While most of the team visited wells on Monday, Mary and I visited Alpha and Omega Secondary school and spent time with Pastor Moses’ family. We spent time talking with the headmaster, Frank, and one of the teachers, gaining a deeper understanding of how their curriculum works and what they need. I was able to take lots of pictures at the school in order to document the conditions there. Mary took video interviews of several students. We hope that pictures and video will help those at home visualize what life is like here.
At the beginning of the week, Mary taught everyone how to make beads out of colored paper and newspaper. The paper is rolled up and dipped in varnish before being hung up to dry. The materials are inexpensive and easily accessible to the community. The result is a professional looking product for very little cost. Our vision is to sell the jewelry in the U.S. for a decent profit by Ugandan standards. This will give students at Alpha and Omega the opportunity to learn a sustainable skill that will boost their confidence. The current dropout rate at the school is 20% due to lack of funding by parents during dry seasons when there are no crops. Students who are struggling to afford tuition will be given first priority. It is our hope that small steps like this one will lead into bigger opportunities. Expanding this initiative into the village churches could eventually lead to positive results such as the ability of church members to tithe, save, start savings accounts, and help fund future well maintenance. The churches could even use profits to initiate their own benevolence campaigns to reach surrounding communities.
We have spent much of our time this week examining wells and repairing those that need to be fixed. Of 15 wells in the surrounding community, 6 were no longer pumping water. Two broken wells have now been fixed. One additional well is still in use, but is breaking down. Some of these wells have been broken for over a year, forcing communities to return to disease ridden streams. When working, each of these wells serve at least 1,500 people every day (and some wells serve over 2,400 people every day) — people who would otherwise drink unhealthy and unclean water. Yesterday, Bart and John saw a group of small children fetching water from a sewer. It’s exciting to know the difference that repairing wells will make. When all 15 wells are functional, over 30,000 people will have access to clean water – EVERY DAY. To emphasize the importance of this situation, following the installation of the first 5 wells that were dug, the death rate due to water borne bacteria and unclean-water-caused illness dropped to zero.
Yesterday, Cat, Mary, Andrew, and I worked with a local mechanic to repair a well in Rwenyawawa. When we arrived at the broken well in early afternoon, Tarsis (our well mechanic) and Andrew had a difficult time organizing the village men to work. We couldn’t understand what they were saying, but Andrew said they were being “complicated,” meaning one of the men was trying to confuse the others so they wouldn’t work on the well. Just as Tarsis finally got that man to leave and work on the well was starting, dark clouds rolled over us and the rain began to fall. That scattered everybody and we went back into the village to wait it out, staying in the house of a man named Mark. When the rain slowed to a drizzle, Mary, Cat, and I went outside, convincing the others to follow, and gradually got the work on the well started again. At first only two other men came, but once others saw the Mzungu girls getting ready to work on the well themselves, men flooded out of the village and we soon had 10-15 people working on the well. We were happy to watch people get more excited and involved as the work progressed. An hour and a half later, clear water poured from the spout where only air had come just a few hours ago. Pastor Moses came to pray over the well and to encourage the community to maintain it. He explained that this gift ultimately did not come from our team, it came from God. He encouraged them to maintain it out of love for their neighbors and gratefulness to God, not to please the Mzungu.
Today was more low-key, as we are leaving for Mbarara in the morning. We had a (5 and a half hour) staff meeting with Pastor Moses and school administrators in order to debrief and cast vision for the future. We were able to hear from them what steps both Sustainable Missions and Covenant Life Church can take in order to best partner with them.
Thank you for reading! And for all your prayers!
Cat and Erin