Tag Archives: Drinking water

Three Volunteers (and TWO video clips!)

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I can’t explain in words how hard it is to “walk” here. These logs get slippery, the mud is deep and the mangrove water smells awful when you fall into it (even though I am holding a shovel in this photo- using it as a walking stick – I still slipped off the logs and got full of mangrove awesomeness) 

I had three visitors this week! Sal arrived on May 10th and Jim and Kathy came in on May 13th. Sal left yesterday morning (May 17th) and Jim and Kathy will head out on May 20th.

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Kathy is back at Agua Dulce! Agua Dulce (“Sweet Water”) is the name of the Wood family property that we live at while working in this region. 

Sal and Jim after working with me and Simon (well, Simon and I worked while Sal and Jim just played in the mud 😉 ) 

Sal and Jim have teamed up with me and Simon in the field while Kathy has been working at Asilo and the preschool that Melissa (a super cool speech therapist from the States) started in partnership for the adjacent Ngobe village.

Before Jim and Kathy arrived, Sal, Simon and I worked in Buena Esperanza, Shark Hole and Valle Escondido. We installed a pump in the well mentioned in my last post – where Hortencio and his wife worked together to drill in Buena Esperanza. We also brought more medicine for little Elmer – the 3-year old child with the infected sores on his body. Please keep Elmer in prayer. The medicine is a temporary fix for the moment, but he needs prayer for overall healing of his little body.

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Hortencio’s family (Minelm, Hortencio with 6-year old son, Marlon) and Simon

We also installed a pump in the well for the birthing mothers and babies home in Shark Hole. This was Simon’s first well in Shark Hole which he drilled to support the birthing house.

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We started to install this pump about a week prior, but had the wrong schedule pipe. It was much nicer to install the pump without a downpour this time!

We continued to use Simon’s cayuco with Sal here, but once Jim came, we moved into a bigger boat. Three adults in the Cayuco is ok, but four just wouldn’t fit. Before the bigger boat, Sal got a fun (and literal) taste of the ocean. I have a little video of one of our commutes home from Shark Hole. The water isn’t usually this choppy, but Sal was a good sport and didn’t mind the extra salt-water shower he received en-route home.​​

​With the addition of Jim, we couldn’t fit in the cayuco so we borrowed one of Bobby’s larger boats. 

Look at how much room we have in this boat!

(side note about Simon’s boat: A friend commented on my last post about what we were doing to raise money for Simon to have a fiberglass boat. We don’t have an official fundraiser set up, but if anyone would like to donate specifically to Simon’s boat, you can hit the “donate” tab at the top of this website and it will bring you to Hydromissions donation page. There is a pull-down menu to direct the funds to my name. The funds will be sent to me here in Panama and I will direct them to the boat. A rough estimate at this point is $1700, of which we have received $400 so far).

With Jim and Sal now on our little team, we tackled some harder tasks that Simon and I couldn’t handle alone. We all worked in Valle Escondido. This was the community that I said should change their name to lots of hills! The community of Valle Escondido had a little spring that they were piping down into the homes in the mangroves. I had worked with Andy (healing fund team) to replace a broken water tank directly below the spring, but the spring itself needed some improvements. I really don’t like working with springs because they are hard to protect against contamination, but since they already had the spring and were using the water, I wanted to make improvements to their system. The two pictures sort of show a before and after. As you can see, its a muddy mess, so you can imagine we didn’t take our phones out much for photos.

“Before” Photo: I have the shovel in my hand in this photo, but Jim really did the majority of the digging and Sal worked hard to pull part of the metal material used to dam the water originally.

“After” Photo: Again, I look like I am working hard here, but I was just moving rocks and stabilizing our new wall. We used fiberglass as our little water dam.

It took us two days to finish the little spring improvements, but we also worked on rain catchment on those two days as well. We installed gutters/tanks on 5 houses total in those two days. I can’t really express how different it is to work here, so just see the photos of one of our gutter installs.

The teenage son of the homeowner was on the roof, pulling this “gutter” on, while Sal and I stabilized it.

