Saturday, October 8, 2011

Water and Sanitation

We always have a good day when we team up with the Binghams - the humanitarian couple. Since they arrived in Kinshasa, about a month before we did, they have started several really good projects. The Hospital well that we showed earlier, was their project, start to finish. They found and have started several well project and sanitary projects in the small villages in and around Kinshasa. Today, Saturday, we took off with them into the bush. We saw incredible scenery, met interesting people, and learned some new things. The village to which we were traveling was at the end a very narrow, very windy road. On the way down the road, we came upon children carrying water on their heads from the little stream back to their homes - about 1/2 mile. The water is not clean. This is why the clean water projects are so awesome.
There was barely room for one car on the road. As we came around the corner, there was on the road a Volkswagen van (about a 1972 model). It was out of gas. It was loaded with plastic chairs on the way to the training. Many people buy gas along the side of the road in litter bottles. This guy was about a 1/2 liter short of getting to his destination and completely blocking the road. We tried to push him to the side just enough to get by, but, the drop off was to close, so we had to sit. Then, from somewhere, someone produced a 1/4 liter of gas, and off we went.
We started out be visiting a village where an NGO (non-government organization) generally non-profit organizations, was teaching members of the village the basics of sanitation. The Church funded the training which was conducted by the NGO. A professor of biology was teaching the class. It was in a little building with about 40 chairs set up in the room, as we arrived, the room was almost full. Most of the NGO people were members of the Church. Whenever the missionary couples arrive at an event they are treated almost like royalty. So, we arrived at this little building, and were ushered into the front of the room, introduced to the room, and invited to say something to the people. This village was being trained on hygiene as part of the project that will bring 4 wells and latrines to the area. Elder Bingham and Sister Bingham, whose project this is, do not speak French. Their interpreter was, as usual, late to meet us, so Elder Bingham asked me to be the translator for the day. However, there was one of the NGO guys who spoke French, and Lingala, who wanted to translate. Elder and Sister Bingham spoke to the group through the interpreter. They thanked them for attending the class to learn hygiene, spoke of the benefits of clean water, asked them to take care of their families, and avoid disease. By the time that they finished the room was completely full, and the adjacent room had filled up. The Church had printed a nice booklet that taught (in pictures) how to take care of bodies and food through good hygiene practices. The training was excellent with good audience participation.
Then we set out on foot to see the sites where the wells were going to be dug. Everywhere we went, the village children followed us. We were like the Pied Piper. They followed hollering, "Mandela, Mandela," which means white man in Lingala. Or they shout "Chinois.: There are many Chinese in the Congo, and they can't tell us apart. I am sure that for some of the children, we were the first whites that they had seen up close and personal. Last time the Binghams were in a village like this one, they had bottles of pop with them, and when a few children gathered, they gave them the soft drink bottles. Suddenly, out of no where appeared hundreds of children surrounding them and their truck wanting some. So, this time we knew better.
"By-o," is good bye in Lingala. As we left the village, all the children lined up waved and shouted "By-o." The project engineer is a nice young man who has done a wonderful job of structuring the project, selecting sites, and supplying good data. He is very fond of Elder and Sister Bingham. He asked me (since I was the only Mandela who spoke French) if we would like to see his house and meet his family. He said that his house was real close and just over there. Well, in Africa, close could mean next door, or across town, so we said we would be honored to see his home and meet his wife. Well, his home turned out to be African close. So, up and down more dirt roads and ditches, we arrived at his house. It was a wonderful house by African village standards. He had built it himself, one bag of cement at a time. When he had money he would buy a bag of cement or a few concrete blocks. In the end it was a very nice home. He was so proud of it, and had a wonderful family. Wife, 3 children. The baby is about 1 and a half months.
We came upon a group of children - sent by their parents - gathering water at a small dip well. The girl would drop the bucket down the shallow well, come up with water, then pour it into the adjacent containers, which the children would put on their heads and carry home.
Then we went to another village to check on the progress of the bathroom (nice latrine) that the Church was building next to a school. This school had no bathroom facilities for its students. After this we went to see two wells that were being dug. First we saw where they were making the rings of concrete that form the sides of the wells. In an earlier blog, I mentioned that they make these rings, then as the men are digging the wells, they dig down three meters and drop these rings into the hole, then dig the next three feet and drop the next ring into the hole, and so on until they are deep enough to find fresh water. They had completed the digging of one well, down about 35 meters. We could look down and could see the fresh water below. They would then build a cover, a water gathering area, a concrete area for washing area. Then a hand pump would be installed. The next well we visited, the men were still digging. They were down about 20 feet. As they dig out the hole, the concrete pipes are lowered down. One set of pictures show a well where one man is down in the hole digging and filling a bucket. The men at the top, haul the bucket up by a rope and dump it, then send it back down. When we pulled up to the work sites, the workers started signing work songs, and seemed to work harder.
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It was a very hot day, but it was well worth the ride. We ran into several of our PEF students, and some of mom's piano students in the villages, or volunteering as helpers at the training. By-o

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