Monday, August 29, 2011

Makeni, Sierra Leone

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Dear Family & Friends,

We left our hotel in Freetown Tuesday morning, ending up in a standard room for the second night—they had a meeting in the suite and it went on so long that they couldn’t put us back in there—so much for luxury lasting.  We discovered that they were trying to get the LDS account back again now that there is more competition.  Apparently they would book LDS visitors only to give their rooms to others.  At any rate, we accomplished some errands the second day that took four times as long as it would at home because the traffic is always quite incredible, but at least they are done.

We drove in a rainstorm towards Makeni, going down the dirt
Grafton Road
.  I thought the ‘bad’ hill would be slippery in the mud but it was fine.  Turay told us that the Chinese are fixing it up in preparation for putting it in asphalt—what a thought!  It rained all the way to Makeni.  While in Freetown the storms were incredible—one night it sounded like a hurricane it was so loud.

We settled at the Wusum Hotel on Tuesday evening—the same hotel that is expensive but doesn’t keep the power on during the day.  They turn on the electricity for lights at , but the air conditioner doesn’t come on till .  Everything is turned off by , so you’d better be ready to go at that time.  Amarachi and Jonathan met us there and we all had dinner together at the hotel restaurant.  We decided to meet at to begin our look-see.

It took two days to check out each of the 50 wells we constructed in Makeni, driving on soggy roads not meant for cars.  The first day we saw 32, which was awfully good even though it took us till almost dinnertime.  We were all exhausted.  It didn’t rain, which would have made it more difficult to do our interviews.  The weather has been overcast and sometimes sprinkled, so it has been mostly pleasant especially while driving in an air conditioned car. 
Each time we check out a project we have this hope that it will be better than the last one.  Each time we become discouraged, not realizing that it is better than the last one but we somehow think it is going to meet our expectations, but it never does.  I have learned not to become upset about it.  I have changed my American perfectionism to tolerate the African standards.  We didn’t see much cement we could call ‘good’, so if we were at home we’d replace most of it.  Instead we are only requiring a few repairs or re-dos on the worst of them.  Luckily we’ve held back 10% retention, enough to make a contractor want to fix it so he can get the rest of his money. 

A majority of the communities had fenced their wells, which is an improvement.   Almost every pump worked.  Even the ones that didn’t work perfectly, water came out of them.  Only one pump head had been stolen.  We are not too upset by this because we are going remove the pump from one area that gave our team a giant headache.  I think they’ll love pulling out and giving it to a guy who has worked hard for his area and deserves it.  One success was that Jonathan, our Assistant Project Manager, decided to have the contractors hire two men from each village and employ them from beginning to the end so that they’d really be trained well to repair the pump when it is needed.  This was a total success. 

Some wells were dirty, but most of them had been fairly well taken care of—they need to be brushed and washed often.  We had plans to make each community earn money for pump repairs before the well was dug, but that was only 50% successful.  Many groups will be able though to collect money during the dry season when they have no place else to go for their water.  Many will be able to collect money as an assessment at the time a well needs to be repaired.  We are paying Jonathan to go back at six months and one year to asses any changes.  This will give us a better idea as to the sustainability of the project. 

We are going to have a meeting, the five of us, to determine what new things we will do when we turn in a new project.  Perhaps with all of us brainstorming we can come up with yet better ideas for success.  We now have a few contractors that might do a good job so we can rehire them and that will help.  But as always, the main problem is the community itself.  If they are too lazy and want everyone to take care of them, there is no way to sustain the project, so this will always be our biggest challenge. 

Today we saw the rest of the wells, 18.  We were back at the hotel by and Jim and I went swimming—it was so refreshing.  Turay has just been called into the new District Presidency so he took a bus home for the weekend to take care of some church business.  He will take a bus back next week to meet us as we look at the repaired wells in Kenema and Bo. 
Tomorrow will be fun—a hand out day.  We will be passing out the little cars, some dolls, some blankets, and some soccer uniforms.  We checked out an orphanage today, thinking we’d drop the dresses there—we couldn’t believe our eyes.  This was the nicest facility we’ve ever seen.  It was located in a beautifully kept compound, with pristine buildings everywhere.  When we went into the office we saw the donor’s picture on the wall.  We learned that a wealthy man had this place built about five years ago and that obviously the orphans didn’t lack for anything.  We joked that since Jonathan and Amarachi are both orphans, albeit older ones, they could ask to live there too!  Obviously, we’ll be taking the dresses elsewhere, probably to the two Kenema Branches, and then to perhaps one more spot we’ve talked about if we have some left over.  Most of the people in those Branches are pretty needy—the children sometimes have one nice thing to wear to church, and then you see the same dress every Sunday.  At home, other than their school uniform, their clothes usually look like rags.

We’re so busy this trip.  By the way, thanks to any of you who wished me a happy birthday on Facebook.  Facebook does not like me trying to access my account from a strange location, so I guess I’ll do that when I get home.  I had forgotten it was my birthday of course!

Love and kisses from Sierra Leone,

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

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