Walk With Me Across a Rickety Bridge

On a visit to help a village learn the Water4.org method of water well drilling, we stayed with long-time friends James and Margaret Okumu, who live on a picturesque close to the border of Uganda and Kenya.

In the video below I’m following the group as we walk across a rickety bridge over the swamp. There are many of these bridges to navigate. The night before we walked over these bridges in the dark. James Okumu rides his motorcycle on these.

Because it is so difficult to pass here, it prevents commerce that could otherwise be done and allows for a lot of shady business between the borders. For many years this village area, called Budoola and Buwembe, heard politicians tell them they’d receive a new road over the swamp.

James told me shortly after we were there walking on this bridge, that the government came and build new culverts and a road through this swamp.

Much is made about going to build buildings in developing nations, schools, orphanages. This is good, but consider if you are an engineer or builder what can be done to build roads where people can simply use them to transport goods to market more easily. Much can be done by engineers and roads to help make people’s lives better.

Engineers and designers of the world chime in here. I want to hear from you.

Water4Uganda Video

Can water wells be dug by hand? Yes, that have for centuries. Can a 6 inch diameter bore hole be drilled by hand and hit water? Until now, most people would say no, you need a drilling rig.

Enter Water4, Dick Greenley, Chris Cotner, and Steve Stewart. Two years ago, my friend Chris King introduced me to these guys and a new project called Water4, a not-for-profit based out of Pumps of Oklahoma in OKC, OK. I’ve been around water projects and lived in Uganda for seven years, but I’d never seen anything like these tools: hand augers, balers, rock breakers, and an innovative and powerful yet affordable pump.

As one Ugandan said, “This changes everything.” Will it happen fast? It could but that’s up to people joining hands, working hard, and giving countries around the world their own chance to dig their own wells.

Water4 provides tools, designs that are public domain, expertise, and people like you and me travel and take tools and help train local people and leave projects in their hands to develop as each country and churches and communities see fit.

Watch this video and write me if you want to know more.

Dropping pump into the well

Here my good friend Steven Katurebe joins us from Mbarara for last 2 days of well work to help case the well and here sink the pump that is attached to 1 1/2 inch pipe with 3/4 in pipe inside. The innovation of this pump and pipe system from Water4.org is that the rod is also the pipe that delivers the water.

My son Jacob standing next to 15 foot pit in Uganda

What you’re going to see in this video is the power of working together. A group of Ugandans dug a 15 foot pit for a latrine but never used it. When we broke tools trying to break through lava rock, we decided after 2 days to explore using that pit.

We began 15 feet down and immediately progressed quickly to 25 feet, then 45 feet the next day. You’ll hear Roy Mwesigwa talking about what we’re going to do next, and that was typical of the way we worked for six days together, muddling through, sharing opinions, sometimes too many, and we had to just take one of our ideas and run with it.

You’ll also see a local woman scooping the wet sand/clay mix and she she said she wanted to smear it on her hut. You’ll see my son, Jacob, showing how his hands have chalky white soil on them from the composition of the soil we were extracting, and you’ll see 3 *real* men down in the hole working hard. One of these guys, James Okumu, was the oldest on the well drilling site.

How far do we drill?

Here is the next video showing the last stage of drilling where we find sandy sludge, a sign of water below. Here is a rewarding but subjective stage where you wonder how far to drill below.

To understand how much water is in the hole at this point, use a string and weight to measure the top of the water (static level) to the bottom of the hole. We were getting 3-5 feet measurements of water and could audibly hear water when we dropped small rocks.

Next, I’ll post the casing work on the well.

Ida carries water

Ida (and Ruben, tied to her back) carries water

Our family ate and slept homes of Ugandans, and watching the way water is used and fetched particularly gave us more understanding of the importance of good clean water. We’ve all carried water for a little distance but we’re not as good at carrying on our heads!

Ida and Richard Bozonoona hosted us in their home for several meals and to sleep one night. We watched them get water from their catchment system, water from down the hill, across the street, bottled water. We have loaned Richard and his son, Rogers, some tools to start exploring for water on their property. They are digging with the auger to find how far they can reach before hitting rock or water.

We have really enjoyed being in the homes of our Ugandan friends and we also stayed with Bobby and Candice Garner, who have been here for two years working with The Kibo Group. Some donors from Garnett Church gave some money for children’s projects in addition to the water projects.

Some of this money for children has gone toward a literacy/library program at the Source of Life Cafe and Resource Center. This is a cool place where Ugandans and “Bazungu” (white people) come to do internet, drink great coffee and eat snacks. Computer courses are offered, and right now a BBS (Basoga Bible School) advanced course is being offered on Luke-Acts by Professor Ken Neller from Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas.

Many cool things continue here in Uganda, and we’ve been very happy to catch up with friends, work on the water well project, and show our children the place where they were born and grew up. We’ve witnessed baptisms in Lake Victoria, seen natual wildlife, birds, and enjoyed one of the best climates in the world. We’ve also enjoyed foods we’ve enjoyed over the years, like chapatis, white sweet potatoes, fried cassava, and whole fried tilapia.

So much to tell but little time to sit down and write while we’re here. Love to you all. –The Taylor Family

Buwembe village

Our first visit to Buwembe village where we drilled the water well was three days, then we visited two more times for a total of six days working on the water well. Google map search “Busia, Uganda” and you might find where we are. I don’t know if Buwembe would be on Google maps.

Drilling a water well by hand is hard. We made a lot of mistakes. When I was cutting pipe for the screen at the bottom of the well casing, I dropped the pipe and cracked it. We broke pipe at a joint. Some of these are not really mistakes but just stuff that happens on drilling sites. The first time we pumped water, we realized we’d put a check valve on backwards. We had to pull all the pipe back out.

On the sixth day we sank the 4 inch casing, the 1.5 inch casing and .75 inch “rod” that carries the water. I can’t upload the video right now because I’m using Bobby Garner’s computer and it takes a couple hours to upload, so I’ll do that later. But I want you to see the looks on faces and happiness when the pump brought up the water.

The biggest thing is that we learned together. More than 50 people had their hands and hearts into this project. Children who carry water 1-2 kilometers were anxiously watching this closer well produce water.

Water well kit arrives in Uganda!

We asked many of you to pray for the water well kit we’re bringing to Uganda to arrive complete and without having to pay customs.

Jeff Deavenport and his son Jeffery helped load the 300 pounds of tools and meet us at the airport in Tulsa for our flight. I was nervous we’d have to pay lots of extra baggage, would have to pick up our bags in Amsterdam for our layover and recheck them, then have trouble with customs upon arriving in Uganda.

Our gate agent at Delta was friendly and helpful and we were only charged $400 for the total baggage. That may sound high to you, but understand we had 7 bags of nothing but well drilling tools in addition to our personal baggage. Some of the fees were also waived, and they said the bags would be checked straight through to Entebbe, Uganda, so we felt a big burden lifted immediately and the Deavenports left after seeing the bags onto the ticket counter conveyor belt.

We flew through Amsterdam with a layover then headed to Entebbe. When we arrived Entebbe, we found all of our baggage and the well kit complete! We were thankful to God for that and even more thankful when the customs agent did not question us at all but simply waved us through with her hand. Wow. Thank God for answering prayers of our friends who also want Ugandans to use these new tools for well drilling to get clean water for good health.