Five inspirational women I’ll never forget

2 min read
Kirrily in PNG with a megaphone
Image: WaterAid/Tom Greenwood

I feel like I have spent much of my career looking for a place like WaterAid to work.

I remember when I started I thought, ‘Finally I have found a place with people I share the same values, and somewhere where I really believe in the work’.

WaterAid is a place where people are committed to one clear goal, a place where that goal overrides personal ego. I’ve enjoyed working with colleagues who are committed, enthusiastic and friendly and working for a worthwhile organisation which changes lives.

The highlight of my time here has been visiting WaterAid’s country programs in Papua New Guinea, Timor-Leste and Cambodia. I’ve had the privilege of travelling abroad five times with WaterAid, each time to collect stories from people who have benefited from WaterAid’s amazing work and those who have to live with dirty water and no toilets.

I will never forgot my first trip to Timor-Leste in 2013. I remember sitting in a four wheel drive going around twists and turns, climbing higher and higher, and watching the clouds come over valleys. When we finally came to a small village we were welcomed into a house by a lady called Anna Flora who told us the most personal things and was so generous with her time. I remember little children picking weeds in the cornfields, watching us while we did a photo shoot.

On that trip I also met Filomina with her accessible loo, Carmaletta and her amazing tomatoes, and Palmera and her gruelling walk for water. Palmera had to collect and carry 25 litres of water in five jerry cans, walking between a distant water source and her home three times a day. I tried to help her, but could barely carry one jerry can.

I remember being invited into the home of Gertrudis, who was boiling water in her kitchen. She had to boil dirty water so that it was safe for her children to drink. The kitchen was so smoky I found it hard to breathe, but this was something Gertrudis had to do every day.

During these visits, these amazing people shared with me stories of death and hardship, and of the transformation that water and toilets had brought them. These are humbling experiences I would never have had without WaterAid.

It has been such a privilege to meet these inspirational people over the years, and it has been a pleasure to have shared their stories with you.

Kirrily Johns is the outgoing Communications Manager at WaterAid Australia and was in the role for five years. We thank Kirrily for her wonderful contribution to WaterAid and its country programs.