Tag Archives: manual pump

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 😉

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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Tiger Island

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Securing the boat after we unloaded our equipment for Isla Tigre.

Simon and I went back to the island where he grew up and where most of his family still resides – Isla Tigre (Tiger Island). Unfortunately, there aren’t any tigers there (although there was a cute orange kitten that Simon joked about being a tiny tiger).

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Isla Tigre is marked with the red pin. I live around the spot where the “i” is in “Bastimento.” In Simon’s boat, it took us 1.5 hours to reach Isla Tigre.

Simon and I went to Isla Tigre with quite a few tasks on our list. One was to check on two wells that he had drilled a few months ago. We found that one well, with a very good source of water, wasn’t being used at all. The homes surrounding it did not like it. Simon had shared with me that these families all wanted him to pipe water to their houses, but he had hoped drilling them a well would change their minds (like Shark Hole!). The other well, however, was used often and the families that used it even put some wood around it to make a little platform. We were both encouraged by the second well since the three homes near it were using it and liked it! It is odd to me – all of these homes (6) served by the two wells are relatively close to each other and all are relatives of Simon. One cluster of homes doesn’t use their well and the other cluster of homes (not far away) uses their well. I would imagine that the families all hang out, maybe even talk or do laundry together and I wonder why one group doesn’t see the benefit that the other group has by using their well? Sometimes Simon just smiles and answers my questions with “loco, Cait. Ellos están locos” (Crazy, Cait. They are crazy).

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Installing a rain catchment tank.

Our next stop was at a church on a different side of the Island. This church received gutters when the Healing Fund team was here a few weeks ago and was waiting on a tank. We brought them a 200-gallon tank to serve water to the surrounding homes. After the install, Simon and I chatted with the pastor and checked the terrain for water. We are going to try to drill a well since there are a lot of homes in need of water in that part of the island. The pastor said he would be able to get volunteers together so we are going to reach out to him when we have time to make the trip back to Isla Tigre. I have an ongoing list of project communities and contact phone numbers so we can get volunteers together before we make the trips to the communities.

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Drilling at our third stop on Isla Tigre

Our final stop at Isla Tigre was near Simon’s mother’s house. A well that he drilled there last year was used very much by all of the homes and a line would form as people waited to get water. Simon wanted to drill another well nearby so the families wouldn’t have to wait as long to retrieve their water. Drilling in an area where people understand the benefits of having a well was so nice! We had three volunteers that worked really hard and even took initiative to clean the drill after we finished. We drilled down to 27′ with a 10′ column of water! The drilling went so well! I get so encouraged when we have volunteers and I feel like progress is being made with the acceptance of the wells.

All in all, our time on Isla Tigre was good. Two existing wells are being used frequently, we drilled another well that we know will be used frequently, installed a water tank and made tentative plans to drill another well. I know we still have the cluster of homes that doesn’t use their well, but we aren’t too discouraged. There is always a chance they will eventually start using it, but even if they don’t, at least other families nearby are accepting the water wells.

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On our way home, I thought about how awesome this work is – how cool it is that I can be part of projects in remote communities where we are providing water and sharing the love of Jesus. Sure, there are frustrating times, lonely times and even times when I am sick, but overall, I can’t imagine myself doing any other task. I am grateful to have “commutes” like this photo where the sea is calm and the sun is shining as the boat brings us home. 

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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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In Rain or Shine 

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Everyone looks so happy because this boat ride was only 45 minutes long 😉

It has been nearly two and a half weeks since I arrived in Panama and I haven’t written! I tried. I started writing an update on Monday, but I couldn’t get photos to load and just shut off my computer and got distracted with other tasks. Distracted until today (Thursday) when my lovely “Public Relations” boss (Melissa) sent me a message that said “This is a reminder that I love you and you need to write a blog post.” I read that with the emphasis on Blog Post 😉

So much has happened in the short time that I have been here that I should have written two blog posts, but here we go…oh, p.s. If there are any typos, I am blaming the ants walking on my keyboard. They are small, annoying, they bite and they like to mess up my spelbing 😉

Four days after I arrived (and got projects set up), Jessica, Kat, Pat & Zack joined me in Panama. What a hard working team! They never complained even when I knew the conditions were difficult. 

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This 2.5 hours boat ride was rough. The sun cooked us on the first day and on the day we returned, it rained. The rain and wind combo made the trip very cold (which isn’t something that I usually have a problem with in Panama!)

We traveled 2.5 hours by boat to get to Playa Hermosa (called “Beautiful Beach”…although there wasn’t actually a beach where we worked). Simon, the Ngobe man that I drill with and have trained over the years, had identified this community and made the arrangements for us to help provide water to the school kids. We drilled, with Simon and village volunteers, in a few different locations before we found a suitable source of water to serve the small school. The borehole well was rather shallow, but the recharge was sufficient for the kids to use for drinking water.

We couldn’t take any photos of the community (quite a few of the Ngobe communities I have worked with are not fond of photos. Any photos of locals that you see on my posts are taken with permission). I did take photos on the second morning of the team because we were drilling on our own for awhile until volunteers joined us.

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Pat and Kat drilling the second well

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Pat and Zack cleaning out the drill bit 

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Zack and Jess drilling the second well

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Kat cleaning out the first well (water is bailed out of the borehole until all of the dirt from the installation is removed)

On our second day in Playa Hermosa, we drilled another well. This one was deeper with better recharge and would serve more of the homes, while the first well was just for the school kids. We actually drilled most of that well in the rain which was refreshing since none of us had showered since leaving our home base on Isla Bastimentos.        

On our way home from Playa Hermosa, we checked wells on Isla Tigre that Simon had drilled over the past couple of months. The rest of the week was spent on smaller projects like a day trip to check wells in Shark Hole, small repairs on tanks in De Jada and Buen Esperanza, checking wells and testing water on Isla Bastimentos. We repaired holes in the water pipeline in the mangroves and a hand-pump for the home of Nelson (drilled in 2016). All-in-all, the team stuck it out in rain, shine, mud and mangroves. They were dirty more then they were clean and never once complained (even when we had to deal with maggots!). I was really sad when they left, but really grateful that they were able to help me out.

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Taking water samples on Isla Bastimentos 

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Trying to keep from falling in the mangroves 

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It is actually a really slow process of stepping from root to stump to avoid sinking in the mangroves

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Nelson (grey) and Simon (red) have no problems with photos! This is a well that serves Nelson’s family 

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Zack is heating up a machete (to cut a hole in a water tank) with the kids from Buen Esperanza 

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Pat, Kat, Zack and Jess 

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“I don’t think we should be eating dinner with a spider on the table” is not a typical comment at my house in NJ.

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Lizzy likes to sleep with her paw on a human’s paw

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Ethan likes catching “Leaf-eaters” even when then mistake his finger for a leaf

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The plane that took my little team away 😦

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Drilling in Chiduba (part 2)

In my last post, “Drilling in Chiluba (Part 1)”, I mentioned that my next post would demonstrate the pumps we built, however I still don’t have many photos, so I can just show a couple shots from when we were testing the pumps.

I haven’t been able to retrieve photos from my “mostly dead” phone yet (I’m still hopeful!).

I’m leaving for Haiti in a couple hours so I have a replacement phone now (thanks to some awesome people from Hydromissions!)

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