This is my story. The stories I tell are the ones that hold me up, that keep me going, that feed me hope.

I look at the things that give me joy—like watching Mbula in the field at the project site while her goats graze, or sitting with Nasma drawing pictures in the sand, or watching two young boys collect garbage from the project site to make their toys.

I feel that the small acts of kindness—like Mama Fatouma making me lunch everyday even though she was fasting, or Juma washing the sand from my shoes or the school kids saying my name in their singsong voices, or the women coming by with pumpkins and peanuts (carenga) and corn. They’re what kept me coming back.

I watched Moshi and Juma hunt for birds (snack food) and fight like brothers about who was the better shot. I sat with the guys who were peeling peanuts for me in between whittling their slingshots at the project site. Mbula’s daughter taught me how to shoot a slingshot, and I played ball with the kids. I took oodles of pictures and videos. I had fun.

And I watched a water project grow and finish, brick-by-brick, with water running through seven different distribution points in the village. It wasn’t perfect, far from it.

Someone else might tell this story differently, but this one is mine; it’s how I chose to see and interact with the world around me.

My last day in Iyoli ended the way it began—drinking coffee with friends and talking about water. We piled in the car with Miriam, Baraka, and Moshi’s family along with the sound technician. We had loaded the vehicle with old equipment, and then we went into the village center to project videos and pictures that I had taken over the last two months onto the wall of a building. Together with the people from the village, we laughed and reminisced about the Iyoli water project under the stars. The videos and pictures were theirs—not mine. We drove back to Kondoa on the bumpy dirt road in Iyoli for the last time, tired and content.

This is my story.