Rating: 4.5 stars
The Mbooni District in Kenya is a village far away from our Washington, D.C., suburbs. Hope Springs takes place in that distant, dusty village. It's a story about how people confront the reality of scarce resources, specifically, what does a community do when there is limited water during a drought?
In the story, three children trot off down the hill to a small spring which serves as the lone source of water in the village. Empty water containers bounce along with them. Boniface, Mueni and Charles place their water containers in a long line of containers and begin to play while they wait for their turn at the spring.
A group of angry women comes over to them and interrupts their play. The women shout at them, accusing them of stealing water that is not rightfully theirs. The children might live in the village now, because they reside at the orphanage, but because their families are not from this village, the women believe they should not get any water. They kick the kids’ containers out of line and tell them to leave. Frightened and intimidated, the children run off.
Back up the hill in the orphanage, Boniface, the oldest boy and main character, discusses the specific incident and circumstances of the drought with the houseparents. The houseparents explain that the women acted out of fear more than aggression. The women are afraid there will be no water—and therefore no life—for their own families, their own children. The orphanage is digging their own well, the houseparents explain to Boniface; soon, they will have enough water and no need to visit the overcrowded spring.
And, despite the uncertainty of what one finds under our feet, the orphanage soon has a well and does not need to go to the community water hole. Instead of celebrating, Boniface is bothered by the fact that the orphanage has more water than the rest of the community. Despite the fact that the women from the village were so mean to him, he believes the orphanage should help them and their families.
The houseparents, moved by Boniface’s generosity and kindness, agree—and they insist on letting Boniface himself lead the discussion with the villagers. Boniface gulps down his own fear and finds the right words. Soon, with hard work and teamwork, the villagers turn the little spring into a deep well. Because of the kindness of one boy named Boniface, there was water, and, therefore, life—for everyone. And there still is.
This is a story based on a real event. This fact floored my children, who have recently lived through water issues in our own home and, because of that, can appreciate the fear of living without water and the need for a new well. The characters are based on real children and photographs of them are in the afterward. My second grader was in awe, and I, a former Peace Corps Volunteer, wonder how this story might creep into her clever brain and big heart and inspire her.
If you want to shrink the world, open up a book. If you want your child to visit a world far away from his or her own, or begin to understand that some children’s days are very different, get a book like Hope Springs into your childrens’ hands. You never know what might happen.
This book was originally reviewed for Washington FAMILY Magazine. To see the original review, please click HERE.