Tag Archives: borehole well

The Final Days

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Saying Goodbye is always hard

I am sitting in the airport in Panama City, waiting to be called to board.

This last week and a half has been busy. Simon drilled another well and installed two hand pumps. I closed off a large sanitation project at Asilo (a home for the elderly/disabled on the main island).

I am excited to see my family and friends back in the States, but saying goodbye to my Panama-family and friends is still sad.

As usual (for me), I have a quick turn-around in the States. I arrive home this evening (Wednesday) and will be loading gear back in my dad’s car at 2am on Sunday morning. I am heading back to Haiti with the goat team.

I will be sure to update more on the project later this week, but for now – if anyone lives near me (Vineland), I am looking for twin sheets for the orphanages we partner with in Haiti.

Adios for now ūüôā

 

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Simon working on a well in Shark Hole


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Simon with a family near their well in Isla Tigre


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Maria Isabelle is one of the residents of Asilo. Maria is an elderly schizophrenia patient. On this particular day, she was in a good mood and gave me some drawings. I really like when she is in a good mood, but I also don’t mind when she is in a bad mood either because my Spanish isn’t good enough to figure out what she is yelling at me about ūüėČ  

 

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A key, An open door, An invitation

My absolute favorite photo from Panama. This is Elia, watching her son pump water from their new well in Valle Escondido. Photo Credit: Raul 

Last week was a wee bit different – in a good way!

My Hydromissions teammate, Raul, arrived in Panama on Sunday. Raul became an Associate for Hydromissions in 2013 and since then we have worked together in Haiti (2013), El Salvador (2014, 2015) and Panama (2015).

Raul, on his way to Isla Tigre with Simon.

I made arrangements for Simon and Raul to visit every village that Simon and I have worked with over these past 11-weeks.

At this point, the different Ngobe families have seen me and Simon on multiple occasions. They know we are working to help, not hurt (use) them. We are far from being completely trusted, but I would say that we are more welcome now that each of these communities have seen our work. We have multiple rainwater catchment and/or borehole wells in each of the communities, with plans to continue working throughout the year. Small steps towards trust and acceptance for Simon in villages that are not his own.

Simon, bailing dirty water out of a newly drilled well in Shark Hole.

Raul’s¬†first language is Spanish and although Spanish is the second language for the Ngobe, most can speak it¬†in addition to their native tongue,¬†Ng√§bere. Simon’s first language is¬†Ng√§bere so he can translate between Spanish and Ng√§bere when needed.

Raul came to spend a week meeting with the families, sharing about God and listening to their stories. The Ngobe share in the form of stories (similar to the parables in the Bible). Raul and Simon went out every day and did a little work (small repairs, pump installs, etc) in each of our project villages and, afterwards, spent hours¬†visiting¬†with families. Raul’s gift and passion is evangelism¬†(as is Simons). Both men are gentle and kind in their conversations, yet passionate and driven to see peoples lives change. Simon uses analogies to share in ways that the Ngobe would understand. I love to hear Simon share stories, although my language and cultural¬†comprehension makes it hard for me to understand¬†them.

The work that I am gifted and passionate about¬†– drilling wells, designing pumps, building latrines,¬†hygiene education – is the key we use to open doors to villages that we couldn’t just walk into and [effectively] share about Christs’ love. The Ngobe people (and most other people) don’t want to just hear you speak, they want to see action behind it. At Hydromissions, we want to be an organization that provides¬†“Water for the thirsty in Jesus’ name” because we recognize that we need to care for physical needs and¬†ultimately that opens doors to care for spiritual needs.

Simon and I have worked really hard to provide for the physical needs of the families in these 7 villages. Providing the water has opened some doors into villages that Simon had never been to before, but now he is known in them.

I didn’t go with Simon and Raul to visit the homes.¬†I felt like my presence would¬†be more distracting than helpful. Raul is a foreigner, however he is a native Spanish speaking foreigner (and being a male helps too). I am just a foreigner that tries to say¬†things like¬†“d√≥lar” (dollar), but ends up saying¬†“dolor” (pain) so my sentence of “If I had more pains, we could do more work” just doesn’t cut it ūüėČ I was able to catch up on computer work, inventory and a project I have going on in Bocas while the guys¬†were in the villages.

