In the Works

We heard from the team today! They haven’t had power in four days, due to bad storms in the area. There are a lot of great things happening, and they are looking forward to sharing more details when they get back.

The team finished well repairs last week, and has been spending much of their remaining time networking and building relationships. They discovered that the health education officer for the region happens to live right across the street from our land, and were able to meet with him to discuss health issues including malnutrition and drug resistant strains of malaria. What are the odds – Kristen just completed her capstone project on drug resistant strains of malaria. When she did her research, they didn’t have any data on this happening in sub-Saharan Africa. It is our hope that meetings like this one will create opportunities for further work in the future.

Please continue to pray for the team as they finish up their last few days in Uganda!

Well Repairs

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Beginning Wednesday, Andrew Okello (SMI’s local representative), Bart, Brett, and I drove around Mbarara in George Nsamba’s Land Cruiser purchasing supplies and preparing for our last leg of the trip to Kiburara. Because of the significant weight of the steel pipes for repairing the wells, a custom rack needed to be designed and built to better distribute the weight on top of the Cruiser. Brett and I sketched out a design, and the team found a welder to fabricate the rack while we waited…and waited…and waited. Initially, the shop’s owner told us the rack would cost about 500,000 Uganda shillings (about $200) and would be finished in three hours, by 4 PM.  In response to this promised construction time, Andrew said simply, “I doubt.”  His doubts were well founded.  When we got back from lunch, the welding had barely begun.  We didn’t leave the shop to get dinner until after 10 PM.  Despite the shop owner’s bad time estimate, the welder was very patient and we tipped him generously for working so late.  At 12:30 AM we finally left Mbarara and drove the last two hours to Kiburara.

On Thursday we repaired our first well, located in a community about 20 minutes drive from Kiburara.  When we arrived, the well was barely pumping and Andrew gathered about 25 local community members to help with repairs.  Under the direction of a local well mechanic named Tarsus, we opened up the wellhead and began pulling up the pipe.  Most of the work was done by the community while Brett and I studied the old pipes as they were removed.  The pipes were badly rusted and the very bottom pipe had rusted completely through.  Tarsus and the community members cleaned and tested the cylinder (the pumping mechanism at the bottom of the well) and reinstalled new galvanized steel pipes.  After reassembling the well, Andrew and Tarsus gave a brief talk about well maintenance and a local pastor (George Byabigambe) prayed over the fixed well. 

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The following day, we loaded supplies for two wells and went with Andrew and Tarsus to a community about 45 minutes from Kiburara.  This well was rusted worse than the first, and the pumping rod had disconnected half way down the well.  There were also several holes in the pipes from rust.  Again, Brett and I photographed and recorded the condition of the old well parts while Tarsus and Andrew led the community in reassembling the well. Part of our goal this trip has been to transition oversight of the wells to Andrew and to encourage the communities to recognize his leadership.  We were very encouraged to see them fixing the well with very little of our help while we focused on analyzing the problems with the existing well design.

After finishing the repairs, we broke for lunch and noticed that our Land Cruiser had a flat tire.  We attempted to lift the Cruiser the conventional way, with a jack, but the base sunk into the soft dirt and bent the jack.  We mzungus (white people) didn’t know what to do, so the locals showed us their method.  Twenty people and three fifteen-foot tree trunks later we had pried the car high enough to brace it precariously on a rock set on a log (Brett and I continued to protest this support).  Eventually we got the tire on and our fearless driver drove the car off the support to get it down.  Before leaving town, we stopped at the church up the hill from the well.  It was an awesome experience to stand in a crude mud hut with a thatch roof and dirt floor and play (sort of) on an African drum while one of the Ugandans sang part of a worship song.  Our brothers and sisters in Uganda worship the same Almighty God who is just as pleased with their worship from a mud hut as He is with our worship from our wealthy US churches.

When we got to the final borehole well, we found that it was working and had to ask the local community what was wrong with it.  We were told (and confirmed with our own tests) that the water color changes from clear to brown within a few minutes of being pumped from the well and exposed to the air.  We performed a few more tests and took samples to bring back for testing in the States, and decided not repair the whole well until we were sure we could fix the problem.  It was clear that the problem was not a mechanical one, but had to do with water quality.

– Jack

 

Heading Back to Uganda

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We are looking forward to taking a 7 member team back to Western Uganda in August to repair three remaining broken bore-hole wells. We also plan to oversee the installation of three Rainwater Collection Systems at three related churches in the network of churches under Pastor Moses Nkwatsibwe’s purview. These are remote locations that currently have no access to clean water. In April, we shared about our experience at a village next to Lake George. We saw how the villagers were drinking the filthy lake water that is contaminated with manure from cattle that washes into the lake. We were told how a majority of the children in the village are chronically affected by dysentery as a result. We can’t wait to see these people drinking clean water by the end of our trip! While repairing the three bore-hole wells alone will restore clean water to over 8,000 additional people a day, the 3 RCS installations should provide clean water to an additional 9,000 people per day. We will also continue to train the local village leaders and SMI staff in how to oversee their own wells and provide for their own maintenance and repair in the future.

