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June 18 – Robit and the Ploughshare Women’s Center

 The big question of the week was finally answered today.  By God’s good grace, we made it to Robit today. We are on the beginning edge of the rainy season, which is starting a little late this year, so it worked in our favor!

 


 

Robit is about 1 ½ hour’s drive from Gondar on a good day.  It is good road all the way except the last 25 kilometers or so.  This time of year as the rainy season begins, the road turns to mud hole after mud hole, bump after bump, so it is very difficult to navigate.  Today our partners provide two expert drivers and two 4WD Toyota Land Cruisers.  One almost gets stuck, but the driver breaks it loose on his own.  We arrive in Robit with our cars bathed in a fresh coat of mud and everyone received a free African Massage (Jill’s name for the rough ride!) on the way.  Soon this road to Robit will be impassable to vehicles until after the rainy season, usually late October.

 


 

After arriving in Robit, we go immediately to the deep bore hole site.  W2T has funded a water system for this community of about 7,000 as part of a Glimmer Integrated Community Development.  Our project consists of the deep borehole well (300 feet deep), a 50,000 liter reservoir, 8 water points in the community and all the pipeline to interconnect the system.  The borehole was completed last November so it is now capped, awaiting the completion of the rest of the system.  At the borehole, we are excited to see the long length of pipeline stretching away from the borehole to eventually deliver water to reservoir.

 


 

When the project was started in early 2011, Robit did not have electricity.  The most economical way to drive the pump is with electricity, so we are equally excited to see that the wiring for electricity has been brought from the closest town, not only to Robit, but also directly to the borehole well site. There are transformers that need to be added to the system, but soon the town of Robit and our water project will have electricity!

 


 

As we drive away from the borehole site, we see the crew laying and connecting the pipeline to the reservoir.  We stop to talk with the crew and watch them add a new piece to the pipeline. This section of the pipeline is 2 ½ inch heavy metal piping, so it takes a number of workers to handle the pieces.  It also takes an expert hand to properly align the treads and insure that joint is properly sealed so that there are no leaks.  At this pace, the pipeline will soon be all the way to reservoir location.

 


 

Our next stop is at the planned site for the reservoir.  To get the proper pressure head for supply water to all of the 8 water points, the reservoir will be installed about 30 feet above the ground on a concrete platform.  The site is currently in preparation for the reservoir.  The ground base has been constructed and the metal rebar for the 9 concrete columns that will support the reservoir are in place.  Today, women workers are tamping the soil in the base to insure it is compacted.  All of the W2T team gets to join and help with the process.

 


 

From the reservoir, we walk to the middle of town to check out one of the 8 water points.  The platforms and cement structure for all the water points are in place, awaiting connection to pipeline network and finish of the faucets, etc. The water points will have 4-6 faucets on each, serving not only the community, but also serving each of the health clinic, primary school and high school. With the completion of this network of water points, people living in the village should be no farther than a 15 minute walk for clean safe water!

 


 

We walk a short distance from the water point, down one of cross roads in the village to see about 20-30 Robit community members hard at work digging and preparing the trench for the pipeline network.  This back-breaking work represents the communities contribution to the project.  They are providing all of the labor for the trenching of the pipeline network. All ages of men and women pitch in to help with the work.

 


 

Not far from the center of town, is the river that has provided the village’s primary contaminated water source for years. It provides another challenge for the village, in that it split the village, about 80% live on side and 20% on the other. The river flows very deep and rapidly during the rainy season. The community has a constant battle to keep a bridge in place, as it usually gets washed away during the flooding.  In the last three years, the community has rebuilt it twice, only to have it washed away. Since last June, several W2T supporters have been working to find a way to implement a permanent solution for the community. There are some possibilities on the horizon, but they will take time to mature into a real project.

 

Since our last visit to Robit in November of 2011, good progress has been made.  The borehole well is complete, pipeline work is in progress, the reservoir construction is underway, wiring for electricity has been installed and the water points have been constructed.  We are prayerful that clean safe water will be flowing for the people of Robit by the end of this year!

 

As the sky starts to darken, our drivers sound the alarm, suggesting that we get on our way back to Gondar before the rain comes. Having experienced the “road” on the way out, it was not hard to get everyone into the vehicles and start heading back, feeling really blessed to have been able to spend our time with community and to experience their enthusiasm and commitment for the project.

