Tuesday, June 19, 2018
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Installing Wells Provides Clean Drinking Water

greenfield South Wales is one of the wettest parts of the UK – probably that’s why it’s so green most of the time and ideal for farming sheep, growing potatoes and just about anything you like.  When I fly back from Africa, usually via Tripoli into London, it is such a site having flown over the yellow sands of the Sahara desert to see the green, cultivated fields of England where water is abundant and rarely restricted.

well_digging To be restricted, all the time, not because water is short but because you have none at all is not only inconvenient, it’s actually frightening.  There are wells here and there and usually any village has at least one – not necessarily drinkable for a European - but even when there is water imagine every time you need some you have to drop a bucket or a leather pouch down 10 m or so and then to have to haul it up to get your water.  What if you were a frail old woman?

well_project_7 This is the reality for many people in the drier parts of Africa and particularly in the poorer areas where there are not the resources for water on tap.  Even when you have tap water often you need a pump to get the water and a pump needs electricity… and if you have no electricity?  Doesn’t it remind you of the song, “There’s a hole in my bucket?”

well_project_29 One of my jobs has been to oversee the installing of hand pump wells.  These are sunk to a depth of about 35 m.  You can find water from about 10 m but the deeper you go the cleaner it is.  Still, this has to be paid for and for the most part raising funds is not an easy task.  Usually I work, fundraise and save until I have enough to go back and do something worthwhile but it all takes time and, for some people there just isn’t any.

On one of my trips within CHAD our vehicle broke down – not for the first time.  We were in the middle of nowhere and there were a group of people on the bus – a bit like an old Bedford 12 seater – and there we were stuck on the side of the road in 50°C temperatures.  I had about 11/2 lts of water left – I always had a boiled supply - so as we waited I drank… and drank.  Shortly a young girl about 8 years old came and asked for some water.  I guess she must have been thirsty too for she drank until there was just about 1cm of water left.  I watched her drinking and so desperately wanted her to stop… but I didn’t have the heart to say so.  She thanked me and handed back the near empty bottle.  Fortunately, nobody else had the same idea.  

hut Within no time my water was finished as I was not used to pacing myself when it came to drinking.  As I usually carried about 3 x 2lt bottles of water I always had enough.  On this occasion we were still a day’s journey from “home” but in a packed “bus,” that’s what we called these vans, and I had already drunk my first two bottles of water.  It wasn’t long before I started to look like a shorter version of Clint Eastwood: stuck in the desert, looking up at the hot sun as if pleading with it to go away.  My mouth and throat were now dry and my lips were starting to stick together and still we waited on the side of the dirt track.  There were no trees for shelter, just shrubs and ants and other creatures I never saw in Wales.  Further down a couple of monkeys crossed over the track – I couldn’t imagine where they were going in such heat.  How can monkeys survive the heat and, more to the point, how can Africans?  How can they manage without water?  I started to think of the song: “Mad dogs and Englishmen wishing I was anywhere but stuck on the side of a road somewhere in the middle of nowhere somewhere in CHAD dying of thirst.  I’ve said that on a hot summer’s day in Wales, “…dying of thirst” but here it felt like it could happen.  I’m not sure I believed I would but it was a thought anyway.

well_project_28 So helping to provide water was something I found would be helpful to many people, and so it has proved.  There is a satisfaction of knowing that I could do something that made a difference but the greatest pleasure is to see someone who never had access to clean water suddenly find they can do something simple such as… washing their hair whenever they wanted or to see a family just turn up at the pump and find clean water to drink just waiting for them.


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