Sunday, July 31, 2016

Pictures, Sierra Leone

This is city water where they (government) insisted that we needed to put a hand pump.  It did not go well as we supposed; why would they keep a hand pump working when this was too close to the well.  It was one of a very few wells that were not working in Kenema District.
Our name plaque is rusted, but at least you can still see it.
The trained communities know that one way to keep the well clean is that no one brings their 'slippers' on the well apron.  Some have a stick that they use--if you are shorter than the stick you cannot pump the water.  It is because they are too short to pump correctly.  Young children can improperly pump so that it wears it out sooner.
Alberta on the left, with Amarachi, Jr. under his arm and natural sister to Alberta; Jonathan's two sons J. C. named after his father (on the left) and James on the right named after Jim Greding.  They have so many nieces and nephews living with them from time to time that it is hard to keep track.  
Amarachi with Alberta (they pronounce it Elbata).  She is there's for life, but she is sealed to her parents for the next.  They were unable to care for her when she was born, and have since had another girl that they are caring for.  They trust Amarachi to take care of her.  She is doing very well and is quite bright.

We take piles of Leones with us; this is because the largest bill is 10,000 Le.  This equals about a $1.50.  The money gets very dirty too, giving new meaning to 'filthy lucre'. 
Fancy dining at the Accra City Hotel; they give us 3 goblets each till they figure out we don't drink, and take two of them away.

Above the buffet at the Accra City Hotel, the fruit; below, the dessert.  

A proud older sister holding her adorable younger one at a Ward in Freetown

This is a Kardia pump.  It lasts longer than other pumps, but the problem is when it needs to be repaired it costs a lot of money and people might not be willing or able to pay for it.

This & That, on a Sunday

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Each day for the last few days Jim has been trying to fight off the cold he has been getting, probably from the kid that was coughing on him for 10 hours during our flight from LA to London, but each day he has been feeling a little worse.  Today we managed to go to Sacrament meeting, but we came home afterwards and he fell asleep as soon as we got back to the hotel.  While there we met an Elder from Pennsylvania; he has only one month left before he is heading home.

We did not go to the Branch that Cobinah’s attend now (there used to be only one Branch here) because we had hoped to run into Lucia, one of our first hygiene training team members, and one who trained a few times after that on other projects.  We sadly did not see her today.  We did find out though that she and her husband are still attending church regularly.  Amarachi said that two of our previous members that were young single adult girls had gotten married--both attend other Branches; one woman moved away to another area.  They were on our first project, or the one where we had first done the hygiene training and community development program.  It was a joy for me to remember driving them around to the sites while Jim was off with the men.  We had such a great time together—fond memories.  And to visit it yesterday was a joy I will never forget, to see that we were so successful after all these years!  Statistics like these are not typical for any NGO!

I asked Jonathan what kind of fruit this lad had on his head pan—apples—way different-looking apples!

After yesterday’s travels and getting beat up on the city roads, we realized how much better the District roads have become, except for a few spots, and how quickly we were able to travel; yesterday we jerked along, sometimes violently on the inner and outer city roads.  Often we had to stop and go back because a road had become impassable.  Once we got stuck in the mud for a short time.  It reminded me why my neck is permanently stiff—all these years of riding on bad roads in 3rd world countries!

We have often marveled that the girls going to school in their uniforms had such brilliantly white socks on—how on earth do they keep them white while walking in the mud and dirt?  Then we noticed that they often had a wad of something stuffed into the back of their socks.  Amarachi explained that if they come to school with dirty socks they get a punishment, sometimes a beating, so they bring several pairs—if one gets dirty they put on another pair so that they don’t get into trouble—harsh?  Yes.  This is Africa and it is their ‘way’ of doing things.

This is a clinic where we have a well.  This is the only building that they had in 2009.  Now they have additional buildings as shown below.  Clinics take good care of their wells; they are always clean and always working.

Before we required walls around our wells, because this was in the clinic, they not only have a wall but a gate that locks. 

