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Bringing miracles to Africa: Walk for Water April 26

by: Cliff Newell, 
The bucket brigade for The Walk for Water on April 26 will include, left to right, Beth Olen, Diane Shiffer, Susan King, Maggie Creps, Luann Sohlberg, and Melody Bluhm. All are members of Lake Grove Presbyterian Church.

Bring your bucket and help cause a miracle.

That is the message of The Walk for Water planned for Saturday, April 26, at 9 a.m., at Millennium Plaza Park in Lake Oswego.

It's an easy event to describe. Organizers Maggie Creps and Luann Sohlberg are asking participants to bring their own buckets, trek to Oswego Lake, dip the buckets in for some water, then bring it back to Millennium Park. This is something that people in Zambia, Africa do every day.

Yet this is definitely harder than it looks.

'It looks so idyllic in pictures,' Creps said. 'African people smiling and with buckets on their head, looking like they have all the time in the world to go get their water.'

The real story is that these buckets can weigh up to 45 pounds, the distance of the walk averages between 3 to 5 miles, and sometimes much longer, and the water they get can only barely keep them alive. Even after the water is boiled it is so polluted that it either drastically shortens their lives or plagues them with such diseases as dysentery.

It's no fun. But that is the point of the Water Walk.

'The point is for us to have that experience,' Creps said. 'You don't forget experiences you've had, and they create empathy for people who experience this every day.'

There will be some nice aspects to the Water Walk, like bagels, coffee, free water bottles and musicians playing African drums.

But the real 'payoff' for participants is the knowledge they will be transforming the lives of thousands of people in Zambia by giving them 'the small miracle' of clean water. Every dollar raised in this event will be used by World Vision to drill boreholes in Zambia.

Lake Oswego people have already played a great role in bringing this about. Bill and Diane Savage, working through World Vision, have greatly contributed to an effort that has resulted in the digging of 117 boreholes in Zambia that provide water for an area of 65,000 people.

Now, 10 families of Lake Grove Presbyterian Church of Lake Oswego are heading up this effort that will keep those boreholes coming.

'So much of this effort falls on the women and girls of Zambian villages,' Sohlberg said. 'It keeps them from going to school and doing other things that can help their lives, like selling dresses and farming.'

Sohlberg actually got to witness a miracle herself. In 2002 she traveled to a Zambian village that did not have a water well. She returned there in 2005 with her family after a well had been bored and saw what a huge difference it made.

'Their lives had been changed so much,' Sohlberg said. 'School attendance had doubled, and they were trying to build more buildings so more children could go to school. There were sewing machines around the well, which is located right at the community gathering place.'

The well was appreciated by more than people.

Sohlberg said, 'One of the neat things is that there were a bunch of cattle there waiting for water that was spilling from the well.'

The suggested donation for individual participants at The Walk for Water is $35.

'That's because $35 can take care of the water needs of a Zambian person for a lifetime,' Creps said.

Suggested donations for teams or families is $50.

Creps and Sohlberg hope that 200 walkers show up for the Water Walk, and they hope it will be only the beginning.

'We think this will be an annual event and that it will get better and better,' Sohlberg said.

Another promise: 'We will walk rain or shine. Just like the Zambians,' Creps said.

For more information and to register, go to www.thewalkforwater.com .