Three years ago, at only the age of 9, Maurine Jepkorir used to wake up at the crack of dawn and walk for over two kilometres to fetch water for home use.
The path to the spring, which her family and other members of Chesem village in Baringo North Sub-County relied on, was treacherous. As such, Maurine had to endure a steep, bushy and rocky trail that would cause her bare feet so much pain.
On her way up the hill to fetch water, she would pass by deep gullies looking like huge holes on the ground that threatened to 'swallow' her if she missed a step or lost concentration during the long water collection journey.
Worse still, there was always the chance that she might encounter snakes and other dangerous wild animals like hyenas that frequented the area.
"I used to wake up at 5 o’clock each morning to make trips to the spring before preparing to go to school," says Maurine.
"Afterwards, I would feel bad and tired. And I would arrive in school late at 11 o'clock instead of 8 in the morning when classes begin. So I would miss a lot."
Tides began changing for the young girl after she got an opportunity - through World Vision - to visit the United States and share her story at Kansas City in 2016.
This was during an awareness creation forum organised periodically by the organisation. The forum seeks to inspire and sensitise donors, fundraisers and well wishers on the significance of contributing funds to provide life changing clean water for children and communities in need, across Africa and other parts of the world.
At the function, Maurine shed light on the challenges that her community – especially children – go through due to lack of water. When she talked about how the problem affected her, many people cried and were engulfed in sadness.
Among them, was a young girl named Addyson Moffitt who was deeply touched by the suffering that Maurine and other children went through due to lack of water.
"I felt sad. Maurine was just about my age yet she was facing many challenges, walking for long distances to fetch dirty water that can make children sick and cause them to die," she says.
Addyson had accompanied her parents to the forum. Both her father and mother are members of Team World Vision which comprises of volunteers or well wishers from many parts of the United States that participate in different charity races to raise funds for clean water in Africa.
The profound and insightful encounter with Maurine, who she later interacted and spent time with, made Addyson find her purpose in life.
She felt inspired to follow in her parents’ footsteps and began running with the goal of making clean water available and easily accessible to all children in Africa.
Since 2017, the 10-year-old has participated in numerous half-marathons (21 kilometres each) and raised over 7 million Kenya shillings ($76,000) towards her water cause - thanks to the support from her family, friends, church members and other well wishers. .
Part of these finances have been used to bring piped and clean tap water to Maurine's home, through World Vision Kenya, which has also benefited her community.
The funds have also enabled the organisation to establish water distribution systems - using tanks and long distance pipes - that take clean water from protected springs and boreholes to families and schools in Bartabwa and Barwessa ward of Baringo North Sub-county, where Maurine comes from. Approximately 8,000 people, including children, have directly benefited from the water projects.
Thanks to the clean water sources, children in the community are now protected from diseases such as diarrhoea and cholera caused by contaminated water that can lead to death. In addition, they no longer have to walk over long distances – putting their lives at risk – to fetch water.
"I am happy because the water is now inside our home compound. I am doing well in school and I never get late for classes," states Maurine who shares a special bond with Addyson.
The two have become best of friends and rarely leave each other’s company whenever they meet. Since their first encounter, Maurine has visited Addyson twice in the United States – in 2017 and 2018 – courtesy of World Vision.
In March this year, Addyson – together with her brother (Cayson Moffitt) and parents (Bryan Moffitt & Shayla Moffitt) - got an opportunity to visit Maurine and her family in Bartabwa. This was their first trip to Africa.
Addyson notes that she is always excited to meet Maurine and usually looks forward to their interactions.
“I love Maurine's smile and sense of humour. She is very funny and such a joy to be around. When we're together, we usually spend the majority of our time laughing and playing. I also like that she's a hard worker who doesn't take anything for granted."
According to Addyson, her relationship with Maurine has made her learn that kids are kids irrespective of their culture, skin colour, language or places they live.
Maurine notes that she is deeply moved and touched by Addyson's passionate, loving and caring personality.
"She has a big heart and is willing to help all children, not just her friends. That has inspired me."
Addyson encourages other children to reach out to those in need and support initiatives that make a difference in people’s lives.
"If I can do it. Then you can too."
She notes that she is just getting started. And will continue running marathons until all children in Africa get clean water in their homes just like Maurine.
To prepare adequately for the races so as to enable her body cope with the strain and avert injuries, Addyson has adopted a strict training programme. She often wakes up early for morning runs before going to school. She also jogs during weekends and holidays.
The preparation journey and the half-marathons are tough. They require time, dedication, perseverance and great sacrifice. But this is the price that Addyson is willing to pay to make clean water available to children in Africa.
Through her impactful work, Addyson has earned global recognition. Last year, she shared her story on America's popular Steve Harvey Show where Maurine paid her a surprise visit.
“I was surprised, excited and happy because I didn’t expect her to be there.”
The show exposed the world to the rare love between these the two children, which led to the birth of a dream that will help enhance access to clean water for children in Africa.
Recently, during her visit to Kenya, Addyson was also able to interact with children from various Nairobi schools who were equally touched by the difference her charity work is making in the world and in the lives of Kenyan children.
Because of her inspirational message, many of the pupils who met her plan to participate in the Angaza Na Maji six-kilometre (Global 6K) charity run or walk organised by World Vision Kenya on Saturday, May 4th 2019. It aims at raising funds to avail clean water to children, families and communities at Magunga in Homabay County. The event is open to all Kenyans seeking to make a difference in children’s lives.
By Sarah Ooko, Senior Communications & Media Officer, World Vision Kenya