Tag Archives: Panama

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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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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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 ūüėČ )¬†

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 Рwhere Hortencio and his wife worked together to drill in Buena Esperanza. We also brought more medicine for little Elmer Рthe 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.‚Äč‚Äč

‚ÄčWith 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 ūüėȬ†

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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 Рit 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! ūüôā

 

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Dejav√ļ?

This same scenario has played out time and again over the past 8 years. I go go go with the planning, fundraising, packing, etc …however, I don’t actually post an update until I’m sitting in the airport, waiting to depart (and, yes, it’s always a bit of a rushed post)

My morning started at 2am and if all goes well, I’ll be at my final destination (Isla Bastimentos, Panama) by 7 or 8pm. Not bad considering this trip used to take over 30 hours!

I’ll be working with the Ngobe people group (an impoverished indigenous group in Panama) for the next three months. My home base will be with the Wood family (can’t wait to see them again!) on Isla Bastimentos. I’ll be working alongside Simon, a Ngobe man that I’ve trained over the years who is our primary driller in Panama. Two different teams will meet me here over the duration of the project. Jessica, Zack, Pat & Kat will arrive in about a week. Together we will check on wells that Simon has drilled, test the water quality, check all the pumps and drill one well together. Later in April, Jim & Kathy will return for a week. Kathy will continue helping at Asilo while Jim joins me and Simon for drilling. 

Well, I’ve just boarded the plane so this post is about to end ūüôā

Thank you all for your prayers!

-Cait 

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Panama Projects

 

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Home and cayucos in Shark Hole, Panama

Each Hydromissions project is unique because we work in many countries, most of which have different climates, languages and cultures within themselves. Every project has its own set of challenges, whether it is difficult soil conditions, limited material or uncooperative weather, to name a few.

While I don’t always make it back to each community¬†where I manage projects, I try when possible. One of the benefits of multiple projects in Panama is that I am able to easily check on projects that I have worked on in years past.

One location I checked a few times during this last trip was the pipeline constructed back in 2015. You can read about the construction in this post- Pipeline. The line looked good with no visible holes in the pipe. The community leader assigned a family member to make sure all of the valves were closed in the afternoon to give the spring time to fill each night and manages any repairs if needed.

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The Pipeline from November 2015 is looking good!

One of my favorite Panama projects is the well that was drilled with the engineering students from Rowan University during their Spring Break in 2014. This well is used all day and sometimes at night too. I am so encouraged because the water flow (and pvc pump) has kept up with the demand for over two years now!

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Well drilled in March 2014 with engineering students from Rowan University 

I am grateful for the relationship that I have with the Wood family and Simon and his family. Those two contacts in Panama make it easier to coordinate and work on projects to serve the Ngobe communities.

Simon, a Ngobe himself, is now working with Hydromissions and The Healing Fund, part-time, to continue well drilling and sharing the word of God on the surrounding islands year-round.

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Simon starting a bore hole well on Isla Bastimentos

Please keep the Wood Family and Simon and his family in prayer as they work to share the gospel and provide for the physical needs of the communities surrounding them.

 

 

 

 

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Dejada

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Our return trip to Dejada to build the rain catchment system.

Simon, Shirlene, Ellie and I returned to Dejada to build the rain catchment system about two weeks after our initial visit.

That two weeks was enough time for the community to build a platform for the water tank and cut posts to support the elevated pipe from the roof to the tank. It is really important to have the community involved in the project and so the men in Dejada did most of the construction with Simon leading them.

Dejada consists of 5 homes built over the water around a very small piece of land. This community of 38 people is not far from a large community called Shark Hole. Shark Hole is more developed with a piped water system (fed by a creek), birthing center, tiendas and a school. The¬†meaning behind their name, Dejada, is left behind or left out. They feel as though “everyone” (government, NGOs, etc) help develop Shark Hole, but no one helps them.¬†I have worked in other small communities, like¬†to this one, that name themselves in a similar way.

My hope and prayer is that over time, as Simon visits, Dejada starts to change their perspective on their worth. I hope that they understand they are special in God’s eyes and they are His children – not a community left behind, but a community that is loved. Simon handed out a bible to each household afterwards and he plans to return to continue sharing Christ with the community.

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Ellie waiting in Simon’s cayuco.

We took Simon’s cayuco to Dejada this time. It is stable for a cayuco (some of them are so narrow!), but we had to be very careful to sit still and in the center because it isn’t as stable as a typical canoe. We went¬†to Shark Hole after working in Dejada…with 5 people and tools in this cayuco. Oh, I forgot to mention – there was a hole in the bow. I still didn’t see any sharks though, but this was a time I was hoping to not see them. It would have been up close and personal for sure with this cayuco weighed down in the water ūüôā

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I know the saying is “…when pigs fly” but what happens when pigs swim?

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Only one house had the right type of roof for rain catchment so we used a 1,200 tank for water storage.

Supplies for this project came from a partnership with the Healing Fund for Panama. A non-profit from Washington State that has been serving this region annually with medical, dental and water teams. It was a pleasure working with Aleph, Ron, Phil and the rest of the team from Washington in the past. They departed a few weeks before I arrived this year, but they left supplies that I am able to use to continue our similar work.

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Ellie was a great helper! She sat up on that hot tank installing the screen on the inlet holes.

Ellie was a great help for this project. I hoisted her up on top of the tank to install the screen and inlet pipe. She got quite the sunburn that day, but she was a champ!

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All of the homes in Dejada were constructed above the water. During high tide, there isn’t any land showing at all in this tiny community. The tank was positioned so cayucos could be used to retrieve water during high tide.

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A view leaving Dejada

Projects are continuing nicely. Simon and I drilled another well and have built some new pumps. I will be sharing more about those pumps in the next post.

Happy Thursday!!!

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