Initially, we plan to devote our organization’s efforts to building a sustainable model in Western Uganda that can be replicated elsewhere. Our ultimate goal is to partner with local churches in impoverished and aid-dependent regions of the world to foster lasting improvement in the living conditions of members of these communities, while strengthening the Church. Since the church is a natural place for those in need to come for assistance and care, we want to strengthen the ability of local churches to reach their communities with works of service and outreach. Our scope is holistic in that we want to assist churches to minister to the needs of the whole community, including clean water, food, health, medicine, education, business development, and social services. Our ultimate goal is to implement these improvements in a way that is sustainable in the long-term, and continuously glorifies God. As we get established in the months to come, we look forward to your support in these key areas. In the meantime, thank you for your prayers!

An Update From Cat and Erin

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.

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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.

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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

Update: Well Repairs

Well, today was quite a powerful adventure!

We have been repairing wells to return clean water to communities. Over 500,000 person-days of water usage occurs each year; that is, each well serves between 1,500 to 2,000 people every day. Many of those served are children from the local schools, and most are drinking black-colored, bacteria-laden, dysentery-causing water, if the wells are not working.

We were up at 8 AM and we started work this morning at 9 AM when the well mechanic arrived at Pastor Moses’ house. Taursisis (or Teshi as Bart called him) was sent from God.  He jumped right into working with Andrew Okello –instructing the village workers while showing us how to disassemble the well pump head so that Andrew could learn how to become a well mechanic himself. Cat recorded the GPS data, and worked with Andrew to update the paperwork that will lead to the well inventory, and well repair and maintenance data. We are gathering the data for statistics regarding each well (e.g., population in the communities served by each well, the GPS location, the elevation, the frequency of inspections, the maintenance and repair records, the longevity of various pump parts). First, we worked on well #9, then we dropped off the well crew at well #10 so they could start identifying the problem(s) with the second well.

While they worked on the second well, we traveled to Mbarara. We have rented Pastor George Nsamba’s Toyota Land Cruiser for the ‘bush’ portion of our trip in and out of Kiburara – the 4-wheel drive and off-road suspension have been highly needed, well worth the fee, and greatly appreciated by us. There were three main reasons to take this 2.5 hour trip to Mbarara today:

1. To meet with the Mbarara Land Council to, hopefully for the last time, identify the specific documents that we need in order to buy land. This process has been difficult, as each district and region has its own procedures. We arrived at the offices at 4 PM (it was our understanding that they were open until 5 PM). They were closed, but the guard graciously allowed us to come in and we were able to chat with the Processing Attorney, who detailed the process that we need to follow.

2. To purchase the parts for the two wells that the well crew was working on. After leaving the Land Office with nothing but what else they wanted us to bring next time, we went to the plumbing shop in Mbarara. This is the entire plumbing department of Home Depot crammed into a 15’ x 15’ storefront – that only has one type of something, and if they don’t have it, you can’t get it. But we purchased EVERYTHING we needed there! Wow, George (the owner) was very helpful and found us everything we needed, after looking through a multitude of boxes. George had to cut the 10 — 20’ 1.25” pipes into 20 – 10’ lengths, and then used the dye to cut the threads, by hand into the cut ends of the pipe. We decided to go get something to eat while we waited, and have a Novita (a delicious carbonated pineapple drink).

3. To meet with Pastor George Byabagamby for dinner and discuss his business experience. George told us all about how he started  Savings and Credit Associations (SCA) with his communities. Cat had great questions about the micro-finance and SCA models. George explained that, while the first attempt failed, the second attempt worked well because the women and men invested their own money into the loan pool and lent out their own money. He found that they were more accountable with their own money. George also described how they are starting to form a bank and explained what they have learned from this process.

Moses is doing all our translation from ‘we need to have it this way’ American to ‘this is the way we do it here in Uganda’ Luganda or Runyankole. Moses is a gentle, loving, and joyful man. We love his friendship! He has become like family. God has even used Moses to speak friendship, patience, faith, and waiting-on-God’s time to us. We are truly thankful for him.

We have had a full day today; we have stretched all the hours to their maximum. Cat and John are asleep. We are on the way home. Tomorrow, we plan to finish repairing the first two wells, and then repair and maintain as many additional broken wells as possible.

Pray that God continues to favor our work!
Mukama asiimwe

The SMI team

A Sunday With Our Ugandan Family

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Our first stop of the day was at a medium sized church, where we were surrounded by children shaking our hands, and joined in worship for a little while. We introduced ourselves and left shortly afterward headed for Pastor Ben Nbasa’s church.

