12/30/2013 07:16 pm ET Updated Mar 01, 2014

The Road That Changed Everything

At charity: water we always say that Water Changes Everything.

When a community in a developing country gets clean water for the first time, it's a fundamental change. Children are less likely to get sick from waterborne diseases. Women get time back in their life to take care of their families, or earn an income instead of carrying water every day. People are healthier, wealthier, happier.

While there's plenty of research and statistics showing the benefits that access to clean water brings communities, sometimes you need to be able to see the change to really understand how precious clean water is.

Here is just one of the stories we hear every week at charity: water -- an internal email our content strategist sent to the office with the story behind a powerful video we shot in Malawi and published this week:

We spent five days camping and living inside a community in the middle of nowhere in Nkhoma last week. It did not have clean water, was located at least thirty minutes away from any form of electricity and cut off from the rest of the world by a ravine.

Not only was that ravine limiting access to schools and hospitals, but it was the only thing that prevented them from receiving clean water earlier this year when the village on the other side did... because there was no way for the drilling rig to get across.

That's the story we wanted to tell. Because after that day, these people became determined. At least one person from every household spent two months carrying rocks and bags of sand to the ravine until they had created a passable road across it. It was the first time that clean water had ever seemed like a possible reality for them.

What we didn't know before we got there was that they had already finished building the road and that the drilling rig would arrive during our visit.

We wanted to show the people hard at work, but this news changed our story (in the best way possible).

Instead we get to show the result of that work... a convoy of trucks driving down the road in the distance, drilling rig at the front... people running down the hill at the sound... the rig rolling right over that bridge and into the community.

People sang and danced all day long. Waiting and hoping for clean water. We talked to women who were skipping chores because they didn't want to miss anything. The entire community was there... waiting eagerly outside the ropes as drillers put pipe after pipe into the ground. 20 meters. 30 meters. 50 meters. Hours went by. And just as they were about to give up, water finally bubbled up from the ground.

Prior to this day, women had been getting water from a hole next to the river -- a source they often had to share with pigs. They were walking to this place four to five times a day and often waiting in line. When that hole ran dry, they had to sit and wait for it to slowly refill.

But having clean water for them wasn't just about saving time and work. And it wasn't about better health. To them, water was a symbol of progress. Independence. Life.

When that moment came, the people in this village came charging past the ropes to the drill, and the drillers let them have it... flushing the pipe over and over again, shooting water into the sky so they could dance and sing in the rain.

I can't even say what that was like.

One of the most important parts of working here, for me, is changing the way people think about charity and giving. But this moment was all about water. It has never been so clear to me how much water impacts lives. Freaking emotional is what it was.

You can see the story here:

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