When visiting the other day with the Mission President (Clawson) he told us that he was sitting in a meeting with a District President and I think some Branch Presidents.  He became alarmed when the Branch leader started talking to his leaders or Brethren that they should discuss how many times that they could be allowed to beat their wives in a week’s time, I presume meaning that they ought to ‘cut back’ on doing this.  President Clawson was immediately alarmed, but was grateful that the District leader immediately told the men that this was not right, that there should be NO time that it was okay to beat their wives!  Culture is a hard thing to overcome, but with training, time, and the next generation, perhaps things will change.  We know for certain that Jonathan does NOT beat his wife!  And the returned missionaries hopefully do not go back to their culture, but learn what it means to be in the culture of the Church. 

This is not a sight you see every day in Africa (actually I’ve never seen this)!  This tub was sitting underneath the overhang and they were collecting rain water!  I always said, why don’t they collect it off of their roofs?  Every day it rains very, very hard at times and you can fill a container quickly, especially when collecting runoff.

Love, from the Capitol Hotel in Kenema, Sierra Leone

(As the billboard sign says, it is an unforgettable experience!)

Saturday, July 30, 2016

The good, the bad, and the ugly

Friday, July 29, 2016

They turn off the power at 8 AM here at the Capitol.  Unfortunately I had just woken up.  That means I got a good sleep for once, but also means I had to get ready in very dim light.  I thought I heard Jim in the shower, but it was the rain that I was listening to.  He was at breakfast.  So I hurriedly dressed, and put my mirror up to the window while trying to put on makeup, knowing it wouldn’t be very good.  No matter, we’ll just be driving around in the mud anyway.

Shortly thereafter I got what they call here, ‘running tummy.’  I thought about my meal last night that was supposed to be a chicken burger, but they had put in it instead a flat piece of meat that tasted like a hot dog.  I thought at first that this might have been the problem; then I remembered that Jim had the same problem last night and that we had found in one of our ‘clean’ water bottles, some floating debris—it almost looked like slices of white onion.  So, I think we got our problem from the same source.  Jim had taken a Lomatil last night and one again this morning, so he was okay.  I took one but still felt a slight queasiness and it was time to go.  I decided to stay back.  It is hard enough to use a ‘toilet’ in the bush anyway, but for this I could not take a chance.  So I made sandwiches for the team and sent Jim off with instructions to be sure to take a picture of each well with his phone camera.  This gives us a good record to go along with his notes.  When they left it was still raining.
All of this took so long that their departure time of 9 AM ended up being closer to 10 AM.  After a while you begin to adopt  the African way—their African standard time is worse than Mormon standard time—they are typically later than we are!  While going to the NGO meeting the other day we were a little late, but everyone else was even later.  It began at least 30 minutes later than scheduled. 

While I was doing the wash, the team was traveling to the wells in Kenema District that they are re-training; they purposely went to those that were not working for whatever reason, but there were not many of those, thankfully.  This one is typical of other NGO’s.  They come in and fix a broken well that we constructed and fix it, most times for a small amount of money.  Then they paint their sign on it as if they had provided the well in the first place.  This does not make us happy!

The Internet service had become so slow the last couple of days that I decided to add some time to my modem that we had purchased years ago; back then they never had Internet here in Kenema or in Bo so we had to go to an Internet cafĂ© and there it took 30 minutes just to get our e-mail; we usually picked up bugs besides. So we bought the portable modem. We’d apparently changed the chip to Kenya when we went there a couple of years ago, so it didn’t work here.  Happily, Amarachi’s brother specializes in doing computer work for others, so she sent him here to help me.  He bought the needed chips, the one for Sierra Leone and put some time on it.  It will use up the time quickly since I will be working with pictures, but it will work when the hotel Internet will not.  I tried to get her brother to give me a price for his time, but he refused.  He knows all that we have done for his sister and her family, but I hope to get someone to tell me what is fair to pay him.  He is now married and has a little boy and is on his own and in his own place.   I was worried that the lack of power would soon keep me from working on my computer but luckily city power came on at times during the day, keeping things charged up. By mid-afternoon it was pounding rain and I wondered how our travelers were faring on the muddy roads. 