 



Later in the afternoon, after returning to Gondar, we visit the Ploughshare Women’s Center.  Started 16 years ago, it is now a self-sustaining training center for women-headed households. The center takes 16 women at a time to teach them skills in order to earn income for their family support.  They stay at the center for 3 months to learn skills like pottery, basket design and weaving, bead work, dying of materials and sewing.  The center is now able to sustain it operations on its own through the sale of merchandise in Addis, Gondar and Mekele. And of course, the W2T team did its share to help sustain the operations!

 

 

June 17 - Water project in Degola Chincaye and visiting Gondar

 

Our journey continues north today, departing from Bahir Dar on the south side of Lake Tana and we drive along the eastern side of the lake for about 2 hours, headed for our next destination of Gondar, on the north end of Lake Tana.

 

Along the way we meet up with our implementing partners at Glimmer and Organization for the Rehabilitation and Development of Amhara (ORDA).  Over the last two years, we have implemented 23 water projects with them in the Degola Chincaye area.  It is a Sunday, so not many villagers or community members are around the projects, but we want to check in on the status of our projects in this area.  To complicate our time, some heavy rain clouds are hanging around, so we experience some light rain and thunder to hurry our stops along.

 

These projects are part of a larger Glimmer Integrated Community Development on which Glimmer has been working since 2010.  Fortunately, many of our sites are close together in this ICD, so we were able to visit 7 projects in just a little over three hours.  I think the rain was a motivator to move things along!  We visited Shenkor Mesk 1 & 2, Abakaloye, Sist, Agam, Tijitu Agam and Bado Michael.  Most of these projects were completed in late 2011 or early 2012, but two where part of our 2010 projects.  All of the projects that we visited were functioning “well”.  Plus, the ever present children of Ethiopia (who manage to appear out of nowhere!) made our time, although short, a joy and blessing at each site.

 

As part of Glimmer of Hope’s work in this area, they are adding two new primary schools in Abakaloye and Agam.  At both schools, our projects have been positioned nearby the schools to serve the students and teachers (as well as community) with safe clean water.

 

As the rain begins to pick up pace, we decide it is to time seek dry shelter…..where else than the Dashen Brewery near Gondar.  Famous for its beer, it also makes a great roasted (sort of like BBQ) chicken.  As you can see from the picture, the group enjoyed both!


June 16 - Bahir Dar: The market, Lake Tana, Monasteries and the Blue Nile Falls

 Our flight from Addis arrives on time in Bahir Dar about 8:40 am.  We load our luggage in the van and head into Bahir Dar.  Immediately, we notice the large stream of people walking into town, carrying all sorts of goods.  Alem tells us that today is market day in Bahir Dar and it is home to one of the largest and busiest open air markets in Ethiopia. We decide this is something to witness, so after dropping our stuff at the Lake Tana Hotel, we head to the market.

 

Hundreds of booths and stalls offer everything imaginable, all grains, spices, green coffee beans, butter, eggs, all varieties of local vegetables, live chickens, goats, clothes, shoes, sewing repair, and so on…..you want it, you can probably find it here. The aisles are jam packed with thousands of people. We are impressed with the commerce taking place here.  Even Alem, our local guide notes how much of the local food is available and within reach of the average person living in Bahir Dar. A few in our group managed to help the local economy too!

 

After the market, we return to our hotel, ready for the afternoon adventure. One of Bahir Dar's main attraction is the selection of Ethiopian Christian Orthodox monasteries which are found on some of Lake Tana's 37 islands. The monasteries are reached by boat, which we board right at our hotel.

 

On our way to the monastery, we pass several merchants, paddling their boat with a heavy load of wood to be sold at the market in Bahir Dar.  But the amazing thing is that their boat is hand made from papyrus reeds.  This is still a preferred boat from the islands in Lake Tana.  We also learn from our guide that they only last about 2 months, and then must be replaced.

 

Our other unexpected treat is the spotting of a large hippo, languishing near the shore.  Our boat captain spotted the hippo just before we docked to go see the monastery.  We watched for about 10 minutes, as the hippo bobbed up and down, but never getting more than 6-8 inches out the water.

 

We dock at the Zege Peninsula, which is home to the Ura Kidane Mihret monastery and dates from the 16th century. It has changed little since its creation. The is the  largest and most-visited of the monasteries in the area. The round building consists of three concentric circles, the innermost of which is the Holy of Holies containing the monastery's replica of the Ark. The walls of the inner circle are covered with bright murals and paintings, depicting many of the stories from both the Old and New Testament.

