Hope for Eburu: The Story Behind this Iconic Image


This image has graced Hays Pure Water’s marketing from the very beginning and has brought with it a great number of questions.  To the many who ask, it seems counterintuitive for a foundation which provides clean water for people in need to showcase two children drinking from a pool of dirty water.  We have thousands of images from trips we’ve taken showing our Khlor Gen systems in action, the smiles of thousands more individuals drinking purified water captured on film, but we’ve chosen this one image to show to the world more than any other.  This is the story behind that powerful image.

In May of 2013, I touched down in Nairobi, Kenya with Niall Williams and six Khlor Gen Units in tow. Kenya, like much of Africa, is still developing as a country.  The City of Nairobi is a perfect visual metaphor for the toll that development takes on a country.  There was an enormous and very noticeable gap between the rich and the poor.  Shiny black Mercedes-Benz cars rolled over the well maintained roads, while beggars in tattered clothing slept on benches and pleaded with passersby for money.  5-Star hotels were located just two blocks away from slums, where people live without electricity, running water, and sanitation.

While the situation was bad in Nairobi, it got much worse as we headed out towards the village of Eburu, where we were set to bring a water unit out into the field.  We hopped on a bus and embarked on a 4-hour journey into the countryside.  We then had to take off road vehicles an additional two hours over very rough terrain to reach Eburu.


Eburu is a small community of about 750 people, with an additional 1,000 people living within a 1 kilometer radius.  The village had no running water. The population’s only source of water was a pond about 300 yards outside the village.  As you can see in the photo, the water was absolutely filthy.  This filthy, stagnant pond not only acted as a source for drinking water, but a watering hole for local wildlife, bathing, and washing source as well. Looking at the water, it’s no surprise that waterborne illness was rampant in this community.  The video below depicts one of the local leaders discussing just how bad the local water issues were.

While we were at the lake, I saw these two boys running and playing together.  After they finished, they bent down, and took a drink.  I reached for my camera snapped this picture of them nonchalantly drinking from what many Westerners wouldn’t dream of even touching.

The stark contrast displayed by this photo is an incredible and powerful statement about the resilience of human beings and the unforgiving environment in which humanity is placed.  Those two boys need water to survive, even if the only source for it is a disease- ridden pool of murky filth.  They drink from it every single day without batting an eye, because it is just part of their daily life.

Now, with Hays Pure Water’s Khlor Gen System in place, those children can drink water without fear of waterborne diseases.  The single solar powered unit in the village of Eburu is continually providing sterilized water for the 1,750 people in the immediate area.  Waterborne illness infection rates have dropped drastically and the community is growing stronger and healthier.

Here in America, we are fortunate to not have to worry about waterborne illness.  Because we are lucky enough to have a seemingly endless supply of clean water at our disposal with the turn of a tap, it is easy to forget that somewhere in the world, a child is drinking from a pond just like this one.  We use this image as a reminder for both ourselves and the world about why we do what we do.  Next time you take a drink of clean water, I hope you stop to reflect on just how lucky you are to have it. 

We believe that everyone should be able to take clean water for granted.  You can help us make that a reality by simply choosing Hays.