Tag Archives: rain catchment

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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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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Bulldozer

It’s been tough to get a strong enough cell signal to update recently, so here is a continuation from the last post about Uganda (Down Goes the Pipe).

After leaving the Rosser family with my new awesome rock breaking tool that they welded from the leafspring, I spent 11 hours on buses and got to Kakooge in the evening. The next morning, the drilling team excitedly named the new tool “bulldozer.” 

It took over an hour to assemble the 90′ of GI pipe and lower it into the borehole to test “bulldozer.” It worked well to break apart the quartz-like rock, but lowering it into the Continue reading

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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 🙂

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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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Quick Update on Surgery & Projects

Surgery went well! I can walk around now just fine for about thirty minutes at a time before I need a break. I am not super comfortable on stairs yet, but with PT a couple times a week, they should get easier soon.

The projects I am managing for Hydromissions are going well. A rain catchment system has been completed in Uganda. A deep borehole well has been completed on the east coast of India. In progress, we have a borehole well being drilled in northern India and a borehole well in Ethiopia. Both of those projects should be completed in about another week. Lastly, a team is preparing to travel to Haiti in two weeks for a borehole well project.

If you would like to support our projects or specific associates, please check out our new donations page

Below are photos from the completed projects in India and Uganda.

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