half years and been writing my blog for the last two and a half years. As one of the youngest people in the UK head office, I feel like I have done a lot of growing up at Practical Action. I have worked with, and learnt from, some brilliant colleagues across the organisation. They are bright, committed, passionate people, and I have been very lucky to know them.

I am leaving with some very happy memories of my time here. My trips to Sudan and Kenya are particular highlights, and I will never forget the warmth, hospitality and helpfulness of all the overseas colleagues I have had the honour of meeting.

I have been very privileged to have had the opportunity to meet and interview some of the millions of people Practical Action has helped. Those conversations are perhaps my most treasured memories.

When I was in Kenya I met a woman called Syprose. Syprose was a beautiful woman, with the most magnificent face – the sort of face which has a whole life etched into it. She lived in a slum village called Nyalenda, just outside Kisumu city. She was a mother, and a grandmother. Her husband Daniel had died 3 years ago after stepping on a nail and contracting septicaemia. She was 63 years old, and she had the responsibility of looking after her five little grandchildren alone because she’d lost her four children to AIDS.

Syprose’s village did not have a system of clean water, although it did have a natural spring. But because it just flowed along the land, it was often polluted by animal and human waste. So people would get cholera, and die. Sometimes there were as many as 10 deaths a day. Syprose’s big fear was that her grandchildren would die too. So we worked with the villagers to protect the natural spring by constructing a low concrete wall round it and directing the water through a pipe. This simple technology means that people in Syprose’s village no longer die of cholera, and they have a constant supply of clean water.

And everyone was delighted, particularly Syprose. When I asked her how this made her feel, she took my hand, and her hand, and placed them both onto her heart. And then she said “it makes me feel like God is here.”

Syprose’s words will remain locked in my heart forever. I am leaving Practical Action safe in the knowledge that as an organisation, we do change and save lives in a very real way. I feel really proud to have been a small part of it.

Thank you for reading my blog over the last few years.

Wishing everyone a peaceful, relaxing and happy Christmas, and all good things for 2013.



2 responses to “In praise of Practical Action”

  1. Nancy Halvorson Says:

    Prayers for you, Ella as you begin a new phase of your life. May God bless you!

  2. Ariel Hessing Says:

    I have fundraised for a number of years on behalf of international development funds and hunger relief funds. This has been a great blog for me to read and follow these past few years. I am sure that I speak for all your readers in saying that we will miss your intellectual contributions to the causes that you support and in wishing you good luck in all of your future indeavors. May God bless you Ella and your efforts at helping those in need both here at home and across the seas.

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