IRELAND — Time has marched on since Lou Metzger graduated from Barstow High School in 1975, but he has never forgotten where he grew up.
Metzger now lives in Ireland, but his childhood was spent in the wide-open spaces of Hinkley. He worked on dairy farms. He recalls playing on winning Hinkley School football and basketball teams.
But there are also painful memories too. Even across the other side of the world, those memories continue to drip into Metzger's present life in Ireland. Safe drinking water has always been a personal issue with him.
"My history with water kind of goes back to my childhood. If you are familiar with the movie 'Erin Brockovich,' (there was) contaminated water in Hinkley, California. If affected my family in a profound way. My mother, father and brother died from drinking contaminated water," he said.
His remarks were made in a video produced for Wells of Life, which is an organization dedicated to provide safe drinking water to villagers of Uganda.
"I heard about Wells of Life through my friend, Nick Jordan. So when the opportunity came up to go to Uganda and document their need, I jumped at the chance," Metzger said. He is a master photographer.
"To see people spend their entire life fetching water in these pits. Muddy pits, moss overgrown pits. Dirty Water. And mosquitoes are all around these open, still bodies of water. So when the children get bitten by these mosquitoes after this long journey of carrying water from this place, 2, 3 miles away, they get malaria, get eye infections from the parasites from that area. You understand the need for clean drinking water. You understand that this can't go on. For the betterment of society. The world in general."
In a phone interview from Ireland, Metzger said he understands what damage unhealthy water will cause to the living. In Hinkley, he said not only was he drinking contaminated water, he was also breathing it in while working on the dairy farms.
He left Hinkley at age 18. He met his wife while working as a photographer in Newport Beach and they later moved to her native land of Ireland. But Hinkley was always with him. His father, mother and brother all died from cancer. He also battled two life-threatening bouts with cancer.
"Wells of Life drills borehole wells and it saves lives. It changes lives and gives people hope. Drinking clean water is so important to a good life and drinking contaminated water will kill you. I've seen it. I watched my mother die from it and it's a horrible thing. When we see people celebrate in Uganda for the gift of clean water, it's quite moving."
It's so moving that Metzger auctioned off a prized possession to fund the drilling of five wells, which cost $6,000 each. He bought a Rolex watch shortly after receiving a settlement in wrongful death lawsuit against PG&E over his mother's death. He raised $30,000 from the auction, which was double the value of the watch.
Metzger's devotion to helping Ugandan villagers get clean water was mentioned in a letter by the president of Wells of Life, Peter Callahan.
"I lost my father, mother and brother to illnesses related to contaminated water. I have had cancer twice because of drinking polluted water. When the opportunity came my way to be a part of Wells Of Life team, to take photographs and video of people receiving the blessed gift of clean drinking water, it had a profound effect on me," Metzger said..
"We are often so busy acquiring new stuff and the latest toys we forget about those who have nothing. I know that I did. Going to Uganda and seeing the wonderful people who survive with no electricity, no sewage and only polluted water opened my eyes to human suffering that can only be appreciated when you see it in person. How can you not be moved with compassion for the right to live a life of dignity with the most basic thing of all — clean water."
By Mike Lamb
Staff Writer of vvdailypress.com