Before and After Safe Water: 20 Powerful Photos

In northern Uganda, young Betty once faced a frustrating choice: walk nearly 4 miles to fetch water that cows and pigs also drank from, or drink from the nearby well, which was wriggling with worms. She was one of the 2.2 billion — or 1 in 3 — people around the world who do not have access to safe drinking water, according to UNICEF. The impact means hundreds of thousands of children under 5 die each year from preventable waterborne diseases.

For Betty, a safe water point changed everything. No longer is she one of the shocking statistics — she has clean drinking water at the turn of a tap. Access to safe water changes more than just a child’s health. It can improve their education outcomes and even their family’s financial situation.

See for yourself! Meet Betty and other children whose lives changed after they gained access to safe drinking water.

1. Nicolas, Colombia


Boy seated next to one of the hoses connections people in his community use to distribute water.

Seven-year-old Nicolas stares at the pipes in a ditch that represent his community’s water. His neighborhood isn’t connected to the public water system, so residents set up a pipeline to a neighboring community’s supply. Unfortunately, the water is contaminated. “Many of the children have illnesses caused by poor water quality, such as diarrhea, stomach pain and vomiting,” says Compassion center director Sindy.


Boy taking water to drink from the water filter he received from the project. He is wearing a green tee shirt.

After 200 vulnerable families received their own water filter systems through Compassion’s church partner, including Nicolas’, their health has been transformed. “The water from the filter tastes very good,” says Nicolas. “My stomach does not hurt anymore!”

2. Betty, Uganda


Woman wearing a yellow scarf on her head, a red shirt and long pattern skirt at a large puddle where rain water collected on the ground.

Evelyn and her young daughter Betty had to make nearly 4-mile journey to fetch standing water each day. The only alternative was drinking from a flooded well, which was wriggling with worms. “We had to drink from the same water the cows and pigs drank from,” says Evelyn. “My auntie died because of this dirty water. My daughter got sick three times.”


Woman wearing a yellow head scarf and a red shirt with a long pattern skirt smiles as she fetches clean water from an outdoor outside community faucet into her yellow plastic container Other women standing single file in line behind her to also fetch the clean running water. Girl wearing an orange and white dress helps her mother collect the life saving water.

“Ever since they brought in the new water, my child has not suffered from any water-related diseases like typhoid,” says Evelyn. The new water point has four faucets and a 10,000-gallon tank providing fresh, safe water for the entire community.

3. Ae-plaetoo and Blaetoo, Thailand


Two adolescent female teen girls, one in a green shirt and black skirt, the other in gray shirt and black pants, sit, squat on the rocky dirt ground holding green and blue pans, pouring water into black buckets. Behind them are a body of brown water, trees and shrubs.

Diarrhea, kidney stones and parasites are common health problems in Ae-plaetoo and Blaetoo’s community in northern Thailand. Residents collect water from the small pools next to the dangerous, fast-flowing river. “The water here, it’s not clean and there’s a lot of dust,” says Blaetoo. “Because we get water straight from the river, we need a filter.”


A smiling girl in gray shirt black and green pants squats, sits on a bamboo floor next to a white bucket, pouring water into it from a light blue pan.

These best friends pour the water straight into their Sawyer filtration system, which makes it safe to drink — no matter what the river conditions might be. Ae-plaetoo’s smile says it all!

4. Children in Peru


A child is kneeling down beside a river that runs in the Tamarindo community.

“The children were weak, thin, didn’t eat and were lethargic. It wasn’t normal,” says Pastor Sernaqué of Compassion’s local church partner. In Tamarindo, families had no choice but to use the contaminated Chira River for their drinking water. As a result, more than half the children at the Compassion center suffered from intestinal worms.


A boy wearing a light blue shirt is standing in front of a body of water. He is holding a glass of water in each hand. One glass contains clean water and one contains dirty water. There are trees behind the water.

Through a water purification system installed at Compassion’s church partner, the whole community now has access to safe water.

“The children are now good!” says Pastor Sernaqué. “Their color has improved, and they are brighter and happier.”

5. Princess, the Philippines


Plastic water pipes snake their way into their community, through the dirt and open sewers. Most of the public faucets are not sanitary, which is why families boil the water to make it safe for drinking or buy bottled water for drinking.

In Princess’ impoverished community in Cebu City, plastic water pipes run past open sewers. They lead to the few homes that have faucets, but even then they only provide water early in the morning or at night. The town has struggled with the water shortage for over a decade.


Several girls are seen here in the bathroom at the Student Center. They are smiling and looking at the camera as they wash their hands.

The aptly named Child’s Haven Student Center, where sponsored children go for Compassion program activities, has a tiled bathroom facility so children can wash and access clean water on tap.

“It is a great testimony in this community that God’s church is equipped with a reliable water supply and hygienic facilities.”

Pastor Caraca

6. Kantida, Thailand


Girl wearing a white shirt and black shorts. She is walking into a stream near her village.