 

Our final stop of the day is at the Blue Nile Waterfall. The Blue Nile Falls are one of the greatest falls in Africa. It is located in Ethiopian plateau, passing the Blue Nile River. The Blue Nile river starts in Lake Tana and is one of the major headwater sources for the Nile River that flows through Sudan and Egypt. This waterfall is also known as Tis Issat meaning smoking water, as the continuous dropping of water creates a smoke-like bounce of water droplets. The Blue Nile Falls has an enormous height of 37 to 45 meters or around 150 feet and its width is estimated at about half a mile. Watching the river water drop down the waterfalls is truly breathtaking.

 

 

June 15 - Water Project visits in the Abichu and Gnea Districts of Oromia

Today is an exciting day for our group.  We are headed to the field to visit some water projects, all hand dug wells (HDW) that have just been recently started.  Thus we get to see the projects at the very early stages of work, as the well is being dug.

W2T recently (less than two months ago) released funding to start the construction of 22 water projects (17 HDW’s and 5 Spring Protection Developments) in the Abichu and Gnea districts of Oromia.  This area is north of Addis Ababa (about 3 hours drive) and is in an area the has low access to clean safe water.  These projects are being constructed by our implementing partners Glimmer of Hope (AGOHF) and Oromia Development Association (ODA).  This set of projects are also important because of it the first implementation in our relationship with ODA.

We spent another night in Ambo (2 hours west of Addis) so to have enough time to complete our field visits, we start really early. Our sleepy group pile into the van about 6:30 am and start driving toward Addis.  We meet our hosts from Glimmer and ODA on the north edge of Addis and drive together to the project area.  We take some time in Debre Brihan, near the project area for some coffee and light snacks, as we know we will be in the field all day today.

Our projects are part of a larger Integrated Community Development (ICD) program that Glimmer is implementing for these districts.  It includes not just our water projects, but also a health posts, several new school blocks and some micro-finance assistance for economic development in the area.

We arrive at the first site, serving the village of Daye Adela.  What a wonderful image as we drive up to see about 40 women, men and children from the village all hard at work on their project.  As in all our projects, the local community is expected to contribute to the wells, at least 10% of the total costs. The women and children are gathering local materials, mostly rock and wood, and bringing it to the site. These materials will be used in the construction of the well.  The men are digging and excavating the actual well. They had reached a depth of about 20 feet. The minimum depth of the well is 8 meters (about 25 feet), but they had not yet reached an aquifer with sufficient water, so they are expecting to continue digging several more days. We get to discuss the new project with the community, hearing in their voices the joy and excitement of the promise of clean water to come. ODA has organized the water committee and the community is collecting money already for the maintenance fund and the bank account is open!.....even before the water is a reality. What a joy to participate in this anticipation of great things to come from this community!

Community members gather materials at Daye Adela

Jan and Eleanor help gather stones for the well's fence

Digging the well at Daye Adela

Our second project stop is at the community of Chitu. Much is the same here, but two thing things were notably different. First there is an open, very contaminated spring nearby that the community has been using to fetch water for their families.  That, of course, will no longer be necessary in a few short weeks. Second, the community digging team is struggling with some hard rock which they must penetrate to reach the aquifer.  No to be deterred, the men swap off at regular 10 minute intervals to provide relief from the back-breaking work of chipping away at the rock.  They too expressed their confidence that they would be through to the aquifer in the next couple of days.

Chipping away at the Chitu well

The current spring at Chitu

Our third project stop is at the community of Tamame. As we are talking with the workers at this site, an older gentleman of the community interrupts and says he has something to say….we turn to hear his comments.  He said over the years many had come and promised water, but nothing had happened. So, this time he didn’t really believe that it would happen either. “I didn’t believe it would be any different”, he said. But when the digging began several ago…”well, this time it may be a reality, and now that I see you here, I know we will be blessed with clean water. God bless you for coming to our community!” It is these special, blessed moments that keep us motivated to be even greater advocates for the blessing to clean safe water for those who have never had it.

Our partners at ODA give us some great news….they think that all 17 of the hand-dug wells in our project set will be completed and in use by the end of June, before the rainy season start in earnest in this area.  Clean water for about 5,000 people is just around the corner.

We start to make our way back to Addis, but on the way, we stop at the new health post that has been implemented by Glimmer/ODA for this community.  The two nurses in our group, Eleanor and Jim get to tour the place and talk personally with one of the two health workers assigned to the post.  The health posts focuses on women pre-natal care and they do many of the deliveries of newborns for area.  They also do health education as well as make some home visitations. Cases with significant complications are referred to the nearest hospital that is about 15 miles away.