While they were gone I was happy to get a day to catch up on the wash.  We are too tired when we travel about and there isn’t much time to do everything each evening.  I spent an hour washing, and the rest of the time using my blow dryer to move it along.  It is too humid for things to dry well this time of year.  I also spent time doing work on my computer.  By the time they returned I was still not quite done with everything. 

This is a school well.  They assessed the children a little bit of money to keep the well working.  The only problem was that the headmaster said that the teachers took it for themselves.  Others say that the headmaster took it for himself.  The result was a broken well that they apparently are not going to fix.

When I joined Jim and the Cobinah’s, Jonathan and Amarachi, I could tell that Amarachi was not happy.  That is because it was the day to check on the wells that they knew were not working.  They are in there re-training, and this can be discouraging, to know that you are not always successful—no matter how much they need it, they don’t care enough to take care of it.  But the majority of these wells do work.

                        Some were so poorly taken care of that weeds are growing in them.

That is why today (Saturday) was such a great day.  Jim wanted to see how the Kenema City wells project had fared after all these years—these were constructed in 2009.  It was also the first project where we had added hygiene training to our work.  Besides the ones we saw, which were many, there were others that they could tell us about so that we could just ask them if they were working or not.  Apparently the water resources people check all wells in Kenema City and District every three months so they know what is going on.
Almost every well we went to was still working!! You can’t believe how wonderful it made us feel.  Sometimes the concrete aprons were crumbling or they would not be all that clean, or maybe the pump handle was a little wobbly, but in almost every case they were still working and all of them had obviously been repaired in the meantime, at least two times or more.  I wanted to do a little happy dance.  Sierra Leone is the most discouraging place to work in, so this was a very pleasant surprise! 

Among the old but working wells, this one had a crumbling apron, but still had a fence around it.  Even though we care about the other things, the most important thing is that they are still getting clean water out of this well!

The only problem was that in 3 communities where our earlier security cages were not as good, the pump heads had been stolen.  Each of these wells was working and providing water to large communities.  That is why we hope Elder Carley will use these as an area initiative to fix only the ones that were doing well before the theft.  But today was a wonderful day.  And the first look-see day was good also since so many of those were also working.  Many of the wells go dry for 1-2 months during the dry season, but that is not their fault.  We are just so very, very happy!  We only saw one that was not working because of a bad community.

I remembered many of the well sites since I had driven the hygiene training team to each of these sites myself.  When we stopped briefly at one well, they said a woman remembered me.  This was 7 years ago.  What a great day!  If we fix the 3 that pumps were stolen, we will have 80% working—this is amazing and a rare statistic for any NGO after 7 years! 

This well had been re-plastered by the community!        


 This well was one that got its pump stolen; hopefully we can replace it.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Kenema District well communities, Sierra Leone

Don Carley is looking at what he thinks is palm oil seeds set in a very prickly pod; we like the uses of local materials to make such a nice stand.
We told them that if they plastered their well again, it would not break apart.
This young mommy was grinding rice; as she slammed down the pole over and over again her baby got quite a rocking good time!  This was way better than a rocking chair.
We put tiles under the spout so that the drip does not ruin the concrete top.
This well could be a model for others to follow.  This is not our well, but someone came and refurbished it, making it look so perfect.  It only has one doesn't work...the most important element should have been that the pump actually gave them clean water!

Sister Carley and I taking a rest.
Above and below, a blacksmith shop.  I don't remember ever seeing one in Africa before.  They even have a bellows to heat up the fire.
All of the wells we saw today were working, even though some had gone dry for one month in either March or April.  There is not enough water for everyone to use from a similar aquifer or ones from the same depth.  We might hand drill some if they are in the right area because they can drill down through a couple of water aquifers to where they can get a larger body of water to draw from where it won't go dry.  And the hand drilled wells, if they are in the right soil area, are half the price of a drilled borehole with a rig.  We are investigating this possibility.
This is one of the facilitators for this village where we did the training.  He was asking for more help, this time for a public latrine.  Elder Carley told him that we'd just been told that no public latrines would be built in Sierra Leone unless they were in a place such as a school.  They encourage home latrines.  All new homes built must have one.  We suggested that they learn about the different home latrines.  If they dig a pit we could provide cement and re-bar for the top cover and they could provide a privacy covering from local materials.  They might do an area project if they see that the community is on board and begins working.   
This is Mohammed walking with Jim--he is from SALWACO and we went with him years ago when we were deciding where we would be places these wells.  Jonathan is close behind.
Elder Carley wanted to know where they go for water when the well runs dry---this polluted river is close.  It is an easy temptation to go back to the river.

