When we arrived in the village, we pitched our tents and went to fill our jerry cans with water from the well, about a quarter mile from our campsite. This is an event that we repeat 3 times a day every day that we are in the village. The well is powered by a hand pump, which could easily replace Bowflex or the Total Gym as the number one home fitness machine.
The volunteers and the villagers take turns pumping while alternating jerry cans under the spout. Even though it is physically taxing, I really enjoy the community, exercise, and appreciation for water that results from this undertaking. After filling the roughly 4 gallon jerry cans, we carry them back to the campsite. This is not for the faint of heart. The jerry cans are heavy and bulky, and they only grow heavier as your muscles fatigue. This is not a complaint, but more so an appreciation and respect for the villagers that do this every day.
There are many strategies. You can carry only a single jerry can with one arm and extend your other arm out for balance. You can carry one in each hand (a feat that gives you better balance, but REALLY wears you out by the time you finally reach the camp site). I had to take several breaks when using this strategy. By the end of the trip I was taking a break every 15 steps. The crazy thing is that smaller Ugandan teenagers are able to use this strategy without breaks. I was impressed! The most popular strategy is to use a sturdy stick, run it through the handle of the jerry can, and have a person at each end of the stick.
The village women are able to place a jerry can on their head with a baby strapped to their back and walk for miles without using their hands. The village children are able to pile multiple jerry cans on a worn out bike and ride it for miles without spilling hardly any water. This is a lot of detailed information about pumping water, but I feel that I cannot over emphasize the importance and difficulty of obtaining water in the villages of Uganda. Water is so much more precious to these villagers than it is to most of us Americans.
After pumping water a large mass of children had assembled at our campsite yelling, “Mzungu, Mzungu”. At first I was a little apprehensive about playing, hugging, and holding the children because of the lack of hygiene and cleanliness, but the pure joy and love radiating from their beautiful faces melted and removed that ludicrous reservation.
Let me state this following fact. If you are a mzungu in Uganda, you are the most famous celebrity and the most interesting person in the hearts of the Ugandan children. The village children literally swarmed us. They started climbing on us, petting our white/hairy arms, and clinging to us like we were a life raft in the middle of the Pacific. If your heart doesn’t melt when this happens, you aren’t human.
On Wednesday we hiked a little over half of a mile to the site where an overgrown well was located. This well, in addition to several other wells, were abandoned during the civil war which ravaged the country several decades ago. It was a big pit surrounded with overgrown weeds, trees, and vines. Our team used machetes, hoes, and rakes to remove all of the vegetation in and around the well. We then began the two-day process of using hoes and buckets to remove the mud and silt that had accumulated over the years since it had been abandoned.
This well, as with the other abandoned wells, are located on naturally occurring springs. Once they are cleared, the spring naturally fills the well with water for drinking, cleaning, and irrigation. The people in the village are so overwhelmed with everyday life that they do not have the time and energy to clear the wells themselves. The EAC staff told us that once the people see us clearing the wells, they get inspired and encouraged to clear around the wells and to maintain the wells every week. I am so glad that God is using us in a very small way to improve the everyday lives of the villagers.
At night we eat a deliciously hot meal that was cooked over an open fire and hold devotions. The devotion leader typically shares a scripture that God has laid on their hearts and then we pray and sing worship songs.
On a side note:
Singing praise and worship songs with nothing but our voices, an acoustic guitar, and a drum + a beautiful African night under the stars + no man-made noises to distract us =
Top 5 coolest moments in my life.
We head off to sleep in our tents but before falling asleep we take a luxurious bath using baby wipes and hand sanitizer followed by a revitalizing skin treatment of insect repellant. It is definitely a little hot when we first go to sleep, but by the time we wake up in the morning, it is even a little chilly.
The people of Uganda are incredible. The villagers are so hospitable and kind. The staff members are some of the best people that I have ever met. They answer every question, no matter how stupid it is, with patience and even humor. Their enthusiasm for life and their dedication to God is both unwavering and inspiring. The children of Uganda are some of the most beautiful and sweet-hearted children that I have ever met.
My week in the village was an amazing eye opening experience and I can not wait to be blessed with another opportunity to go back and spend more time with the people of Zirobwe.