Makak Spring Box Repair
Little by little we caught the monkey
[Note: This is part one of a three-part series. Links to part two 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.
The spring box in Makak was a big ugly cement box full of holes and cracks. Sad trickles of water crept out of two small pipes. Children waited in long lines to fill up their buckets when they should have been at home studying. This natural source has been providing the community of Makak with water for an incalculable amount of time. Years ago a cement box was constructed around it to protect the water from contamination. However, the box was poorly constructed and the years had taken their toll on it. Community members struggled trying to figures out how to block up the holes and unblock the pipes. Years of patchwork cement were falling off and contamination continuing to ooze into the drinking water of this community and hospital statistics showed high rates of water born diseases and worms. Finally, a solution was found. With the dedication and hard work of the people of Makak, knowledge of hired water technicians, combined with the amazing fundraising efforts of East Congregational Church and a little resource link I like to call Peace Corps, this source is now big ugly solid box that gushes potable water.
The East Church funding arrived in Cameroon for the repair construction in the nick of time. Water had not been coming out of the pipes for three days. Children were collecting water out of holes in the source where it was mixing in with contaminated water. We completed the repair of this source in just four days. The following is a summary of our work.
Day one began with the arrival of two water technicians and materials that were not available in the village. This included, pipes, pipe glue, saws, iron rods, and skalit, a quick drying cement additive. The first job was to break a manhole into the top on the box and evacuate what water little water the source held. This job was made easier by a water pump that the community rented. A deep trench was dug around the base of the source. Ineffective bricks and rotten wood were removed and the trench was filled in with a first layer of rocks and cement that sealed the foundation. The two old pipes were removed and replaced with new ones. These pipes had elbows extending inside of the box facing up to assist water flow and deter contamination from entering into the source. Community support and participation was huge. A team of men showed up everyday to help out with manual labor. Children who were coming to fetch water would put down their buckets to assist with the workers. Even the Sous-Prefet sent sandwiches to all the workers to show his support.
Day two started with pumping out the water that was now quickly collecting inside the box. A technician climbed into the box and sealed holes from the inside with cement. A large hole in the rear of the box was filled in and an elbow pipe added for ventilation and overflow. The frame of the manhole cover was constructed using iron rods, strong wire, and cement. To complete the day’s work a platform was built at the water collection area and temporary extension pipes added to allow the platform to dry. We also found a fish in the box but he was two to quick for our tired hands.
Day three the top of the box was sealed with a thick layer of cement. It was a long day of mixing cement by hand to put the final layers of cement around the base of the box. Other men have been busy digging the water canal for the past three days. This canal will lead the excess water away into the bush. This fish was caught and I imagine he ended up a tasty snack for one of the workers.
Day four the cover was placed on top of the man hole and cemented with a thin layer of cement. This was the final step in the project. The chief invited us back to his house for a small reception. Prayers and thanks were said then we celebrated the success of the project.