About a month ago, I returned overseas for the first time since I managed the covid- program in South Sudan in December 2020. It has been the longest period that I’ve spent in the US since I started these water projects in 2009.
I spent most of the year managing our programs remotely, so finally getting back out in the field was a little intimidating. I was anxious to return to the field, but also worried that I was “rusty” with regard to my skills and nervous about navigating the strict covid-related requirements of international travel. I finally decided that I just had to do it – at some point, I needed to just sort out this “new normal” with travel so why not now? It was not easy – I had to buy a more expensive travel insurance, drive a couple hours into PA for testing the day before flying out so I could meet the necessary requirements, but in the end, it all worked out.
Tanzania turned out to be a very challenging project. It was supposed to be a start-up for a new drilling program. The application I received for the area appeared to be a great fit for our low-tech tools, however the real conditions didn’t reflect the information I received and our Exp-50 drill was no match for the rocks.
We attempted at two (of three) schools and finally had to change gears to sort out other ways to help.
The schools we were brought in to serve had minimal piped water from town. The shallow pipes carry a low flow of water to tap stands around the property, however the water flow is not constant and it is costly. A Well on the property would allow the school to focus more resources on the students.
At the first location, we found an existing Well adjacent to the school that gave us a good look at the subsurface conditions. All rock. All the way down to the water, which was about 8 meters below the surface. Our first solution was the clean the existing Well, which had been filled with trash after they stopped using it (our guess is that the Well may have been abandoned after the piped water system came into the school). Soon after the clean-out started, we realized that motor oil (lots of motor oil!) had been dumped into the existing well. It was awful. There was no way to rehab it for consumption.
Since the Well rehab idea failed, we moved on to installing a rainwater catchment tank that was also hooked up to the water lines. The idea being that during rainy season, the school will have a nice supply of “free” water and during the dry season, they can fill the tanks with the piped water and have it store the water for the times when the water lines are shut off. Since the water flow is inconsistent, a storage tank is very helpful in providing constant access to water.
At the second site, the volunteers managed to drill down about 9 meters (and it was nice and easy soil) before hitting a layer of rock. We weren’t sure at first if it was a layer or just a large rock blocking our hole, so we moved twice but found them same obstruction all the way around.
This time, an existing Well found on another property yielded really good news. The water level was shallow (about 11 meters) and the rock layer was only about 12 inches thick. We had a chance to talk to the man who drilled the existing Well we were observing and he gave us the information on the rock layer. Our plan for the second and third site (which also had similar conditions) was to hire the local driller to hand-dig the Wells.
Using local professionals is something we do occasionally in different countries. Ideally, our tools work and we train and equip locals in those small communities, however if we find a local professional, we want to give them work. Usually we can’t find local professionals, but this particular area we were working in was more developed and populated than our usual program locations. Although Don and I could have installed the rainwater tank, we hired a local plumber for the first site. We still make sure the recipient helps (as part of their investment in the project) so the school’s volunteers were in charge of constructing the platform, but after it was constructed, the tank was delivered and installation was done by the plumber.
We had enough funds for the first site, but did not account for projects at the other two sites, so I bought items in Tanzania (coffee, necklaces, etc) with my emergency funds and brought them back to New Jersey to “sell” for a donation.
After seeing my post about selling items for the two Wells, a friend who runs “Wells of Hope International” donated for one entire Well!
Between the donations for the items from Tanzania and Wells of Hope International, we now have enough to pay the local driller to work at the two remaining school sites!
It will not take long to actually hand-dig the Wells, however he won’t be starting until the end of November, so I likely won’t have updates from those projects until sometime in late December.
Haiti Update: The situation in Haiti is still extremely dire. The country has been wrecked by violence (see this article for a summary) and natural disasters for years. You all likely heard about the recent kidnappings of the US citizens and Canadians, but did you know that there have actually been over 600 abductions this year? Most of those stories don’t make national news, but for those who live and work in Haiti, it has been such a scary rise of power for the gangs on top of the earthquake and hurricanes. Please continue to pray for Haiti and let me know if you want to contribute to peoples serving on the ground in Les Cayes, Jacmel and Marbial, Haiti.
On a happier note, THANK YOU Thank you so much for contributing to the solar lights for Haiti – the lights bought (Luci) are very durable and perfect for remote communities (solar, inflatable, waterproof, etc). These 350 lights (along with 300+ tents and food) were delivered to rural areas around Les Cayes (Gouno and Madeleine). My friends at Samaritan’s Purse also helped me get 300 tarps and 300 more solar lights in Les Cayes. Below are some photos of the tents, lights and grateful recipients.