 

It is a tight squeeze to slide these pipes onto the roof because we just cut one slice down the pipe. In this photo, Jim is hammering the pipe on as the teenager on the roof is keeping it in place. I also hammered, but once I missed the pipe for a third time, Jim said “three strikes and you’re out”

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Above is a photo of Nelson and his wife receiving a solar flashlight and a bible. We have worked with Nelson on five different days by this point and we had lunch at their house earlier this week (the first Ngobe family to invite us in for lunch). Simon had been sharing with Nelson that we did this work to glorify God and share His love with those we helped. I appreciate that Simon takes his time and builds a little relationship before handing out the bibles. I think the recipients value them more that way.

The last house we worked at was the furthest away from the main section of the community. It is the home of a single mom, Elia. I had two different projects planned for Elia (rain catchment and drilling a well), but we were only able to accomplish the rain catchment on Tuesday.

Today, Jim and I are returning with Simon to drill the well. It is difficult to work at Elia’s house because she lives so far away (about 25 minutes of HARD walking up/down slippery slopes) with just her children and elderly parents. Usually, with well drilling, we insist one having at least 3 volunteers, although 6 is ideal for well drilling. We bend our rules for certain scenarios and this is one of them. Elia can’t get volunteers because she lives so far from everyone else so we are just working on our own to help her and not making her search out volunteers. Hopefully the little middle school-aged boys that helped us carry equipment to Elia’s on Tuesday will help us again tomorrow!

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Our tiny crew! The little guy in the white/blue shirt to the left is Ismael. He quickly became my favorite little helper…probably because he relieved me when I was carrying the 55-gal drum 😉 

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The tank looks like it has a worried face, doesn’t it? I bet it is thinking that I am thinking of rolling it down the hill. Which I was absolutely thinking while carrying it down the hill. 

I am sorry if this particular blog felt a little hectic – this week of projects in three different communities has been a bit hectic! I hope that you all enjoyed the little videos – I had a meeting in Bocas town yesterday so I used a restaurant’s wifi to upload the videos.

 

 

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Hidden Valley (aka LOTS OF HILLS!)

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Simon loading the boat for our trip to Valle Escondido 

Last week, Simon and I went back to Valle Escondido (translates to “Hidden Valley”). We didn’t have the boat we usually use, so James – a friend working nearby – took us in his boat and dropped us off for the day.

Valle Escondido is one of the most beautiful locations that I have worked at here in Panama.

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View from the top of a high, steep hill during my first week a couple weeks ago

The center of “town” (the cluster of homes you see in the above photo) is quite developed with water piped from a spring and solar power providing electricity to most of those homes. The first time I went to Valle Escondido was with the medical/dental team that I talked about in my last blog post. While we were there, Simon traveled around the area to find families that were not tapped into the main water supply to see if we could help them access drinking water.  With the help of a man from the village, Simon located two homes high on the top of a large hill (that is where I was standing for the photo above) that were not part of the community water system. Simon was also brought to a small hole in the ground on another hill that was used to collect spring water for a cluster of 4 homes (3 of which were far away in the mangroves).

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The spring water source. Whoever designed this system did their best to keep the source protected

There was a 200-gal tank just below the manmade hole that was used to collect the water for storage before it would flow through a series of 1-1/2″, 1″ and (mostly) 1/2″ diameter PVC pipes to the mangrove homes. The main concern at that time was the water tank had a bunch of small holes in the bottom, resulting in water leaking out and not storing properly in the tank. While Simon worked on drilling a well on the side of the larger hill with residents from those two homes, I worked with Andy (from the WA team) and Nicholas (resident of one of the homes using this small water source) to replace the 200-gal tank.

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We removed rocks from the dirt platform the existing tank was positioned on (probably why the tank had holes in the bottom) and leveled it off with soil nearby

We were only making a small improvement to their existing system that day. Just bringing it back up to how it was originally designed. Most of the time, my work is in baby-steps. For example, a community is drinking contaminated river water, a step above that would be rain water catchment. A community is defecating on the ground, a step above that would be digging a pit latrine. We take small steps and provide what we can to leave a community with a sustainable solution.