Checking on wells, Kenema District

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Jim dozed off early enough but I stayed up late working on my computer.  This turned out to not be such a good idea because after I went to bed the Lebanese music began, well after midnight—there is building next store that often has parties and show soccer games so it gets really loud.  That kept me awake for quite a long time.  I probably slept for 3 hours, both of us waking up at 6.  We both fell asleep for about 30-45 minutes till we got a call from Jonathan—they were going to be here to pick us up in 45 minutes!  Scrambling and tired, we made it nearly on time.
We took Jonathan’s car, which had Jim and I, his wife Amarachi and one hygiene training guy.  In the other car that Carley’s were driving, they had another hygiene trainer and the man from SALWACO, from the district.  He doesn’t get paid, so we’ll give him a little something.  I realized that we knew him—he was with us several years ago before we put any of these wells in.  We were headed to the 40 Kenema District wells we did in 2012.  These are ones that went very well until Ebola decimated the populations.  In one community, 26 people died.  Others moved away out of fear of the disease and water committees broke up and many stopped collecting money for the water.  So we have been in the process of  retraining 2/3-3/4 of them, reforming well committees, fixing what was broken that was our fault, having them pay for the small repairs that are needed that were just because the well broke down, etc. 

A woman taking part in the hygiene training program.  Using pictures, this listener is supposed to describe what is right or wrong with the picture she is holding, and then put it under the right heading, whether it is good or bad.  The hygiene trainers don’t ever tell them what to do or how to think, but let them come up with their own conclusions. 

We drove to the furthest one, which took quite a while to get to.  The Districts around here are huge.  At this water point we watched as the two hygiene trainers taught one of the lessons to the people.  We don’t understand the language, but we know what is being said (mostly) because we understand the hygiene training program.  We spent most of the time here of course, and then went on to see other communities that were being or had been retrained, of course checking out their wells.  Most were doing okay.  Tomorrow we go to the ones that are broken—there are just a few of those.

This is the well at the site where they were demonstrating their hygiene training to us.  Jim had requested that we see one of these training sessions.  The typical problem was that the gates fell off because they used adobe brick instead of what we’d requested (the community was supposed to make the bricks).  Many of them were working on putting the gates back on.  But, the well was working, and that is the most important thing. 

The roads in Kenema city have deteriorated, the ones that are paved and the ones that are dirt.  The roads in the district were actually less bumpy than the ones in town even though we drove through several streams and some very muddy roads along the way.  Apparently, the reason that the roads in town are so bad is because the Mayor of Kenema is in the opposing political party as the President.  The Cobinah’s say that the Mayor is not very humble and is too antagonistic to the President.  They claim that if he would not be so prideful that they probably would get better help with their roads, but he is openly against the President so they have gotten really bad
I noticed a great many motorbikes in Kenema, more than there used to be.  Cobinah’s say that they come from Freetown for two reasons—there are less bikes here and the police hassle them a bit too much there and not as much here.
The weather was okay today, mostly cloudy and sometimes raining, even though it was still warm and muggy.  The weather is just easier to take during the rainy season.

If you look closely you’ll see 5 women with babies on their backs; I have never seen so many new babies and pregnant women at one time as we did today, and some of them appeared to be VERY young.  It almost seemed as though they needed to make up for all those deaths from Ebola.  One woman who appeared to be about 20 was sitting there nursing her baby.  She indicated to me that I ought to take this child and raise it because she was not married.  I assured her that Sierra Leone would not let me take her baby out of the country, not to mention our ages!  This is one of the reasons Amarachi & Jonathan want to start an NGO training program for girls and women.  Too many of these girls are not married. 

