I arrived in Panama, blinked, and left.
I knew this would happen when I could only schedule 4 weeks in the country 😉
Simon and I had a productive time. Simon led the drilling of four new water wells while I helped install the new pumps and repair the old ones. I changed the pump design slightly based on the points of failure we noticed on two of our existing pumps. I used to be more involved in the drilling itself, but since I want Simon to have authority in the communities, I stay in the background for the most part when it comes to drilling.
We tried a couple new things this time around …
(1) Simon taught a class on how to build, install and repair a PVC pump.
It is hard to get community involvement where we work in Panama. We keep trying and sometimes we have good days and sometimes we don’t, but we are doing our best to equip the community themselves to maintain and repair the water well. When we have a community that shows some interest, we really invest a lot into them. That is where we are with Buena Esperanza. They really liked the well we drilled earlier this year so they wanted more and they wanted to learn how to maintain them. There was a peace corp worker, Danny, in the area so his presence helped us organize a training day for those interested. We had a day of drilling and pump repair class. Simon thought it went well and enjoyed teaching. We won’t know until later – until the pump needs repair – how much information everyone retained, but I think it was a good start!
(2) I printed and laminated hygiene education material to post at each water well location. I have had a handful of hygiene classes over the years and even tried two home visits and trained a lady to do home visits to teach hygiene, but those did not work out. Part of development work is being flexible – if it doesn’t work like you planned, try it a different way. This time, I made up hygiene packets to give to the community leaders (or school teachers) in each village where we are drilling water wells. I also have posted material at each water well so while people are waiting to pump their water, they will look at the photos. When I return in the spring, I will see if this approach is more successful or if we need to try something different again.
Every time I am in Panama, I am altering our program slightly to make it work better for the Ngobe culture that we are serving. Every project gets us a little closer to finding that perfect model for this particular region 🙂
My holiday plans have changed. I had intended to be home with my family for the month of December, but I was asked to serve as the Disaster Response Engineer in Barbuda for the entire month. Barbuda was devastated by Hurricane Irma two months ago. I will be operating and maintaining a water purification unit that will turn the saltwater into drinking water. Please keep me, the Samaritan’s Purse DART team that is already in the field, and the people we are serving in your prayers. I really don’t know what the month will hold, but I am glad to be able to help.