This particular post is about a family on Isla Tigre. Raul and Simon went to Isla Tigre to install pumps in two wells that Simon and I had drilled previously.

New well and pump on Isla Tigre.

After they finished, they were chatting with different families using the well. One woman, Maritza, was sharing about how neither she nor her children could read or write. Her husband had died in March in a bus accident. This accident killed 18 men from the province of Bocas Del Toro¬†(where we work). The men were being transported to a farm to harvest watermelon. Simon and Raul were trying to figure out how to help¬†with Maritza’s¬†request so they went to her house¬†to¬†continue¬†getting to know her¬†and her eldest son, Benedicto. When Raul asked if they knew who God was, they responded, “no.” This is actually unusual. Even Simon was surprised since everyone (up until Maritza)¬†has known¬†about God in these villages. Whether they care or not, most people¬†have heard about¬†God.

That evening, we were discussing Maritza after dinner and made plans for Simon and Raul to return to visit her and her children. We wanted to give the family school supplies (books, paper, pencils, etc) to help with their request to learn to read and write. We also wanted to have a bible lesson at her house. Raul and Simon had an open door, an invitation to return.

Simon sharing stories to the family outside of Maritza’s house.

Simon and Raul returned on Friday to give a bible lesson. They taught about creation, sin, redemption Рgoing from the old testament to the new testament. People came to see what was going on, some stayed, some left, some slept, but some really listened. Maritza and her son were two that were really paying attention.

Simon sharing about God.

At the end of the lesson, Raul offered an even better invitation than one for a visit to a home. An invitation to start to really know God Рto be part of the family of Christ. An invitation to salvation.  Maritza and Benedicto accepted.

We were (still are!) beyond thrilled with the news of Maritza and Benedicto!

“In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents [that is, changes his inner self‚ÄĒhis old way of thinking, regrets past sins, lives his life in a way that proves repentance; and seeks God‚Äôs purpose for his life].‚ÄĚ Luke 15:10

Simon and Raul found a lady on Isla Tigre who has agreed to help Maritza’s family learn to read and write. They have supplies that we bought for them in Bocas to get started. We are really hoping the things being put¬†in place now (the tutor, for example) stick. I am glad that Simon will be able to stop by from time to time to make sure Maritza is doing OK. We are also working out a way to get a solar audio bible over to the family soon so they can continue to learn about God.

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Back to those slippery HILLS!

 

The creek leading into Valle Escondido is too shallow for our motor. Paddling is my favorite part of our commute.

On Thursday, Simon, Jim and I went back to Valle Escondido to work at Elia’s house. While we were paddling in, some men from the community were working on cutting down trees along the creek. A boy¬†in their boat was Omar-¬†one of the teens who helped¬†us carry equipment to Elia’s house on Tuesday. I don’t pay volunteers, however, on Tuesday I did. I paid the teens that helped us $2 each for carrying equipment and material in anticipation for Thursday. I knew we were going to be short on help on Thursday so I gave the kids those tips in hopes that it would encourage them to¬†return. We pulled alongside the boat and Omar¬†hopped over into our boat. I am grateful that he did – we had a lot of material to carry. Between Jim, Simon and myself, there was no way all the material was making it to Elia’s house in one trip (and no one wants to make two trips to her house – it is so far!).

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Elia’s house on top of the hill.

The first well we drilled reached water, but once we started bailing the water out, the ¬†water recharge gradually decreased. It just meant we didn’t hit a very good source of water. We couldn’t drill very deep because of the soil, so we couldn’t create a deep enough column of water for good storage. It was quite disappointing to fill in the well, especially since it had water in it, but we had to cover it up and move on to a new spot.

We crossed over a¬†hill to a different spot to try drilling. We look for areas that already have little springs and try to drill nearby. We drilled in the second location and reached water. Again, we couldn’t go very deep because of the soil conditions. The difference with this location is that the water was flowing into the well quite fast. It was a very shallow well, however it would be enough for a single-family use. On Tuesday, we had installed a 55-gal drum for rain catchment. Now with the shallow well, Elia’s home has two nice improvements for receiving water.

Jim is drilling. Elia is on the left and Omar is cleaning our drill bit on the right.

On the first well, Elia and I drilled together. Here, on the second well, Elia is helping to replace the drill bits as Omar cleans them out.