Eleanor and Jim talk with a community health worker

Our interaction with the communities today remind us how so little can do so much to transform lives with clean water. And if given a chance, the communities will not only be committed to helping with the construction of the project in a major way, but also be committed to preserving this precious resource for the next generation.

June 14 - Ejajii and Central Gibe Synod of Mekane Yesus

We got an early morning start today as we were going to be "in the field" visiting water projects with our implementing partner, the Development and Social Services Commission (DASSC) of Mekane Yesus (Ethiopian Lutheran Church). We have implemented a total of about 25 projects in this area during that time, and DASSC has recently completed 11 such projects earlier in 2012.

We met the DASSC program manager for water, Bikila, at our hotel in Ambo and started for Ejajii about 7:45 am. We've been working with the DASSC staff at Central Gibe Synod over the last 30 months or so. We got to the Synod office in Ejajii after about 3 hours driving, the last 1/3 is under construction for replacement and pretty challenging. Our group was greeted by some of the Synod staff who will accompany us on visits to the communities. 

Two members of our group, Eleanor and Jan, brought a suitcase full of school supplies and dental supplies on the trip.  They decided this was a perfect opportunity to provide some additional support for the school children of the Synod, so they left the materials with the President of the Synod to distribute to the schools in greatest need.  They were very grateful for the items and will put them to good use.

Jan and Eleanor present supplies to Mekane Yesus in Ejajii

 

After that, everyone piled into the DASSC team's two Toyota land cruisers (4WD) since our van couldn't make it to some of the rural areas we were visiting. The rural roads are unpaved and can be very bumpy. Our first stop is at the project site for the community of Sayo.  It is a spring protection system located near the village, down a fairly steep path.  We were amazed at the number of members using the project, a lot of empty jerry cans going down the path, and full ones coming up! The community expressed it appreciation and thankfulness for the clean water and the benefits it was bringing to the community.

Sayo spring protection system

At this site, Jill spent some time visiting with one of the female Water Committee members, Diribe. Before the spring protection system was completed, she told us, "We were expected to come in the midnight because there were a lot of people waiting for this unprotected water source. That was beyond the capacity of the water source's output. It was difficult to access water, especially in the dry season. Now thanks to this project we are getting pure water within a manageable distance and whenever we like."

Diribe collecting water

Our next stop was at the project site of Sayo Gudatu.  This project is also a spring protection system, and a water trough for the cattle had been built with this project as well. We spoke with several community member who were busy collecting water for their families, all of whom expressed great joy over the presence of their new clean water source. 

Gathering water at Sayo Gudatu

Our time in the field was cut short as several dark clouds came up on the horizon and rain drops started to fall.  The remoteness of our location (down a path through the adjacent fields) made a treacherous retreat back to the gravel road.  After our drivers put the vehicles in the 4WD mode, we made it out with just a bit of slipping and sliding.

As we headed back to Ambo, we visited the village of Midakeng, also located in the Central Gibe Synod.  This is an area without any sustainable clean water sources for its community members.  We were able to meet with the leadership of the local district who explained the lack of potable water for this area.  This area could represent a future project area for Water to Thrive. We made our way back to Ambo, tired after a long day of driving, but joyous to have been able to experience firsthand with the community members the blessings of clean, safe water.

June 13 - Lakes and springwater, people who need water

After leaving Lake Longano we drove north through Addis Ababa on our way to Ambo, stopping at a small wildlife resort for lunch. There were monkeys playing in the backyard as we ate! Then we visited Wonchi Crater Lake, high in the mountains near Ambo. The view of the lake from the surrounding mountains was beautiful, and our guide Alem said it is his favorite place in Ethiopia.
We arrived in Ambo in time for dinner. The city is known for its springs, which produce fizzy mineral water that is bottled in Ambo and sold throughout Ethiopia. This naturally carbonated beverage also bears the name Ambo.
Each day, we have the opportunity to look out the van window at the towns, villages, and farmland. Everywhere we look, there are people who have overwhelming need. I am glad that through our many donors and supporters we are able to help this beautiful country, though I wish that change would come sooner for the people living in poverty here.
Wonchi Crater Lake

 

June 12 – Fish, carols, and serendipitous meetings

We started off the day with a visit to the fish co-op at the lake in Awassa. This is a one-stop-shop for catching, cleaning, cooking and selling fish. The workers buy in to become owners of co-op so that they can benefit from the many aspects of this micro-economy. They also had an area where you could eat the fish, which is a popular college hangout, according to our guide. They call it the "Sushi Club."