So…that particular work was done a couple weeks ago, but Simon and I returned last week to check on the well and the new tank and find the rest of the homes without access to water.

We didn’t have any contact information for the families that we wanted to meet with so we just went on the chance that some of them would be home. We brought supplies for drilling a well (the well Simon drilled two weeks ago did not produce much water). After lugging the drilling equipment and tools up that really really high hill, we found the homes mostly deserted. One man who was at home did give us contact information for a future visit. We checked the existing well (still not producing enough water) and made plans to return and drill again (now that we had phone numbers for the families).

We carried our equipment back to a little store near the dock and walked up the other hill to check the water tank.

None of these walks are short – I would guess that the walk up the high hill took us about thirty minutes and the walk to the little spring and tank took another twenty minutes from the dock.

After we checked the tank and installed a valve, we stopped at the home of Nicholas (who helped us install the new tank). Nicholas wasn’t at home, but a relative was there who offered to take us to the mangrove homes. I was really excited! I wanted to see the homes in the mangroves, but we didn’t have any contacts and wouldn’t be able to just go wander down – we didn’t know the path to those homes and we can’t really just go into any properties uninvited.

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Following the relative of Nicholas to the mangrove homes 

Basically, I was trying to find and check every home that needed water so we could put together a plan and get phone numbers of all the households so we could gather volunteers for the work days. We checked the homes in the mangroves and talked with the family members and came up with plans for rain catchment gutters for all the homes and a tank for one of the homes (the other two had water tanks, but needed new gutters).

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Sometimes, in order to get a photo, you need to drop your hand beside your bag and sneak a shot as you walk away. This home has a nice size tank, but needs additional gutters to get the water into the tank

 

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The first home that we came to in the lowland area. This home – like the other two nearby- have access to the little 1/2″ pipe carrying water from that small spring/200-gal tank, but the water is not sufficient so we would like to get a catchment tank and gutters on this home as well

After seeing the homes in the mangroves, I was sure we had found every home in need of water – it was 6 total.

I was wrong, but that’s what made the day even better!

We went back to Nicholas’ house and he was home (yeah!). We talked to him about helping us make some changes to the little spring (shown in the photo earlier in this post) to help collect more water and also about putting rain catchment on his house for drinking water. We got Nicholas’ phone number and discussed how we are going to each home that isn’t part of the main water system.

He told us there was one more. A house that was far, on top of a hill and without much water.

We got some confusing directions from Nicholas (I am not sure that he had ever been to that house) so we just started walking back to the center of town. We passed some boys playing baseball and they knew the name we gave them, but also just pointed in a general direction and didn’t offer to guide us. We went along again and eventually came to another home. We asked for help at that home as well, so the father sent his teenage son to take us. Yes! We had a guide!

So listen…I know this community is called “Hidden Valley” but it should really be changed to “So Many High Hills!” (unfortunately, “Tantas Colinas Altas” doesn’t have the same nice ring as “Valle Escondido”).

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This isn’t a tall hill, but they just kept coming…I was thinking “Ok, over this hill, we will see the house” but we would get to the top and no home would be there and we would go down again and up again and down again. 

After what seems like forever (I sure sound like a baby), we made it to the house. I don’t actually have photos of the house (not many Ngobe people are fond of photos – they think we are going to sell them). I have a photo of the next best thing – another hill!

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Another hill

The house did not have any rain catchment and the only water source was a small (low flow) spring at the bottom of a steep hill. Basically, water collects in a gully between two hills and that is where they collect their water for drinking, cooking, bathing, laundry, etc. Five people reside in this particular house, so I know a 200-gal rain catchment tank will be a great source of drinking water for the family. That size tank costs about $200. Simon also wants to try to drill near the small spring to see if we can get a better water source for the laundry and bathing. We also wrote down the family’s contact information so we can set up a work day.

Although I was extremely tired after that long day of walking up and down and up and down, I felt really encouraged. We didn’t actually work (which is usually what encourages me), but we now have contacts for all the households without water and we know what we are going to do to try to help them.

