Britons help impoverished Indian children as part of safe water scheme

British volunteers have given impoverished Indian children a chance of independence through education, a former victim of waterborne disease said.

Premier League champions Manchester City part-funded the initiative to provide safe drinking water in the rapidly growing metropolis of Bangalore.

Anitha R, 18, was brought up in a one-room house with a tin roof where the supply worked only intermittently.

Her family had to spend 20 minutes boiling pots to kill infections when they wanted a drink.

Two years ago swallowing dirty water left her feverish with potentially fatal typhoid and off school for weeks.

Pupils drink safe water
The initiative provides safe drinking water (Abhishek Chinnappa/Cityzens Giving/PA)

She said: “I had no energy, I was in hospital for one week, I could not eat anything except milk and bread.

“I could not get up at all. I was 16 and I could not go to school.”

Her parents cared for and about her.

She added: “They encouraged me to go to school because I should be knowledgeable.

“I should be independent, I should not be dependent on anyone.”

The diminutive and bright-eyed teenager is studying commerce and wants to become a fashion designer, a step up the social ladder from her mother’s former trade of tailor.

Bangalore is a sprawling and traffic-choked urban area of southern India.

Children drinking water
Access to safe drinking water makes a huge difference (Abhishek Chinnappa/Cityzens Giving/PA)

Outlying parts depend on untreated well water and levels are rapidly diminishing as more people move in from rural regions.

City’s intervention alongside local and international partners is designed to make the most of the supplies that remain.

Captain Vincent Kompany said: “The club is so proud to support communities around the world through Cityzens Giving.

“It is fantastic that our project in Bangalore is bringing together partners and our fans with young leaders to provide access to safe water and education through the power of football.”

Volunteers employed hand tools and muscle to bolt together clean water towers using carbon-based filtration technology.

Carbon is more cost-effective in smaller projects and easier for teachers to maintain than commercial projects, said Xylem, the multinational which donated the technology.

Children crowd round a volunteer
Volunteers were treated like royalty (Abhishek Chinnappa/Cityzens Giving/PA)

A major part of the intervention, which will be monitored for five years, involves education about the importance of hand washing and basic hygiene.

Volunteer Tom Hooley, 20, from Bury in Manchester, said: “Something as simple and basic as water is something we massively take for granted in the UK.

“We have easy access to clean water everywhere we go, we don’t have to rely on bottled water and coming out here and just seeing how people struggled to get clean access to water was really impacting and quite shocking.

“So the fact we have been able to build these water towers and give them that access I think is nothing short of phenomenal and I think the club have done wonders to arrange this with their partners.”

One school where volunteers built a water tower taught a few hundred children in a village pockmarked by rubbish and full of stray dogs.

Raw chicken in a ramshackle open air cupboard was exposed to dust, fumes and flies.

Children in pristine white school uniforms crowded around the shiny new water filter in the school yard and drank thirstily from tin cups under a sweltering Indian sun.

Football coaches playing games with the children
Football coaches played games with the children (Abhishek Chinnappa/Cityzens Giving/PA)

Football coaches from Manchester played basketball-like games with the children, reinforcing the importance of education and overcoming challenges.

Volunteers from the UK, US and China were greeted like royalty when they arrived at the school.

Children surged forward to excitedly exchange high fives and screamed loudly when the unassuming and generous group entered cool stone-walled classrooms to recover from on-pitch exertions of the midday heat.

Youngsters pranced around in great circles orchestrated by young leaders and kicked footballs.

The walls behind them also depicted dancing and scenes of celebration synonymous with football.

Arun Nalvadi, director of sustainability and partnership at NGO Magic Bus, said: “We use it as a medium of joy to stimulate and challenge them.

“They feel they can overcome challenges in their real life.”

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