Tag Archives: well drilling

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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Tiger Island

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

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

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

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

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Installing a rain catchment tank.

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

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Drilling at our third stop on Isla Tigre

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

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

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

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In Rain or Shine 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Pat and Kat drilling the second well

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Pat and Zack cleaning out the drill bit 

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Zack and Jess drilling the second well

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

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

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

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Taking water samples on Isla Bastimentos 

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Trying to keep from falling in the mangroves 

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

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

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

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Pat, Kat, Zack and Jess 

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

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

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

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The plane that took my little team away 😦

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Dejavú?

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 🙂

Thank you all for your prayers!

-Cait 

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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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