On the way back we checked out all the wells along the way or off of that road, and ended up seeing I think 7 well sites.  We got home in time to order a dinner and eat an hour later because that is how long it takes, at least.  Cobinah’s ate with us.  We are always surprised at what is in our food.  Some of us ordered chicken hamburgers.  What we got tasted like a flat hot dog in a bun.  It wasn’t all that great and it was a surprise since the night before they actually got chicken in their hamburger buns, but we were all so hungry that we didn’t care.  The others had chicken and rice, and that was very good.

While we waited and ate it began to rain harder, pouring away, me wondering how we could dam up all that water!

Sister Carley was quite fun to watch.  She spent a good deal of time singing with the children, and of course they follow you around any time you are taking their pictures, hoping to get in one of them, but the cutest thing I saw was when she began dancing with one of the women and of course it turned into a happy riot.  I do those things also, but when we are with a couple on the ground, one that is here on a mission, I back off of that—this is their time to enjoy these people, and for the people to enjoy being with them.  We are excited about this couple—they are really doing great things.
Tomorrow will be a repeat, except with E/S Carley.  They will meet with the police again about their water project request, doing a little shopping (Sister Carley loves to sew and wants to buy from the local shops), and then returning to Freetown.

Another day tomorrow of coming home feeling like a whipped doggie…

Love, from Kenema

Pictures, Kenema, Sierra Leone

Feeling happy at the nice hotel in Freetown

The front of Sahr Doe's house.

The bathroom at Carley's house that Sahr Doe built.  They like fancy stuff.  

The living room at Carley's house.  I thought it looked like they had a built-in rug.

Swimming at the Capitol this time...not so much...

How I wish all this water ended up in a dam!

The Chapel in the Church building that Jonathan built.

Front door at Jonathan & Amarachi's house.

The dining room at Jonathan's house where they fed us a wonderful lunch of chicken and rice and salad--delicious!

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Travels in Kenema

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

We departed our very comfortable hotel at 8 AM, drove by the mission home and picked up a bundle to take with us to Bo, plus some plastic bags to cover our luggage, and drove to Grafton where the Carley’s live.  We needed the bags to cover our luggage because of the rain—it will be in the back of Elder Carley’s truck.  Carley’s reside across the small drive from Sahr Doe (I finally have the spelling right).  Sahr owns the entire complex with guarded gate, which is right across the street from the Church.  In the compound they also house several young, full-time missionaries.  Sahr now occupies two of the houses because of his accident—he has made one of them wheelchair accessible. He has been getting physical therapy and is showing some small signs of improvement.  It will probably get a little better when the new equipment arrives that Elder Carley is having his daughter bring over with her next week. He was being taken care of when we arrived so we didn’t say hello, but we will probably be able to visit him when we return.  He had so many visitors that seemed to camp at his house that they had to put up a sign so he could rest—no more visitors!  He is a wealthy man, but I’m sure he’d give it all up if he could walk again.

Sahr Doe complex; gate ahead. 

Front of Carley’s rental house; missionaries in ones near the gate.  Sahr across from Carley’s.

It has been raining each day that we’ve been here, but today it rained harder and more steadily.  It only let up a little bit when we arrived in Kenema.  The roads were worse than ever, or maybe we’ve forgotten—not the highway, but the roads in town.  The best thing about the drive was that I slept a lot of the way.  Today I had woken at 5 AM, so this is a slight improvement on my jetlag problem. 
We found the Capitol Hotel, this time deciding to spend a little bit more money for our stay so we could have hot water and Internet and TV.  I was so tired of their cold water showers, and it isn’t all that hot right now with the pounding rain.  The pool is being cleaned so I doubt if it will be functional while we are here.

Amarachi with youngest boy Jonathan, Jr.

