A lot motivates Hillary Tesha.
First, there are the thousands he has already helped during his eight years on staff with Save the Rain. There are the thousands more he wants to help in the next eight years.
Many of these are the children he’s met, at schools and at homes, while he worked on almost 60 rainwater collection tanks.
But he’s also motivated by the children he hasn’t met yet.
And the ones he hopes will call him father, too, one day. One day after he is married. One day after he builds that house that he is saving up for now, he said.
These people, these plans add up to what motivates this 29-year-old mason and cook the most of all: His national obligation. His duty to the future of his country. That if he is going to work hard, he is going to do it here, at home.
“What’s made me love this work is that I am building within my country,” he said. “I want to see other people within my country having benefits.”
It’s almost as if he feels like he owes a debt. “I see that the nation has supported me,” Hillary said.
And with each year, Hillary has learned more and more about his home.
“I’ve seen people in different villages,” he said. “I’ve learned all the challenges these communities face.”
Hillary didn’t have to learn some of these challenges. He’s survived them, already.
“When I was young, life was not good,” he said. “I didn’t have clean water.”
He suffered from bouts of cholera and typhoid – both water-borne diseases he contracted from drinking unsanitary water.
Hillary was so sick, so often, that he stayed home from school more days than not.
And when he was healthy, he wasn’t always walking to the classroom when he left home in the morning.
“I would spend three hours looking for water” for his family, he said. “I went to tap stations. Sometimes, there was no water there. Water would be available only at certain times and at some places.”
He finished school in 2007.
“I would have liked to continue to secondary, but my parents didn’t have the money to pay for it,” he said.
Hillary loved science. He wanted to be a teacher.
But he wasn’t a student for long enough to be a teacher. At least not formally in a classroom.
So, there were two years between his last day of school and his first day working for Save the Rain. Some 730 days when Hillary could have gotten lost like so many of his classmates who couldn’t find work quickly enough.
“If I didn’t have a job, I wouldn’t have anything to do,” he said. “Many boys don’t have anything to do, so they don’t have much for the future.”
These boys often become men plagued by problems with alcohol, he said.
“These drunken men, all of their knowledge is in drinking,” he said. “They won’t think of anything that will expand their brain or think of their future.”
He knows these men. He’s loved people who have been killed. Who’ve gone to jail.
Hillary doesn’t want he, or his homeland, to know any more of these men.
So he works harder.
Hillary knows access to water — to safe, clean water — saves lives. In eight years, he’s seen how clean propels all types people down positive paths.
So he works harder.
He puts it this way.
“Everything depends on water,” he said. “Because without water, the plants will dry up. The grass will dry up. Animals won’t have anything to feed themselves. They will die out of starvation.”
When he sees the rain clouds now, he has joy “inside him.”
He is at his happiest when he sees the rain clouds on the horizon. It means that tanks will soon be full. That’s more children who don’t have to walk for water, more children who don’t have to miss school.
That’s more children who are healthier, able to focus on their education. And for Hillary, an education equals a future.
Because of the rain, what will they learn that day? Where will that take them? Where will they lead the rest of their communities, their country?
It’s what he thinks about sometimes as he’s digging a foundation, securing chicken wire, or plastering a tank in progress.
He is saddest when he meets a child who doesn’t have any water to drink. Not even dirty water to drink, Hillary said.
So he works harder.
But Hillary doesn’t work alone. And just like he is motivated by the people around him, he is empowered by them, too.
“I feel good working with a team,” Hillary said. “I couldn’t do the work by myself. We cooperate together. We combine different good ideas and come up with something that is successful to society.”
And that’s what he asks of the people he’s helped and those he will help in the future: To help one another.
That they work together to build a better future for their country. For all.
“The next generation, the future nation, will be built by the kids I am helping now,” he said.