The new well at Elia’s home!

I was feeling really worn out on the way home from Valle Escondido. By the time I got home, all I was daydreaming about was going to sleep. I had a few tasks to take care of that evening, however¬†before I could go to sleep, a stomach bug arrived. Three things were working in my favor; (1) the bug didn’t hit until I was home…not stuck in a boat during the hour-long commute (2) Jim and Kathy were still in Panama! (3)¬†I had planned a short work day for the next day with two relatively simple, albeit, strenuous tasks. ¬†Another cool note is a gal, named Ahvi, who wanted to help out. I had invited her to go on Friday since it was a short day. Even though I wasn’t there to work, it was a four-person team¬†since Ahvi and Kathy were going to help out.

Simon, Jim, Kathy & Ahvi returned to Buena Esperanza¬†(the community with the husband/wife drilling helpers). They met up with Hortencio and fully completed the well by installing a concrete pad¬†around the base of the well. We always install a concrete sanitary seal around the well when it is first drilled – that will keep contaminates from entering the well from the surface. On top of the seal, we¬†pour a 12″ diameter mini-concrete pad that is about 2″ deep. Sometimes it is a square, but lately we have been using 5-gallon buckets that we cut into a form. The concrete pad poured in Buena Esperanza was an extension of the original small pad. This is something we will usually return to do later in order to give the ladies space for washing clothes.

The final task that the team did was to install rain-catchment gutters on a house in Buena Esperanza. The house already had a large water tank, but their gutters were broken and leaking. It really isn’t an expensive fix (about $45) and it will supply rain-water to the two homes that share the large tank.

Jim & Kathy left on Saturday. It was sad to see them leave, but I am grateful that they were here and we got to spend a week working together. Jim & Kathy are great encouragers to me, Simon and everyone else at Agua Dulce. They are hard workers and enjoy sharing the gospel with others. They want everyone to have the joy of Christ that we have in our lives. I am grateful for them and for Sal, who left on Wednesday, for coming here to serve, to encourage, to bring treats (yum!) and to pray for the people they met along the way.

***Simon’s Boat:¬†Thanks to awesome friends, we are now only $400¬†from having enough to make Simon a new boat! I am not sure how long it will take to make, but I hope I am still here when it is completed so I can take lots of photos!***

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No Sharks in Shark Hole

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Cloudy skies don’t make for the best days to go out, but Simon and I had two communities scheduled and it didn’t look too bad outside.

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.

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The little boy sitting comfortably with his grandma

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!

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Husband and Wife drilling team!

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.

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I really don’t love cutting the screen. I usually find a helper to cut half (I always bring two saws) but on this particular day, I did it all myself.

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Drinking coffee (or something that is made to look like coffee). It actually didn’t taste much like coffee, so it was easier to drink ūüėČ

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).

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Dejada is where we stored our equipment for safe keeping while we worked in Shark Hole

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.IMG_1555

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We had a lot of bailing before we could head home (many gallons of water!)

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It stopped raining as we were bailing so we travelled home under dark, but not storming, clouds

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.

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Sun sets beyond Playa Hermosa (where we drilled a well with Jess, Zack, Pat and Kat in March)

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Simon’s Great Idea!

 

Last year, we¬†went to a community called “Shark Hole.” The community was somewhat developed (relatively speaking) so, ultimately, we focused on a smaller neighboring community, Dejada, which¬†had a more pressing need for water.

However, while we were in Shark Hole last year, we went to their birthing house (where the local midwife delivers the babies). The birthing house was situated on the top of a large hill, without easy access to water (something that is important when they are delivering babies and caring for the mothers). Most of the other homes in the community of Shark Hole were connected to a piping system that brought water from a creek above the community, but the location of the birthing house (high elevation) made it impossible to pipe water all the way to the building via a gravity system.

Spring/creek-fed water piping systems are really common in these Islands. I have seen many of these types of systems and the pipes are above ground and the majority of the lines are small diameter pipe (1″-down to- 1/2″) which makes it really difficult to move water long distances (up and down hills). Most of the systems I have seen are not working very well because of the size of the pipe (too small), broken pipe or not enough rain to feed the creek/spring into the pipe. Because this is the common (known) method of getting water, it is what everyone wants. It is familiar.