We were eating a late lunch/early dinner when Jonathan and Amarachi and their kids showed up!  It was quite the happy reunion.  Amarachi said that it has been about 4 years!  They brought their 2 boys, their adopted daughter, and a niece with them.  At any given time they have 10-20 people camping at their house.  It must be quite a challenge.  We heard some interesting plans—they see so much need here that they want to start their own NGO to teach women and girls—morals for the girls and other skills for the moms.  There is a high pregnancy rate here in this country.  There are also a lot of abortions.  Since the Mission President and his wife know about NGO’s and how to start them (Reach the Children), they have been able to advise them with what might help them to become successful.
We’ve had an enjoyable time getting to know E/S Carley.  They are doing great, even though they know how difficult it is  to be successful here (sustainable water projects).  They are learning good approaches to the work that will help them greatly in their area water projects.  Elder Carley, at the age of 65, walked the Appalachian Trail, which took a little over 6 months-- it is over 2,000 miles.  His wife would mail him food to take with him along the way.  She said he came back a changed man, for the better.  He said he always loved his wife and children, but learned how to appreciate them, which he felt was entirely different.  Interesting.  This is a second marriage for him; his first wife died in her 30’s.

Wednesday: I managed to stay asleep till 7 AM but woke up to more rain.   Last night after a change between city power and generator here at the hotel, we couldn’t get our air conditioner back on again—it was late by this time.  We asked for the technician to come but he couldn’t get it to work.  The owner came and he couldn’t either, so he changed our room, and this after we had unpacked everything.  Just as the change was nearly completed, he got it working, but at this point we didn’t want to do it all over again. This is actually his best room--It actually has a shower door, night stands, and a few other amenities, even though the rooms are considered to be the same.  The one without the shower door had instead a sloped, roughly tiled floor bottom with a drain, but the drain was not at the low spot, leaving a puddle in the bottom—this is Africa, after all…

I had forgotten that unless the city power is on, they turn off their generator by 8 AM.  I need to remember this in case I want to blow dry my hair or charge up my computer or phone.   We had the breakfast that comes with the room and it was okay. 

Jonathan picked us up just after 9 AM and we drove in the rain to the police station.  They want a well, they need a well, but how to fund it might be a problem.  If they ask for the neighboring community for help, even though they would use it too, they might balk because policemen do charge them for violations and they are not too popular.  If they fund it themselves, the people will be wary of how they plan to do that, by giving more citations.  Either way, this would be an area project, so Elder Carley will have to decide if he wants do it or not.

Afterwards we drove to the council office and met with a group of District ministers and other NGO’s.  Elder & Sister Carley were skeptical since they had gone to one of these in Freetown and the district spent the whole time trying to convince the NGO’s to pay for the district’s trip to China!  Elder Carley had complained and left the meeting!  We were therefore pleasantly surprised that this meeting was very helpful.  The district is trying to map all the water projects in Kenema and trying to support the NGO’s in what they are doing; however, they don’t have money like other districts do in other countries, and they admittedly said that if we wanted their help we’d have to drag them along.  Other countries like Ghana give their districts money, but there isn’t much here yet.  Even today Water Aid sponsored the meeting by providing water, soda and some cookies to eat.  They district supports the WASH program, but it will be a long while before they can become as useful as they ought to be.  Without money to operate, they won’t be doing much unless we all pay for them to do their jobs.

              Kenema District meeting with WASH group and NGO’s.

We drove in the rain again to Jonathan’s church building, the one that they are meeting in now because he had to stop and see his workers.  I think they have three branches here in Kenema but Jonathan actually built this building.  They are always repairing it because the African way of building is not very good, or perhaps it is the materials that they have to work with.  Then we drove to his home where Amarachi fixed us this lovely chicken and rice meal—it was so filling that for dinner we just made sandwiches from something Carley’s had brought from Freetown.  It was perfect.

Sister Carley with my half-dead umbrella standing in front of Jonathan’s Branch building, the one he built.

While sitting just outside our rooms, we ate and visited and actually felt cool because of the wind and rain.  It was a good day, but it is raining too hard in the afternoons to get around to the more difficult places.

Well, off to do some more wash, shower and then bed.  Sometimes I wonder how we’ll get it all done in the short time that we are here. 

Goodbye for now from the Capitol Hotel in Kenema.