Friday, April 8, 2011

Wells, sand dams, latrines, hand wash stations

Tuesday & Wednesday, April 5th-6th. 

Today is Jim’s 69th birthday and I didn’t even remember it till he told me--oops.  In my defense, when we are away from home there is so much else on my mind.  Later he did give both of us a gift, which I’ll mention in another post.  Otherwise, it was just, ‘Oh, happy birthday’.  How lame is that?

Today we met with Gerald who was Ajay’s site monitor and we followed him while he led us on his motorbike.  The bikes (called piki piki in Swahili) are made for these roads.  Our truck is not, but Elder Tuttle is a good driver and we managed to keep up some of the time. We saw many schools, latrines, wells, and sand dams.  It was a long, hot day and we all came back tired, hot and sweaty.  Sister Tuttle and I were complaining about the fact that we were in skirts and had to walk through tall brush, constantly getting snagged by the thorny bushes and had to pick burs out of our clothes and shoes, but I did love the exercise.  We visited with the kids at the schools (our favorite part) and delivered some plaques for the schools that LDSC provided to put on the wall in their office.  We also provided a sticker for the hand pumps.   Most schools also received latrines (two blocks, one for boys and one for girls and they were usually far apart) and in some cases, hand washing stations. 
Gerald with his piki piki (motorbike), and always talking on the phone.  We had a hard time keeping up with him while he led us for two days to the well sites at the schools.  Gerald nearly had a spill on the highway when his bike tire popped!  Luckily he managed to come to a stop without spilling (whew!)  Note the brush in the background—that is what we drug our skirts through catching them on every thorny bush and collecting burs.

We got a bit sunburned even though we used sun block and we came back to the hotel feeling quite done in, but it was still a great day.  We were able to hand out a bunch of goodies too: the books and rulers provided by the YW, a bunch of dolls and Happy Factory Cars and some soccer uniforms.  When we get back to Nairobi, the rest of the white shirts will be donated to the mission.  This is because the African missionaries usually show up with only one white shirt.  It is obvious that they will need at least five white shirts while on their missions.  You should see our clothes at the end of the day.  You can imagine the young Elders riding their bikes or walking in the dirt, carrying their backpacks, sweating—they get so dirty!  We will hand them out to the Mission President who knows they are coming.  They have a spot in the cupboard that they can draw from when they get new missionaries without a lot of clothes.  Emily Sullivan had a Laurel project and collected two large boxes worth of shirts, ironing them all!  She also sent a box of ties.  The Nairobi Kenya Mission appreciates this gift!  When we go to Sierra Leone, they will also benefit from her efforts.  Thanks much Emily!  (Pictures to follow in a few days when we deliver them.)

YW donation of books for students to write in and rulers.  More pictures will be sent separately of the school.

On our first travel day most of the wells we saw were down by the river.  We wanted them to be up at the schoolyard.  We were happy therefore when we went the following day and saw that all of them were actually at the school.  Gerald would talk to the people when we would come upon a dirty well to instruct them on how to take care of it and remind them that the well was theirs now and they had to maintain it.  When the well was on school property it was better monitored.  When it was a little distance away, the wells were dirty and the poor fencing (which we weren’t too pleased with) was often wrecked by animals and the children.  These sites were a bit muddy and we had to make sure they understood to divert the water away from the well so it would not stagnate for a malaria-breeding pond.  Why do I think I’m repeating myself?  These wells are also used by the families surrounding the area.  Some water tasted sweet and others were salty, which for some reason the children did not mind drinking.  Over time the salt content might get a little bit better, but at least it is clean water, free of diseases. 

No matter the condition of the water, the placements of the well, or any other thing, the people were very appreciative of their new wells. We were pleased to see that many schools had started a little garden because they could water them now.  No matter what we Americans thought of the wells and latrines (we’re so picky) the people seemed to love and appreciate them.

The latrines looked good except for the way the doors were hung.  Most were a bit too long and scrape on the cement, hanging them up; as the children pull at the doors the locks and sometimes the hinges come undone.  Apparently, this is typical of all the old outhouses that we see because the doors are all hanging off the hinges or just sitting next to the latrine.  The hinges were more often than not put in with nails instead of screws.  We cared, the people didn’t notice.  Ajay has agreed to repair them all, however.  The people tell us that the outhouses only last a couple of years—no wonder they don’t care—all it has to do is last just long enough. We are considering doing leach fields (septic systems) instead because they will last and it doesn’t cost very much to get them drained—gee, you’d think that job would cost a LOT of money…

We saw a few sand dams and learned a lot about how to construct a really good one.  This is something we have never done before and there were no specific instructions.  A man from the government did come to the sand dam jobs (there are 30) to give instructions, but unfortunately they were not all created equal.  The cement work was usually pretty good and they all served at least three good purposes: put water back into the aquifers so that the hand pumps will have water for a longer period of time, give animals plenty of water to drink, and the collect sand to be used to make bricks or cement.  The government and the people are very high on these dams.

I am amazed at what happens—the dam is built and then water rushes along bringing sand with it.  The sand filters the water as it goes into aquifers and also cleans it for use; if a pipe is properly placed from one side to the other, it can be used for clean drinking water.  One side builds up with sand, the other just with water.  We think that very few dams had the proper piping.  We saw a few where the pipe was either too low, without a valve, or not long enough on the sand side.  Next time we’ll have specifications in our contracts, now that we know what we are doing.  The contracts made a few years ago have none, and I suspect it was because no one really knew how to do them correctly.  Once again, the people are happy with whatever was given to them. 

This is the sand dam that is already filled up to the top of the cement dam.  They need to add another layer to the wall, which is in the foreground.  On the other side it is lower and has water for animals.  The sand filters the water and the water then cleanly fills up the aquifers so that pumps don’t go dry.  A proper dam will have a pipe on the water side that would allow clean water to be collected.

Back to our buggy tent—I’m sure they miss me…

More pictures to follow. 

Mom & Dad, E/S Greding, Jim & Karen

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