It has been two weeks since I arrived in Bastimentos, Panama and it has been packed full of good (muddy) work.
I always feel a little anxious when I am working here with the Ngobe villages. Their culture is so much different then the communities I work with in Haiti, El Salvador and Guatemala. It’s not a bad thing, it’s just different and I have to re-adjust to their culture when I arrive.
Although working conditions are harder, my living conditions are awesome! It is so nice to come back muddy and gross from the jungle or mangroves to delicious food, wonderful people (the Wood family!) and an indoor bathroom!
Ellie Wood (12 years-old) is my full-time teammate now (as long as she finishes her homework before she joins me 😉 ). Ellie translates and helps with whatever I am working on at the moment. She has no problem trekking through the jungle and sloshing in the mangroves with me. It is really nice to have the company, but even better to have an extra pair of hands!
Most of our work has revolved around trying to get water to the new school in the Ngobe village and to a little cluster of houses in the mangroves. This particular cluster of houses has a man who is bedridden (paralyzed) and his daughters paddle their cayuco (canoe) over every day to get water. Drilling is not an option because the mangrove houses are constructed over saltwater. Our plan is to pipe water from an existing reservoir all the way to the mangroves (passing the school along the pipeline will also provide water to the school). In order to make sure everything will work, we have spent a lot of time measuring the proposed path and taking down as much existing information as well can (water flow, pressure, rough elevations, etc).
Ellie after drilling with me when I was here 6 months ago.
Last week, we had three sets of helping hands!
Jimmie Rycek, a friend and one of the engineering students from Rowan University that drilled here in March 2014, returned to help me for a week. It was great to have Jimmie back and he was a wonderful help as we designed and planned out the piped water system. We brainstormed a few different options with Bobby Wood (building tanks, pumping water, etc), but the piped gravity-fed water is the easiest way to put in a system that this community can maintain.
Jimmie helping measure the path for the proposed pipeline into the mangroves.
Ellie (orange) and my other little helper, Bella (pink), measuring the proposed pipeline in the other direction.
There is an existing water line that takes water from a small reservoir to a laundry station. We had hoped to use that pipe and just extend it, but when we actually followed the pipe route to the reservoir (an adventure in itself), we found that the pipe was broken in many places and too small to carry the water as far as we needed it to go. The existing water line is 1,300′ and we need to go 2,500′ to get water from the reservoir to the mangrove houses. We finally decided that we had to replace ALL of the existing pipe in addition to buying the new pipe, which put me well beyond my original budget for materials.
However, God was already providing funds before I even knew that I needed them! I received a donation I was not expecting on Oct 7th and it will allow me to provide what is needed in this community and help me fund parts of other large projects (like the ones highlighted in the Gift a Goat & MORE! crowd-funding campaign).
I am so encouraged by the people who donate to these projects. It isn’t easy working out here, but it is a lot easier to face these challenges when I have supporters to cover the financial aspects of the projects.
Thank you all so much!
Below are some photos of the path, the pipe and the laundry spot:
Omar hacking away with his machete so we could follow the old pipeline.
One of the many leaks we found in the existing pipeline.
The little structure to the right is the laundry spot. To the left is the partial trench for the pipeline. The existing pipe goes back into the lowlands (grassy area to the left) and wraps around that hill on the left side and goes into the jungle.
…and a random cow.
A photo of a random cow because she had floppy ears.
Prayer Requests: There are a lot of infections and illnesses (fever, vomiting, respiratory, pneumonia) going around the village and even in town. Bobby Wood was very ill for a week with either Chikungunya or Dengue fever and now it sounds like he is coming down with pneumonia. Ellie Wood has an upper-respirtory infection. Shirlene Wood has been providing medications and oral rehydrations mixtures nearly every day to our village neighbors. Please pray for a healing over the communities (especially the small children who cannot fight infections well), healing for Bobby, Ellie and protection for the rest of us who are still healthy.