Ethiopia trip an eye-opening journey for Trudeaus
Published Friday, May 11, 2007 9:21AM EDT
A recent trip to one of the world's poorest nations brought Margaret Trudeau and Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau closer together than ever before, and united them in their shared desire to provide clean water to those most in need.
Margaret Trudeau, the president of the board of directors of WaterCan, a Canadian charitable organization that builds wells in African villages, brought her daughter-in-law along on a recent journey to Ethiopia.
Their trip was documented in a CTV special dubbed "A Window Opens: Margaret and Sophie in Ethiopia," which airs Saturday at 7 p.m.
"Not only was it a chance to be with Sophie, which is always a delight to me, but it was a chance to experience something with her that I don't think she had had the chance to do -- to be in the poorest part of the world, seeing what women and children are suffering when they don't have clean water," Margaret Trudeau told CTV's Canada AM on Friday.
Gregoire-Trudeau is married to Justin Trudeau, the eldest son of Margaret Trudeau and former prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, and is a Quebec correspondent for CTV's eTalk.
She said it was an eye-opening experience to travel with her mother-in-law, who has been on the front lines of international development work through her role at WaterCan and has travelled to Africa on two previous occasions with the group.
"Any traveller that has been to a foreign country will tell you it opens all of your senses to a new reality," Gregoire-Trudeau told Canada AM.
"I've always had this feeling that human beings aren't that different from each other, but being there you totally realize that we all have the same needs. And the women and children and men who are there are just like us.
"The fact that rich, industrialized countries are in great part responsible or the world's climate deterioration and should be part of the solution -- the least we can do is bring them clean water."
Margaret Trudeau said she truly believes her work in Africa is making a difference and helping save children's lives -- something she said took on particular meaning for her after the death of her son Michel in 1998.
In one of the most compelling moments in the documentary, Margaret Trudeau breaks down in tears while visiting a small, remote school. She explained why the experience was so powerful for her.
"These children have nothing," she said. "They didn't even have a magazine, they didn't have a piece of paper, they didn't have a pencil. I've just learned that even though we have put clean water in and there was a water point right at their school, for three months of the year, the hot months, the well runs dry.
"Some have eye infections, some are losing their sight. I was overwhelmed. I know what we're doing by putting in clean water is the beginning, but there is such a great need for more help for these darling children."
WaterCan was created in 1987 with the intention of providing clean water to some of the world's poorest people. According to the organization, it has assisted more than one million people in 32 developing countries since its creation.
All WaterCan projects incorporate locally viable water systems, sanitation facilities, and hygiene education.
The organization works with local partners on projects that are long-term development initiatives; use low-cost, locally appropriate technologies; emphasize community ownership, self-help and community participation; and benefit and involve women.
Margaret Trudeau said the emphasis on empowering women is a vital component of the work.
"I think it's the women who are going to make a difference in Africa. The women standing up and demanding that they get access to clean water, demanding that they get education for their children, demanding that they have an equal say in the decisions that are made in their communities," she said.