Author Archives: Erin

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!