I know those scenarios where we found relatives and teenagers to take us around were divine appointments – we found every home we needed to find in that Ngobe community without any contacts going there. That isn’t easy to do! Praise God!

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I did whine, however here is my little tracker info for the day – 10.59 miles OF HILLS! 🙂

 

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11-days of AWESOMENESS!

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Back row: Ellie Wood, Phil, Bella Wood, Sarah, Aleph, Zia (hiding behind her grandfather), Dr. Ron, Dennis, Don, Al, Rob, Shirlene Wood, Me                                                                                             Front row: Andy, Dennis, Rick, Linda, Bobby Wood. 

The Healing Fund, a 13-person missions team, led by Aleph, spent 11-days doing all sorts of cool things on Isla Bastimentos, Isla Tigre, Buena Esperanza, Tierra Oscuras, De Jada and Valle Escondido. We had medical/dental clinics, baseball clinics for the kids, repaired water tanks and installed new rain catchment systems, dug ditches for pipelines, drilled wells and started constructing a medical clinic building at Agua Dulce (the property of the Wood family).

I really loved how well everyone worked together and each had an important role to play. We had the medical staff, construction staff, water staff, ministry staff…everyone used their talents to serve in the name of Jesus; with joy and love (even during long hot days and too many biting bugs).

Aleph has been leading missions teams to this region since 2007 to provide rain catchment systems and bring medical clinics to the Ngobe communities. Aleph was trained by Hydromissions in 2011 to add manual drilling to the mission. He has since incorporated Hydromissions’ manual drilling method into their short-term missions trips. Serving in the same way to the same indigenous people group, The Healing Fund and Hydromissions partner to keep providing safe drinking water in this region of Panama year-round.

Now that the team has left, part of me can’t believe all that was accomplished in the short time, but part of me can – the part of me that is sooooo tired after the fast-paced week and a half.

Below are a few photos, but I did not get shots of all the activity – baseball clinics went over really well with the kids, but I wasn’t at the clinics to get photos.

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The kids sat on long benches, watching cartoons about hygiene, while waiting to see Dr. Ron.

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Repairing a rain water catchment system at the school in Buena Esperanza.

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Carting and carrying supplies for the clinic at Valle Escondido.

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On this particular day, I thought I was going to be helping the Dentist, but I bounce where needed…which is why I am dressed so nice to dig ditches at Asilo 😉 P.S. Sarah, Rick and Andy really did most of the ditch. I helped on the second day of digging, when it was nearly finished!

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Most days, we used two boats to get to the various villages – even with two boats, we had to be creative to fit tools and humans. 

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Rick and Andy pretending to work for the photo. Just kidding… they worked really hard.

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This path doesn’t look nearly as precarious in this photo as it was in real life. 

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Unfortunately, a typical latrine in these Ngobe villages along the water.

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“Don’t pollute; dilute” must be the motto for this latrine 😉

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Sometimes you find cool things in the ocean…like a water tank. 

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Andy, working with Nicholas (right), using a hot machete to create the hole needed for the inlet pipe in this tank.

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On the last full day, Dr. Ron taught a class to the “gringos” from the area. We had about 60 guests come to learn about tropical diseases and the infections/fungi common in this area. This is the slide on the fun little unwanted guest, the botfly. 

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After Dr. Ron grossed everyone out with 20 slides on infections (which we all really loved, even though it was gross), Andy taught an engine repair class. This class attendance was split between gringos and locals so it was translated to Spanish. 

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Simon, far right, is my drilling teammate. Phil, center, is the best talker I ever met (in a really good way!). Phil is fantastic at just sitting down and sharing the gospel with all ages. He makes everyone feel so comfortable and at ease. His main purpose on these trips is to share and build those little relationships in the villages. Phil is fluent in Spanish from his 25+ years of mission work in the Dominican Republic. He is also Dr. Ron’s brother-in-law. 

