Monday, January 31, 2011

Land Title for our "Promised Land"

After three years of toil, and an incredible amount of patience and persistence, Restore Leadership Academy finally has it's land. John emerged from the Ministry of Lands office 1 week ago with title in hand, one of the only official land titles in Amuru District. Land is an incredibly difficult issue in Northern Uganda, and we've been able to greatly assist the district in building it's administrative infrastructure in order to get it done. It's a remarkable achievement, a tribute to John's steadfast resolve, and God's providence.

Upon returning to Gulu, we jumped on the bikes and headed to the future home of the school- it felt like entering the Promised Land. There's something about toiling at a task for three years, which makes it so meaningful to finally complete. It feels like relief.

Here's a video of John and I on that day, riding past our water well toward the future entrance of the school campus...almost all of the land you can see in the video is part of our 40 acres...

I can feel the page turning, see the fresh ink of this new chapter, the building of the school. You educators can smile with me, anticipating the ways this school will enrich the lives of children in this community for generations to come. This will be one of the few secondary schools in war-ravaged Amuru District, where the need is desperate: yesterday we had over 100 applicants for 30 spots in our freshman class. Restore Leadership Academy will be a launching point for so many amazing young people, the training ground for young men and women of virtue who will go on to write the future of Uganda.

It's been overwhelming how God's woven our stories together to bring us to this point, and He continues to call amazing people to join in this inspiring journey. It feels right, it feels like the time, and I'm ready to roll up my sleeves...

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Nebbi Wells a Success!

Hello all!

Here's a summary how things turned out with the wells in Paidha, Nebbi District on the border of Congo: (it's a little technical, but perhaps nice change of pace from the normal blog diction)

Well #1 named “God Given” by the local community

Location: Two hills (10 minute walk) away from Sister’s Cathedral, a site chosen by her trusted Brother for good community access.

Diameter: 5”

Total Depth: 33’

Pump set at 31’ (12” above gravel pack)

Feet of water: 12

Notes: We had the well down to 39 feet, but made the mistake of pumping out the well to try to reduce hydrolock that was causing us to lose loads out of the auger. Ended up collapsing the well to 33’, and at the time our 6” casing hadn’t arrived, so we set the pump at 31’. Lesson learned. After two days of pumping, the water has clarified, but is still slightly cloudy from sand particles. The well cannot be pumped dry.

Well #2 (not yet named)

Location: Down the hill from Sister’s Cathedral, located in a cassava field owned by Sister. It’s about 150 feet away, uphill from the open water stream.

Diameter: 6” to 45’, then 5” to 53’

Total Depth: 53’

Pump set at 48’

Feet of water: 25

Notes: Drilled with 6” to 45’, tried to get 6” casing down, but had to widen hole with bailing wire tied around auger. Finally drove 6” casing down to 45 feet (with an upside down table, 1000lbs of gravel pack, and Bitek and I jumping on top- photo coming…) Set 4” casing down to 52’, then put 6” large gravel, followed by 2’3” gravel pack, bringing the level to the 50’3” depth mark. Set the pump a bit high because we had 4” of sediment settle in the well overnight, and wanted to play it safe (we also have 25 feet of water in good aquifer, and don’t anticipate being able to pump it dry. After pumping for a few hours, the clay cleared, and only the cloudiness from the sand particles remains. Due to time constraints, we weren’t able to measure recharge rate. This is the location on which Sister plans to build a medical clinic, so we’re hoping that this well may clarify with time, and perhaps even support a solar pump sometime in the future.

Local youngsters helping out with the pipes

Brick and concrete foundation

We sure learned a ton about the fine art of working delicately in unstable layers, and about the importance (and challenge!) of using 6” casing. We’ve gone with a taller tripod, and 20-24 feet tubing sections for quicker transitions (and also due to a dearth of viable square to round end pieces!)

After pouring bleach, and leaving the first well for two days, the locals have already begun using the well. It has not cleared entirely of sand yet, but is already so much more pure than the muddy stream that it’s the best option, and the community is happy with it. We expect the water to become completely clear within a week or so, but regardless, the water should be free of the typhoid and other diseases currently wreaking havoc on the community members’ health.

Still thirsty?... a couple of videos:

Pumping Water...

Down Through the Layers...

A well deserved rest.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Happy New Year from Congo!

We spent New Year's Eve bouncing (literally) in the back of a truck from Gulu to a town called Paidha on the border of Congo. The journey took 9 hours, but the team (Kaben Kramer, myself, and 6 of the Young Men Drilling team of Restore Water) held tough, arriving at 1:00AM. I chased the truck on my Honda 250 dirt bike (Roxanne- the double Soul Safarian is still going strong!) Kaben's got a bruised tailbone, but you won't find him whining... he's been grinning the whole time- he lives for this kind of mission. Kaben is a water engineer from California, who arrived last week with his wife Jenn to lend a hand and some expertise to Restore Water's team. Jenn is connecting with the women leading Purse of Hope, and pouring into the girls' lives. It's a blessing to have them with us, and they're planning to move back here permanently in May!

Back to Paidha... the water situation is the worst I've seen, with people walking great distances to gather from dirty streams. The few wells that we have seen are either broken, contaminated, or locked with owners insisting on payment for water. After scouting for a half day around the area (including a quick walk into Congo), we selected our first drilling site, around 200 ft from the stream, on the downhill slope of one of the hills near town. The distance from the stream, and the lack of nearby latrines provides the best chances we've seen thus far from having a clean source of water. Here's a quick video of Kaben near one of the dirty streams:

We hit rock with the 6" auger at 15 feet depth yesterday, and battled it for the afternoon, calling it quits at dusk. Today we managed to dig around the rock with the 2" auger, and then proceed down with the 5" auger, to 25 feet, where we were thrilled to hit water!

The people of Paidha have been so overwhelmingly welcoming... and surprised to see Muzungus (white people), as it's extremely rare for whites to reach this town- we haven't seen a single one since leaving Gulu. It's been fun playing with the little kids who come up running and yelling (mundu, mundu! - the local word for white person). You get every possible reaction you can imagine, from standing stunned and dropping things, to smiling with delight and running up to shake hands, laughing with friends nearby at the rare sight. The babies and young ones are especially fun, usually either bursting out in fearful tears, or staring wide-eyed with wonder and smiles. They're learning quite a bit about us too... like what a sunburn is!

We're praying for these two wells, that we might have success, and perhaps pave the way for much needed attention to clean water in this area. The truth is, in our journey from Gulu we passed nearly 200 kilometers of places with great need for water, which has been overwhelming and daunting for Kaben and I. Such immense need... but we're looking for strength, and grateful for each step...