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His church had been meeting in a building without a roof for several years. Walls had been in place, and a fine layer of straw covered the dirt floor, but blue tarps provided the only shelter until three weeks ago when they were finally able to have a roof installed. The service was about three hours long, with worship, testimonies, a message from Pastor Moses, and several introductions. Children worshiped in the middle of the room while parents and adults were against the walls near sets of benches, and the passion of this congregation’s worship was powerfully sincere.
After the service, Pastor Ben invited the team to his offices for a lunch which a member of his staff had prepared for us. We had chicken, eggs, and soda, but what pulled some of us up short was the chicken. It didn’t look like chicken. And maybe that’s just because we’re so used to seeing nice and neat chunks of boneless meat arranged on a silver platter. It was strange pulling off hunks of chicken off random bits of bone, but we were hungry, and it was good. Grease coated our fingers as we got up from the table to wash and say goodbye as we headed off to visit yet another church.
People have welcomed us by giving us bottles of water. At first I thought it was a one-time thing, but it’s happened everywhere we’ve gone. Churches and schools have all thanked us for visiting by giving us bottles of water. What must it cost for these leaders to buy us water when they cannot afford it for themselves or their families?
A swarm of children – literally – would surround you if you took their picture and showed it to them. It was amazing how many children would crowd, pushing, shoving, hands reaching, necks craning, to get a glimpse at the bright screen that showed them what they looked like. Erin, Bart, and I took many pictures of these children, bright white teeth flashing, huge brown eyes gaping, colorful dresses and tattered shirts staring into the camera, it was adorable and endearing to see the excitement on their faces to see the Mzungus taking photos of them.

The church in this community was in a small mud-caked building no longer than 40 feet long. In spite of its size, it was packed with believers worshiping God. Drums, clapping, and children’s voices dominated the hot, still air as these wonderful Christians sang with all their hearts. After introductions were made, with many Hallelujahs and Amens, we were asked to sing a song for the congregation. It’s a good thing Bart had gotten Erin and me to sing “In Christ Alone” on the earlier drive; we all got up there and sang it for the believers, who picked out a drumbeat and clapped with us. Then three ladies from the congregation blessed us with a song, complete with choreographed movements and harmonies. Shortly after that, we made our way from the church to the banks of Lake George which was some 300 yards away. We laughed as we watched several of the boys jumping in the shallow waters, doing flips and dunking each other until we noticed the water containers they had taken out there with them. And then we saw the cow-pies littering the ground near the water’s edge, and the trampled grass where the animals had come down to drink. Finally we realized that the people of that village drank from and bathed in the same water that cow dung was swept into during the rains, and that they shared this water source with the cows themselves. It pulled me up short when I saw this firsthand. Dysentery is only one of the many problems caused by the poor water quality, and there is no other water source available to them at present. And yet the incredible joy and hospitality these people had despite their circumstances astounded us: we were given several purified water bottles and a bag full of oranges from their fields.

Before heading home we stopped in at a well at the Kanara Gospel Center, where we discovered the well, which hasn’t even been up for a year, services 1,000 to 1,500 people a day and is still going strong. Although a part had gone bad within its first five months, the community leaders in charge of the well took the initiative to see to its repair and set it back on track, adding security measures to protect the pump lever from being unnecessarily abused. It was the first well we had seen with this added security protections.
While we were gone, Mary spent the day at the church in Kiburara and made beads with some of the ladies here. They’ve been working on creating beads from paper to make jewelry to sell. It’s a lot of work, but we’re working and praying toward great success for the ladies as they prepare to eventually go to market with their products.
Well, its bed time – but — The bar next door is blaring its music again. Last night they didn’t knock off until 3:30 AM, so we would appreciate prayers for another power outage (including an outage for their generator) so that we can be well rested for tomorrow’s work!

Thank you all!
The SMI Team

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Progress Report

We got up early to a great breakfast made by Pamela. All of the Ugandans are so very friendly! We have felt very welcomed and are grateful for the friendships we are developing.

So far, we have visited 6 wells. One well had no pump head, one well was working but the water took a long time to pump and come out, and the other four wells were non-functional.

Joseph, our driver, let Bart take the wheel with his International Drivers’ License and said he drove like a ‘commando.’ Bart is not sure what he meant, but had fun!

We installed both Rainwater Collection/Catchment Systems (RCS) today. The installation crew arrived yesterday, and worked yesterday and today to install the RCSs. The systems included all the gutters, downspouts, two 10,000 litre water tanks, and 3 filters to make sure the water is drinkable immediately from the tap.

Afterwards, we drove to Ibanda to get fuel (for the 3rd time – total of 750,000 UGX = $300), bought 3 mattresses (2 for Covenant Mercies facilities), 5 pillows, Coke, an Energy drink, rice, baby formula, and also checked on 2 more 10,000 litre water tanks.

We enjoyed a great dinner of goat stew, rice, mashed potatoes, chapati, and tea.

We will have a chicken butchering session in the morning to watch ‘dinner’ being prepped.

Thank you for all the encouraging comments!

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