We have been trying to encourage wells in areas where a borehole well is the most appropriate technology. Some communities really like the wells, but some communities aren’t ready to try something different. Shark Hole was one of those communities that wasn’t ready to try something different.

Simon and I noted that he should try to drill a well to serve the birthing house and a few months later, he drilled them a well. The midwife was very happy, but it still wasn’t a method embraced by the majority of the community.

About a month ago, I returned to Shark Hole to check on the well Simon drilled. While there, the small group representing the community’s water system asked me for 90 pipes (approx $1,800) to add another creek (water source) into their central water system. They said that the existing creek didn’t produce enough water for the community and people were paying fees for their water even when the tanks were empty.

I have done a handful of spring catchment/pipeline projects over the years, however we do them in areas where our drilling equipment isn’t able to reach water. That wasn’t the case in Sharkhole.

Simon explained that we drill wells and we were willing to drill in their community (with volunteers). At that time, the water committee was unimpressed with the idea. They had their hearts set on more pipe (which, in such a hilly area, is complicated and costly). I was a wee bit disappointed, but it wasn’t a big problem. I felt bad saying “no” to buying them pipe, but we had other areas to help. However, Simon had some conversations with an older gentleman standing near the water committee. This older man, Pablo, saw the benefit of a well. He saw the well near the birthing house¬†and said to Simon “I have water in a pipe to my house, but it does not always have water in it. I pay for the water even when I have no water. I see the well and I see the water. I think this is very good and I want one at my house.” Simon was super excited and shared with me that “No one wants a well in Shark Hole, but I know it is better for them. This old man wants a well. He knows it is good water. We can drill a well at his house and everyone will see and they will all want a well.” Of course I was on board with that idea!

Simon’s Cayuko that took us to Shark Hole

Last week, Simon and I returned to Shark Hole – to Pablo’s house. We drilled a well. It was hard because we didn’t have many volunteers. Really, just two young teenagers for the first 15′ and, after that, we got three more young teens to step in (who were just watching us) for the remaining 7′ of drilling. What we did get a lot of was bystanders. As we went deeper, people stopped to watch. At first I was nervous, but once we hit water – a great flow of water – I was really happy that we were being observed. Simon’s idea worked. He returned to Shark Hole to finish the casing installation and he said everyone wants a well. Simon explained that we would drill wells for clusters of homes (at least three homes would be sharing one well) and we would need at least 5 men to volunteer to drill the well.

Now, we have lots of support and lots of willing volunteers in Shark Hole!

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One step forward, two steps back 

La Croix, Haiti

I’ve mentioned before that for manual drilling, Haiti is extremely difficult. Even though it is hard (and has a history of blocking my efforts with the rocks that make up most of the country’s subsurface), it doesn’t mean I’ll stop trying different methods and supporting different teams with drilling here in Haiti.

Percussion drilling involved pulling and dropping a 50+lb drilling hammer into the borehole to break apart soil and rock

This time, the team is mostly volunteers from Trinidad and two from the US. This team of 13 people have really worked well together. Prior to my arrival, I only had email contact with the leader, Natasha, and didn’t know anything about the others. It didn’t take long for us all to connect as a family. Perhaps it was 13 people sharing two rooms and one bathroom that helped us connect quickly ¬†ūüėČ

(Update: we now have TWO bathrooms)

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Plan “B”

Location of “Plan B”

Remember how we were slowly chipping away at the rocks in Butenga? Our daily routine looked like this: Drill, get stuck on a rock, hand-dig out the rocks, shovel them into a bucket to be dumped outside of the pit. Find softer soil, drop the drill into the pit (thinking that perhaps we had passed the final layer of rock), get stuck on another rock layer, take the drill out, grab picks and shovels, start digging rocks out again. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. We progressed 15′ in 6 days. The work was exhausting, but the enthusiasm remained. Every man lowered into the pit worked like he would be the one to break through the rock once and for all.

When starting a project, we get as much information from locals as possible to determine if we should attempt drilling. Latrine pits in this area are very deep (50-70′) and give us a lot of information about the conditions underground. We had some data from latrine pits nearby where rock was not present. We also had encouraging information about a water spring near one of the pits dug for their surface water collection. With that information, we kept chipping away at the rock thinking we would reach water¬†soon. Continue reading

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