Saturday, June 23, 2012

Gift of Holy Water

Dr. Bert Bowden of Huntsville and a Senegal villager work to drill a well for people in a west African village. Bowden is an eye surgeon active in mission outreach to Africa and other countries. 

For many residents of west Africa, each day a trip, sometimes several miles, is made to retrieve water for the village.

Pastor Tim Davis, of Fort Payne’s Briarwood Church of The Nazarene, returned recently from a trip to Senegal in west Africa on a mission trip to build a well for citizens.

“Well digging was the bulk of the project for our mission,” Davis said. “We were slated to dig two, but we only got one complete well done. And, then we repaired three well pumps.

“The average American family uses between 100 and 175 gallons per family per day,” Davis said. “In Africa, they use about 10 gallons per day. You can see the difference there, and it’s not because the water is so far away from them. To them, water is like gold. 85 percent of the diseases are caused by lack of water or polluted water. Every 20 seconds, a child dies from a water-related disease.”

Davis said he wants to change that for residents of Senegal.

“If we can build them a well in their village, we’ve changed their lives,” Davis said. “It’s worth it to spend that time to build the well, because it makes the water more accessible to them, and it’s cleaner.”

Another issue that Davis wants to work on is the fact that many of the wells that were previously dug aren’t easy to maintain and said one of the main issues he observed while in Senegal was the general maintenance of the wells.

“The interesting thing to me about people doing water projects is there is little or no thought put into the maintenance of those wells,” Davis said. “There is no telling how many wells there are unusable, because they can’t get water out of them. We, as a church, are addressing the need for simple maintenance of those wells. We are improving and simplifying the pump design. It’s very simple and can be replaced with parts that are accessible to village residents. I think it’s wonderful that everyone has a desire to make living conditions better for these village residents, but we also need to think about upkeep. The pumps will be used so often that it will have to be replaced every few months.”

Davis said they are also developing a tool so residents can create their own gaskets for the pump.

“We are designing a gasket cutter, so they can make their own gaskets,” Davis said. “They don’t have a Lowe’s or a Home Depot they can go to buy those supplies, so they can take a piece of rubber and cut out a gasket that will work. They will last as long as the ones you buy in the store.”

In addition to digging the well, Davis said there are several other projects in the works, and he hopes to return to Senegal in the next few months to implement them.

“I’ve been asked to do a project because of my landscaping experience,” Davis said. “I’m working on a project to help them irrigate vegetable crops. Right now, village residents put a two-gallon bucket on the end of a cane pole and fish out the water and will walk around a put about a gallon on each plant. There are about 400 plants in one plot, so watering them would take several hours.”

He said the work is the collaboration between several university representatives from several schools, including Jacksonville State and Harvard.

“It’s a collective effort between people who care,” Davis said. “We are putting together a design that we can build from materials they have, and it will be a gravity-type irrigation system. We hope to have it ready by fall this year.”

He said another tool that’s been developed will help residents charge their cellphones.

“Many people wouldn’t think about village residents having cellphones, but, in fact, their cellphone service is better and cheaper than most that we have here in the States,” Davis said. “The tool is a solar cell that folds up to the size of a notebook. They can take it, unfold it and place it on a roof and can charge their cellphones. Usually, one person in the village has a phone, and they’ll walk to the nearest place to charge it up, including this little church.

They can bring their phones to the church, and can charge them for just a few pennies. It raises about $40 per month for the church.”

He said he enjoyed his experience in Senegal, and can’t wait to return.

“It’s a really neat place to go,” Davis said. “At night, you could hear the distant sound of drums. Senegal has a population of about 95 percent Muslim, and they were very receptive to the gospel. It was very rewarding to be able to go, and a great way to witness. There was a Muslim village leader, who brought us food one night as we worked on the well after dark. It was a gesture of goodwill, because we were working so hard for the people of his village. It was as real as it gets, and it meant so much to us. If you have the ability to go, by all means, go somewhere and help someone and it will make a world of difference.”

Rural villagers in one of the poorest and driest parts of Senegal are turning on their taps for the first time and seeing water flow freely from the ground into their containers. JM Eagle, the world's largest plastic pipe manufacturer, and the Earth Institute, Columbia University announced on January 14 the official completion of a new water infrastructure system that is bringing safer water to more than 13,500 people in western Senegal...

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