The last two weeks of this trip included 14 other people from the US; together we made up the Ugandan Water Project Team 19.
Being on the team was really wonderful. After spending the previous 34 days together, 24/7, non-stop, Michelle and I were really excited to share our time with the rest of the team. We learned so much from the month we had together about our friendship, communication, working together, and laughing…a lot. Once we were on the team, we got to share with everyone our adventures and it was an almost seamless transition to having everyone around.
UWP teams primarily do three things:
1 – visit water tanks that have already been installed (Below are some Artisan Church folks with a tank they helped fund.)
2 – visit new sites that need water tanks (Below this is a school in Rakai called Trinity School that has a good roof and could get a tank.)
3 – spend time with an organization, Hope Street, that works with street kids in the slums of Kampala.
Below is Lizza in a Uganda shirt with a boy in a Baltimore shirt!
Below is Uncle Rony – who loves to play frisbee!
Let me tell you about some of the pre-site visits.
Pre-site #1 This is the primary water source for the community around Trinity School in Rakai, Uganda. Our host told us that the community deals with many typhoid cases due to this water. (Photo of us climbing down to the water; this community lived on the top of a mountain.)
We were deeply saddened when we watched these children come to the water to fill their jerry cans as we stood and watched; this boy (to the right) of 9 years was going to carry about 60 lbs of water home. The girls gathering water are ages 7 (left) and 5 (center.)
There were several disturbing things about this water. One is that there seemed to be some type of algae bloom in the water that they children had to push away to keep from getting in their jerry cans. This water was covered in a film that didn’t let the bubbles of the algae pop, so the bubbles sat almost on the top of the water.
The color of this water was very disturbing as well as being disease ridden. Many people boil the water to clean it, but even boiled it will still look the same. There were two other water sources just nearby that we saw that were nearly as bad.
I had a really hard time after visiting this site. The sheer impact of the reality of the situation of the people who live here is overwhelming. This is every day life for this community. I was angry that they had to deal with that. I was frustrated that we couldn’t put a water tank in that day. I was horrified by the water. We decided to help these kids carry their water back home. It was a very sad realization that, even though I helped them carry water, I was the one to personally deliver the typhoid water to their family. (Noah and Richard are carrying the boy’s water in the distance and Michelle helped me carry the girls’ water in the foreground.)
Pre-site #2 – Here is a water source that is by Glory of Christ School in Bukwiri, Uganda. It serves about 1,000 people in the community and is called a traditional well. It is a place that gathers water and so they built up this stand with a ladder so they could access the water more easily.
Pre-site #3 – This water source is called a spring box, where the community built up a concrete structure around a spring to keep the water from getting muddy, to keep the animals from direct contact with the water, and to help fill jerry cans more easily. The water still has diseases in it and is at the bottom of a very steep hill. It is about 1 km away from the school St. Lawrence School in Bukwiri, Uganda.
Pre-site #4 – This is a man-made dam near Hope International School in Bukwiri, Uganda that was dug for animals but sometimes used by the community. It is near the place where people wash cars, so there is a lot of oil and other things in it from the run-off. There is another traditional well that the students can use, but the path to get there isn’t particularly safe for them, especially the girls. They are vulnerable and often are attacked and abused to the school tries to send them in groups, with an adult, or to this source instead.
We find new sites for water tanks by getting recommendations from communities who have already received them. This is a great benefit of the relationships that the UWP has built with communities so they can help direct us to more places to assist.
The primary criteria for receiving a water tank is the that place (school, church, etc.) must have a tin roof that is in good condition. This is because these are rainwater collection tanks that use a gutter system to funnel the water into the tanks. When we are given a recommendation of a place with a good roof, we will go and look at it. The UWP has a check list that we use to gather information about the site, which will help down the road when they decide where the tanks go.
Some of the things on the check list include:
– Information about the current water source
– The distance to the water source
– How many people (approx) the water source serves
– Water source condition
– Security of water source (for the community, from animals, etc)
– Details about the building and roof
– Possible placements for a water tank on the property
Our team photographer takes pictures of the site and current water source to submit to the UWP along with the report as well.
At the end of the team’s time in Uganda, we all sat down and used these reports to rate the order that we would like the UWP to consider putting water tanks at these new sites. It’s very empowering to be able to go see a place of need and then be able to advocate in a very real way for them to receive access to clean water!
At each pre-site, we also gave several jerry can water-filter kits to the head of the school, pastor of the church, or whoever is in charge of the building. We use Sawyer PointONE water filters that they can use with the water they have right now to clean it and make it cleaner than tap water in the USA. That is such a relief to be able to do! Even though they don’t have a water tank right now, we know that they can clean the water they get. (Here, Michelle is showing them how to back flush the filters. They are easy to use, last for 1,000,000 gallons of water, can be back flushed to be cleaned, and are very portable.)
I love being a part of this work. My heart breaks for these people, but visiting these places and seeing these water sources is empowering and motivating to me to continue working, advocating, and sharing about them to find more partners on the US to bring change in these places. For me, Lizza, this is the essence of the gospel and this is a true expression of my faith.