Tag Archives: water

A key, An open door, An invitation

My absolute favorite photo from Panama. This is Elia, watching her son pump water from their new well in Valle Escondido. Photo Credit: Raul 

Last week was a wee bit different – in a good way!

My Hydromissions teammate, Raul, arrived in Panama on Sunday. Raul became an Associate for Hydromissions in 2013 and since then we have worked together in Haiti (2013), El Salvador (2014, 2015) and Panama (2015).

Raul, on his way to Isla Tigre with Simon.

I made arrangements for Simon and Raul to visit every village that Simon and I have worked with over these past 11-weeks.

At this point, the different Ngobe families have seen me and Simon on multiple occasions. They know we are working to help, not hurt (use) them. We are far from being completely trusted, but I would say that we are more welcome now that each of these communities have seen our work. We have multiple rainwater catchment and/or borehole wells in each of the communities, with plans to continue working throughout the year. Small steps towards trust and acceptance for Simon in villages that are not his own.

Simon, bailing dirty water out of a newly drilled well in Shark Hole.

Raul’s first language is Spanish and although Spanish is the second language for the Ngobe, most can speak it in addition to their native tongue, Ngäbere. Simon’s first language is Ngäbere so he can translate between Spanish and Ngäbere when needed.

Raul came to spend a week meeting with the families, sharing about God and listening to their stories. The Ngobe share in the form of stories (similar to the parables in the Bible). Raul and Simon went out every day and did a little work (small repairs, pump installs, etc) in each of our project villages and, afterwards, spent hours visiting with families. Raul’s gift and passion is evangelism (as is Simons). Both men are gentle and kind in their conversations, yet passionate and driven to see peoples lives change. Simon uses analogies to share in ways that the Ngobe would understand. I love to hear Simon share stories, although my language and cultural comprehension makes it hard for me to understand them.

The work that I am gifted and passionate about – drilling wells, designing pumps, building latrines, hygiene education – is the key we use to open doors to villages that we couldn’t just walk into and [effectively] share about Christs’ love. The Ngobe people (and most other people) don’t want to just hear you speak, they want to see action behind it. At Hydromissions, we want to be an organization that provides “Water for the thirsty in Jesus’ name” because we recognize that we need to care for physical needs and ultimately that opens doors to care for spiritual needs.

Simon and I have worked really hard to provide for the physical needs of the families in these 7 villages. Providing the water has opened some doors into villages that Simon had never been to before, but now he is known in them.

I didn’t go with Simon and Raul to visit the homes. I felt like my presence would be more distracting than helpful. Raul is a foreigner, however he is a native Spanish speaking foreigner (and being a male helps too). I am just a foreigner that tries to say things like “dólar” (dollar), but ends up saying “dolor” (pain) so my sentence of “If I had more pains, we could do more work” just doesn’t cut it 😉 I was able to catch up on computer work, inventory and a project I have going on in Bocas while the guys were in the villages.

This particular post is about a family on Isla Tigre. Raul and Simon went to Isla Tigre to install pumps in two wells that Simon and I had drilled previously.

New well and pump on Isla Tigre.

After they finished, they were chatting with different families using the well. One woman, Maritza, was sharing about how neither she nor her children could read or write. Her husband had died in March in a bus accident. This accident killed 18 men from the province of Bocas Del Toro (where we work). The men were being transported to a farm to harvest watermelon. Simon and Raul were trying to figure out how to help with Maritza’s request so they went to her house to continue getting to know her and her eldest son, Benedicto. When Raul asked if they knew who God was, they responded, “no.” This is actually unusual. Even Simon was surprised since everyone (up until Maritza) has known about God in these villages. Whether they care or not, most people have heard about God.

That evening, we were discussing Maritza after dinner and made plans for Simon and Raul to return to visit her and her children. We wanted to give the family school supplies (books, paper, pencils, etc) to help with their request to learn to read and write. We also wanted to have a bible lesson at her house. Raul and Simon had an open door, an invitation to return.

Simon sharing stories to the family outside of Maritza’s house.

Simon and Raul returned on Friday to give a bible lesson. They taught about creation, sin, redemption – going from the old testament to the new testament. People came to see what was going on, some stayed, some left, some slept, but some really listened. Maritza and her son were two that were really paying attention.

Simon sharing about God.

At the end of the lesson, Raul offered an even better invitation than one for a visit to a home. An invitation to start to really know God – to be part of the family of Christ. An invitation to salvation.  Maritza and Benedicto accepted.

We were (still are!) beyond thrilled with the news of Maritza and Benedicto!

“In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents [that is, changes his inner self—his old way of thinking, regrets past sins, lives his life in a way that proves repentance; and seeks God’s purpose for his life].” Luke 15:10

Simon and Raul found a lady on Isla Tigre who has agreed to help Maritza’s family learn to read and write. They have supplies that we bought for them in Bocas to get started. We are really hoping the things being put in place now (the tutor, for example) stick. I am glad that Simon will be able to stop by from time to time to make sure Maritza is doing OK. We are also working out a way to get a solar audio bible over to the family soon so they can continue to learn about God.

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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 😉 ) 

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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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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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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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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