The Fishing Co-Op

For lunch, the Water to Thrive staff has a good meeting with DASC of the South Central Ethiopia Synod. We worked very successfully with Tessema, their new director, when he was formerly based in Addis, and we are optimistic about the opportunities to work with him in his new synod.

We spent the night at a resort or retreat center-like place on Lake Longano. Each “room” was a small cottage with a back patio overlooking the water. After walking along the lakeshore, we had dinner in the restaurant at our place of lodging, where our meal was accompanied by… Christmas music! They were broadcasting a CD of instrumental flute music including Deck the Halls, Silent Night, and What Child is This. We had a good, prolonged laugh about this.

Then, we were surprised to learn that Dr. Catherine Hamlin was eating at a table near us. She is one of our board member Jim Sorensen’s personal heroes because she founded seven hospitals to treat women suffering from fistulas, horrible childbirth injuries that cause the women to become outcasts in their communities. Jim introduced himself to her, and it was special to see them connect over their medical work in Ethiopia. (Many of you  know that Jim was a nurse and medical missionary there 50 years ago and has returned on other occasions to teach psychiatric nursing.) Read more about Dr. Hamlin here.

Relaxing at Lake Longano

June 11 - Visiting Zeway and Jido

After breakfast yesterday our group drove to Zeway in the Rift Valley, where we had a meeting with employees of the Mekane Yesus Development and Social Services Committee (DASC). This is the NGO (non-government organization) we are working with to try to bring water to a nearby impoverished community called Jido. At the DASC office we learned about the challenges that have kept this community from receiving safe drinking water thus far. The groundwater here has a very high mineral content, and is so high in flouride that it is dangerous to drink. It leaches calcium from the bones, and can turn the teeth black over time. Jido has a well already, but it pumps this flouride-poisoned water. The only other water source comes from the ponds and puddles left by rain, but this has problems of its own. The rainy season here is very short, and the rainwater is contaminated by waste and runoff the moment it touches the ground.

The plan for bringing clean water to Jido involves a pipeline from a spring resevoir in Bulbula. Since Bulbula has higher elevation, the pipe would use the force of gravity to bring water down into the valley. Now, the struggle is to figure out how to make this project efficient and affordable.

After our meeting, we drove to Jido, where we were greeted by dozens of children and looked upon with some confusion by their older relatives. They were actually awaiting the arrival of another group of U.S. visitors, our friends from Food for the Hungry who work with the community's orphaned youth, who arrived a little while after us.

It was clear that these families lack the water needed to sustain their lives and livelihood. Many of the kids' teeth showed decay, and because they have so little water in such a dusty place, it is impossible to keep clean. We really hope to be able to make this project work in the near future to help improve the livelihoods of Jido's children.

 

 

June 10 - "Reflections" Team Arrives in Addis Ababa

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Addis Ababa

The five travelers arrived in Ethiopia on Sunday morning after a 12 and a half hour flight from DC.  We promptly met up with Water to Thrive founder Dick Moeller and our tour guide for the trip, Alem. After taking a little bit of time to rest, we spent some time exploring Addis Ababa. At the Ethiopian National Museum, we learned about Ethiopia's long history and even got to visit a replica of ancient human ancestor "Lucy," who was discovered here.

We also viewed the beautiful stained glass windows at Trinity Cathedral, an Ethiopian Orthodox church that also commemorates Ethiopia's liberation from Italy after World War II. After our dinner at the Kaleb Hotel complete with cupcakes for dessert, everyone is looking forward to a restful night so that we can be ready for tomorrow's drive south to Zeway.

Thanks for following along with our travels! We will share more of our adventures in the next few days.

 

Kenya - June 2012 Day 3

Today I made a visit to the LWR office in Nairobi.  George introduced me to the finance team, Grace and Mark.  We had a chance to visit about some of the processes in the offices and see how the finance team works with the programs and assists with the reporting. They handle the financials for all three countries in East Africa under George’s directive, trying to visit each country quarterly and coordinate financial reporting with the field partners for the projects.  Both the country managers and program managers add programmatic content to the reports. These discussions helped confirm that there are very good policies in place for tracking both the field and financial progress and status of the field programs.

 

Off to Addis Ababa early tomorrow to await the arrival of the group on June 10th!

Dick Moeller

President of Water to Thrive

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