For generations, 9-year-old Kantida’s village in northern Thailand has not had access to safe water. The same river families bathed in and washed their clothes in was also the source of their drinking water. As a result, children suffered endless health issues from waterborne diseases.


Girl wearing a pink jacket. She is inside her home and is holding a water bottle full of clean water.

“For the first time, I don’t feel sick in my stomach after drinking water,” she says. “I am so grateful for Compassion for helping my family to get a water filter.”

7. Mary, Togo


Girl wearing her Compassion uniform, a blue shirt and skirt. She is standing at the edge of the river where they gather water.

In 5-year-old Mary’s district, a survey by Compassion Togo revealed just 3 percent of families had access to potable water — including hers. “We shared the river with oxen and other livestock,” says her father. “Because of that, my children often developed stomachaches. And when the river dried up, I had to travel about 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) away to fetch water.”


Girl standing at a faucet and is washing her hands. She is wearing a blue shirt and skirt.

Little Mary no longer has to depend upon the river when she wants a drink. “I am happy for the water at the center, because it is closer to us and easier to collect. The water from the tap is very clean and much sweeter than the river water.”

8. Avishka, Sri Lanka

Girl smiling at the camera as she pumps water into a wooden bucket that is on the ground. She is wearing pink pants and a purple dress. There are trees in the background.

The well pump in Avishka’s backyard was convenient, but the water it produced frequently left her with stomach pains. The untreated groundwater also left her with brown stains on her teeth. 

Girl standing and pointing at the Sawyer filter. She is wearing a purple top and is smiling at the camera.

The filter from her Compassion center has given her whole family a new reason to smile!

9. Dipika, Bangladesh


Girl wearing a white dress with a floral pattern. She is holding a silver jug and is walking down the shallow riverbed.

Eleven-year-old Dipika’s bright smile hides the challenge she used to face: waking early to rush to the community tube well before the crowds. When the queue was too long, they gathered jugs of water from the nearby river. “I don’t like making her work to collect water before and after school,” says her father. “But I believe that a family that works together, stays together.”


Girl wearing a gold dress with a red paisley pattern. She is pumping water from the tube well at her home. There are trees behind her.

A financial gift from her sponsor helped the family to purchase something they had dreamed of — a well in their own yard. Now they have access to fresh, safe water just yards from their home. “These days, I don’t even drink water from that jug,” says Dipika. “I directly take water from the tube well and enjoy the freshness of the water.”

10. Akoua Grace, Togo


Woman wearing a colorfully patterned dress and is carrying her baby in a sling on her back. She is walking outside to collect water from the dam. There is a small stream in front of her and trees behind her.

In Akoua Grace’s village, children had no other choice but to drink unclean water from a dam used by cows. To make life more difficult, her mother, Akouvi, had to walk miles to reach it. “The water we had been drinking was very dirty,” she says. “I often had stomachache, fever, headaches and red eyes.”


Girl wearing a blue and white checked dress. She is playing in water coming from the pipe to the borehole at the Compassion center. The water is running down over her head. Other children are in the background.

In July 2020, a critical intervention from Compassion funded a borehole at the local Compassion center and transformed life in the village. “Since this water has come, sicknesses have reduced. We are free. We are in paradise!” says Akouvi. “I am so happy and don’t know how to express my gratitude.”

International reporting and photography by Ben Adams, Edwin Estioko, Lina Marcela Alarcón Molina, Jonatan Ruiz, Gabriella Akpene Samaty, Jehojakim Sangare, J. Sangma, Piyamary Shinoda and Alexander Whittle.

You can transform life for a child, family or community in need this World Water Day, March 22!

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Boy holding two glasses of water.

7 Comments |Add a comment

  1. Ingrid December 27, 2022

    I am so happy to support AMAZING DODO in Tahiti. I am thankful for this opportunity

  2. Joseph A. Machado April 28, 2021

    We fortunate people who have access to clean water at the turn of a faucet handle must remember that there are many who do not have that small, but huge privilege. After child sponsorship, I think Compassion’s safe water initiative is one of the best ways to help.


    What a wonderful gesture by Compassion to provide clean water together with the Living Water from Jesus Christ! May God continue to provide wisdom, discernment, encouragement, protection, sensitivity to His Spirit and GREAT JOY as you touch lives for God’s kingdom.

    To God be the glory!

    David Littlefield

    Romans 8:37-39

  4. Cristina March 29, 2021

    So touching! Thank you God for your kindness!

  5. Amelie Julien March 27, 2021

    Nice work .Blessings to all of you who support this ministry

  6. Bertrand Youl March 24, 2021

    Wonderful to see how God passes by men to bring unforgettable support to children. These are real time life changing situations. I’m hardly imagining how proud these children could have been following the shift from #BEFORE# to #AFTER#. Thank you, LORD !!!!

  7. Andressa March 23, 2021

    É muito emocionante ver o que Deus tem feito por meio da Compassion e ver a gratidão das famílias por isso.

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