Bakoukoué Spring Box Construction
[Note: This is part two of a three-part series. Links to part one and three are located at the end of this essay.]
In September of 2003, East Church member Cheryl Goss committed two years of service to the Peace Corps in Cameroon, Africa. Through letters sent back to the church the congregation learned about some of the needs of the people Cheryl was working with. The benevolence committee decided to raise money to construct a well. So much money was raised that Cheryl was able to assist two communities in building potable water sources and assist another volunteer in realizing an income-generating project for people living with HIV/AIDS. The following is a description and photographs of the completed projects.
I met Sostene and Emmanuel, the two water technicians early Monday morning at the train station in Yaoundé, the capital city of Cameroon. These are the same men who worked on the spring box repair in Makak. It was good to see familiar faces and this reassured me the project was in good hands. Upon arrival in Makak we bought fifteen bags of cement and collected the materials we stored at my house from the previous visit. Transportation to the village comes once a day and it was late in the day when we reached Bakoukoué so the work would start the next morning.
The technicians stayed in Bakoukoué while I travelled from Makak every day to check on their progress. Work started very early Tuesday morning. The director of the school ordered the smaller children to stay home this week while children big enough to carry a bucket were put to work. These children knew they were helping to build a potable water source for themselves and I have never seen children work this hard with such big smiles. Half of the children carried buckets of sand and bags of cement to the sight while the other half was scurried around the forest in search of rocks.
The source of this spring trickles from the side of a hill, flows down a rock formation and collects in a small pool at the bottom. The sight was cleared of debris and a wall was built at the base of the rock formation. Crevasses in the rocks where water flowed where filled in with rocks to act as a filter. The next day the three remaining chamber walls were erected and two pipes were placed in the main wall. The surrounding area was filled in with rocks then sealed with cement. The cover was constructed and left to dry with the inscription reading Peace Corps, East Church Milton, MA. 2005.
The next two day when I arrived at the sight I was amazed to see the spring box was really taking shape with the completion of the piping. This source naturally does not produce an abundance of water. Therefore, a faucet system was created to prevent precious potable water from going to waste. Attached to the collection pipe is an elbow plus another length of piping pointing toward the sky which allows gravity keeps the water from escaping the chamber area. The piping is turned downward to release water and pushed upright to stop it. The pipe that was placed at a higher level serves as an evacuation pipe. If too much water collects in the spring box water will flow out of this pipe, travel under the canal and is released in to the woods.
Friday was the last day of work. Final layers of cement were smoothed into place early that morning and everyone gathered at ten o’clock for a small ceremony and benediction. All of the children gathered around the spring box, they were followed by the director of the school, the two school teachers, the development committee and its members, the workers, technicians, and woman who helped organize meetings and cook food for the past year in preparation for this project, my landlady Madame Génevieve Ntomb, and myself. A prayer was said to open the ceremony. Small speeches were given to express their immense happiness and gratitude. They were thankful to my Madame Ntobm for being the link between Bakoukoué and the Peace Corps, thankful the school now has a clean water source, thankful that fewer people will fall ill with water born diseases, and thankful for the generosity and funds from East Congregational Church that is the true reason for the realization of this project. The development committee presented a letter of thanks to Madame Ntomb and myself. The children sang songs and recited tibbits from our health classes. The cover was put into place by the men of Bakoukoué and Emmanuel cemented it down. An elder of the village gave the benediction. He then scattered rice, flour, and a few coins over the sight then poured red wine on the spring box finishing the ceremony in a traditional way.
During these projects I have made many friends, dealt with numerous frustrations, danced with joy, and lived in fear of rain. Madame Ntomb said God was listening and His contribution was the ten sunny days when we worked during the three rainiest months of the year. God was also watching out for me when He placed me under her roof because it is her kindness, encouragement, and love that helped me through these two years. Through these two projects we have provided potable water to over 2000 people in Makak and to over 300 people in a small village, 200 of which are children. This was no small task and everyone worked extremely hard to see these projects realized. However, these water projects would have been impossible to execute without this partnership with East Church. One that note I would like to personally thank each and every member of the congregation from the bottom of my heart. And on behalf of everyone here in Makak and Bakoukoué we would like to say merci and meyega bay (thank you in French and Bassa, the local dialect).