The scene is picturesque: the Zambezi River slowly putters through the green valley. Yet this quiet riverbank was once a place of terror for a teenage girl named Mercy.
Mercy lives in Sinampangala—a remote Tonga community in Zambia’s Gwembe Valley. For years, she and her mother, Jennifer, struggled without safe water. Their only source of water to drink or use for cooking and cleaning was the river.
Mercy walked there every day, and although the Zambezi wasn’t far from her home, she had to be cautious to avoid the crocodiles that inhabit the river. And of course, the river water wasn’t safe to drink—exposing Mercy and her mom to dangerous bacteria that could have fatal consequences.
One day, when she was 13 years old, she knelt on the shore with her jerry can when a crocodile that had blended into the murky water lunged at her. The animal’s sharp teeth viciously clamped down on her left arm and dragged her under the water.
Mercy’s uncle was downriver fishing and saw the attack unfold. He screamed and rushed toward her, but he couldn’t reach her in time. The time she spent underwater felt like a lifetime, but Mercy can’t remember how long she was in the crocodile’s grasp—or how she got free.
It’s a miracle that Mercy escaped with her life. She was taken to the hospital, where doctors were able to stitch up her arm. Although she was glad to be alive, the attack and subsequent recovery stole months from Mercy’s life and kept her out of school. The deep scars on her arm remind her of that terrible day.
But when Mercy returned to Sinampangala, she had reason to hope again. The Living Water Zambia team had come to solve her community’s water crisis. Now the new water well is only a minute’s walk from Mercy’s home, and she no longer struggles with the fear of losing her life while collecting water.
No one should have to risk death to access safe drinking water. While crocodile attacks are unfortunately very common along the Zambezi River, many people don’t survive. Thankfully, Mercy is the last girl in her community to ever suffer this way.
“We feel good because we no longer come to the river,” Mercy said. Through the gift of safe water, friends like you took away this community’s fear and replaced it with joy. Thank you for making a difference in the lives of girls like Mercy!