Simon and I headed out on a cloudy morning to go to two different communities; Buena Esperanza (Good Hope) and Shark Hole. Contrary to the name, I have checked multiple times and have yet to see a shark near Shark Hole (bummer!).
(The last time I was in Buena Esperanza was with the Healing Fund team. They went to Buena Esperanza to have a Medical/Dental Clinic and replace/install gutters for rainwater catchment systems. At that time, I helped both the Medical/Dental and the Water team, while Simon walked throughout the community with Phil (from the Healing Fund team) to learn about how the individual homes accessed water. After Simon finished, I went with him to look at an “ojo de agua” (eye of water) and sort out a plan for a well.)
The day before our arrival, I had called Hortencio (a man, from Buena Esperanza, who agreed to help drill the well) to set up our start time. Our “approximate” start time.
Simon and I arrived, walked up into the community and started asking around to find Hortencio. The first two people we asked did not know who we were asking for, so I was starting to get nervous. By the third person, I realized that I wasn’t pronouncing his name correctly (my jersey-spanish accent had accidentally dropped the “t” from his name). Once that mystery was solved, we were brought to the home of his mother-in-law.
Neither his wife or mother-in-law knew where Hortencio was, so we waited and chatted with them for a bit. A young boy sitting on the mother-in-law’s lap was a child I recognized from the medical clinic. Doctor Ron made a point to show this boy’s skin to all of us helping that day because of the severe reactions he was having to the bug bites. The young boy had an autoimmune disorder so he couldn’t fight the infections caused from scratching the bug bites. He was covered in awful sores. He was given a topical antibiotic (maybe an oral antibiotic as well, but I can’t remember). I asked the women there if they were using the topical medicine and if they had any of it left. They were out of the medicine. They showed me some of the healed sores where the medicine had been effective so I told them I would bring them more when I returned to Buena Esperanza. It is a really expensive medication so the hope is that they will use it sparingly so it lasts.
Hortencio arrived about twenty minutes later and we got to work. I was really impressed with Hortencio’s work ethic. He did a lot of the drilling on his own. As it got deeper, Simon and I helped, but Hortencio really worked hard and didn’t slow down. He had seen some of my wells last year and wanted one in his community. Now that we were there, he really demonstrated his desire for a well by his hard work. BUT, guess what was even better than Hortencio’s work?! His wife helped too! This has never happened with my drilling projects in the Ngobe communities. While Hortencio and Simon were drilling, I was disconnecting and cleaning out the drill bit during the process (once the drill bucket is filled, it’s lifted out of the borehole and the soil is dumped out. In Panama, the soil is very sticky clay so it is harder and more time consuming to clean the bucket out each time). Hortencio’s wife had been watching me while I was working and I got the feeling she wanted to try, but didn’t know how to approach her or offer her the job. It all worked out when Simon and I left for about 15 minutes to check on a water tank we installed with my first little team at a home nearby. When we returned, Hortencio’s wife had taken over my roll of cleaning the drill bucket. I was beyond excited! It was so great to see the two of them working together for their community well!
Since I lost my spot working on the drill, I went to one of my least favorite parts of the borehole well process. Cutting the screen.
After we finished drilling the well at Buena Esperanza, Simon and I went to Shark Hole. On our way, we stopped off at Dejada to drop off our drilling equipment and 4″ pvc pipe. We weren’t going to be using those items at Shark Hole and needed a safe place to store them while we worked. Unfortunately, theft is very common. Simon had his motor stolen about six months ago. Since then, he has worked on weekends and saved his money for a new one. Simon was 3/4th of the way paid off when one of my teammates from the States and his wife decided to pay for the rest (and donate to his future boat!). It was a huge blessing to Simon and now we are hoping to get him enough for a new fiberglass boat (he uses a wooden Cayuco).
While we were in Buena Esperanza, it had rained a bit, but not much. The sky remained dark as we travelled to Dejada and then on to Shark Hole. Once we reached Shark Hole and climbed up to install the first pump, the rain started. It was torrential. One of our volunteers immediately abandoned the project. He ran to a building to take cover. Simon looked at me and I decided to keep us going. I didn’t want to wait out the storm because it was already late afternoon. I didn’t want to get home after dark. We worked for about an hour in the torrential rain. My rubber boots filled up from water running down my pant-legs. I actually got cold – in Panama! We finished one pump, but couldn’t complete the second pump because one of the pipes I grabbed was the wrong schedule.
I was freezing by the time we got home. With 90-degree+ days and 100% humidity, cold is not a typical feeling here.
All around, a really good day. One more well drilled (Buena Esperanza) and one pump installed (Shark Hole).
As you are reading this post, we should be on our way back to Buena Esperanza to install a pump in their new well and bring the medicine to the little boy with the infections. After that, we will return to Shark Hole to install a pump there and sort out where the next well will be drilled.
The list of projects is ever growing and I couldn’t be happier! I am so thankful that Simon LOVES working on wells and building relationships that lead to sharing the message of Christ’s love. I train, support and work with Simon so he can be the lead on these water projects. In the villages, I have him in the front, explaining the drill and explaining why we are doing it. I will leave in about a month, but Simon will keep on working in these communities and building relationships with those he is serving. Ultimately, we want those relationships to lead to more people living their lives to glorify God. Simon knows his own culture and knows that this is a long, slow process. He is the type of teammate that I am confident will continue to provide quality wells while gently sharing his testimony of Christ’s redeeming grace.