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Al was our dentist on this trip. Sarah and I assisted him during most of the clinics – setting up the lidocaine needles, cleaning the tools and, most importantly, being the “dentist chair” since we didn’t have a real one. We would have the patient in one chair and we would sit behind in another chair and tilt the patient back so that Al could work on pulling their teeth. Al, like Phil and Dr. Ron, is also a super cool missionary, fluent in Spanish. Al served in Ecuador. 

 

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Linda & Rick Doty: What do you need? They can do it! Crochet, puppets, build desks for the school, read to the kids, baseball, art projects, dig ditches, organize, sew and hand out dresses. I could never keep track of where these two were because they were always out and about helping in unique pockets of service to the kids in the villages. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Rain, rain, please STAY!

Butenga’s new Rainwater Catchment Tanks

We finished the Rain Water Catchment (Plan “B”) project in Butenga!
It took about a week and a half to get the material to the site, but only three days to complete the work. Planning and scheduling can be quite difficult in the field. The town, Luweero, that we go to for most of the rainwater catchment materials is about an hour away in a Matatu (in an old 15-passenger van that “easily” holds 28 people 😉).

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“We will remember you…when we use our toilets”

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Some of the recipients of the new latrines (toilets).

On my last day in San Antonio, we had a big ceremony to celebrate the new water tower, electric that has been installed in two homes (the rest of the homes should be on-grid within 6 months) and the new latrines!

It was a lovely sunny day with music and food and small speeches by the community and the organizations that helped them over the years.

The day before the ceremony, I was given a skirt and shirt from the ladies in San Antonio. It was a sweet and unexpected gift. It was also quite funny to me that I was given a typical Guatemaltecan outfit to wear when the ladies themselves wore jeans just like I usually do. When I showed up the morning of the ceremony, I wasn’t surprised that I was the only one in a typical outfit. I had to laugh at myself and smile for them. The ladies were so happy to see me wearing the outfit that they had given to me and even though I felt extremely out of place (I was the only “gringa” in attendance), I knew it meant a lot to them (or it was an elaborate prank that they will finally share with me next time I visit 😉 ).  Continue reading

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2015 Review

I am so excited to announce that WE REACHED OUR FUNDING GOAL for the “Gift a Goat & More” campaign! Thank you all for supporting and sharing the fundraiser with your friends and family!

As I am preparing for my 2016 projects, I realized that I almost forgot to highlight what we have accomplished together in 2015!

See the video below for a recap of some of my main projects.

Thank you all so much for your ongoing support of these water, sanitation, hygiene and livestock programs.

I consider you all part of my team as I would not be able to be working in the field without you all supporting me in many different ways!

Have a very Merry Christmas & a Happy New Year!

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December 24, 2015 · 12:41 pm

To Soroti….and beyond!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Message from Cait:

“Soroti is going really well! I didn’t know what to expect when I arrived besides the fact that I was staying with my friend, Jennifer (an awesome missionary nurse who I will write about once I arrive back in the states), bringing a water filter for her to use when she is up serving in the North, scouting areas for Hydromissions and trying to find people working in the service of safe water.  I had no idea how great this was going to be – I was introduced to a couple (Colin & Ronnie with “Water for All International“) who are hand-drilling in this area via Jennifer.  I was able to see their equipment and learn about how they drill through different soil types and also share Hydromissions drilling method with them.  We even had time to spend a day traveling down to Kaloko (first village project in the district of Bukedea) and do some demo drilling with the drill set I left in that village.  I am really excited that I got to learn a method that is new to me and see another team working on using equipment that is fabricated in country and materials that are locally available.  I hope that our organizations can keep in touch in the future so we can learn from each other.  Today, I am going to help Jennifer at the clinic and tomorrow morning (4am) I will be starting another long journey to Arua.  I am hiring a Ugandan man (trustworthy dude who was recommended by Jennifer and others on her team) to travel with me since the roads are remote and even though public transport is “safe”, the packed buses break down often and I do not want to be stranded alone.  Once in Arua, I will be doing similar stuff like here in Soroti – scouting out soil conditions, finding people connected to water and staying with friends who are training in Arua currently.  I have lots to share when I return home next week!”

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