Project trip to Iganga - Part 1

Well, I apologize for the blog drought but I have been out of town for 8 days on my first project trip since joining staff - designing a Christian secondary school in Iganga, Uganda for Abundant Life Ministries. I had no access to the internet during that time, so instead I kept a journal of the days events. Though I missed Alisha and the boys terribly, it was a great trip with a lot of amazing and interesting things happening. I hope you enjoy reading a very close-up view of a week in the life of a small, rural town in East Uganda for a team of 9 American design professionals. I'm home safely now after spending a night in Jinja with the team as well as Alisha and the boys, who drove over Saturday morning to join us. Thanks for you prayers for safe travels and for safety for Alisha and the boys while I was gone.
Saturday – We were picked up in the morning and driven to Iganga (about 3 hours Northeast of Kampala) in a Matatu the ministry had hired. I got the ‘lucky’seat, which was right in the middle front with no seat belt or head rest. Fortunately, we had a safe trip and arrived about lunchtime at Pastor Daniel’s house, a small, gated compound that was a very authentic Ugandan home. When we got there, they had music blaring and the compound was filled with people and children from the church to welcome us. They showed us our sleeping and working quarters, which we could tell had been recently painted and cleaned. It was a typical plastered brick Ugandan building with a metal roof, concrete floor and no ceilings. I was given my own room, as was Gary the volunteer Architect from Minnesota, since we were the oldest. The other 3 guys shared a room. It was clear they had gone out of their way to make it as nice as possible for us. The work area was a narrow room, about 10 feet wide by 20 feet, which would also serve as our feeding area. The building also had a small, 4 feet x 4 feet shower room where we could take ‘bucket baths’. The interesting part would be the bathroom, which was a separate outdoor hut with two stalls, each with a small hole in the ground! I think the whole team was a little intimidated by that! It’s basically a permanent outhouse, only without a toilet seat. But the people were clearly excited we were there, and were going out of their way to make us feel welcome.
Sunday – In the morning we went to church at Pastor Dan’s church. We were aware that he and his wife Florence were excited for us to visit. What we weren’t expecting when we walked in was to see 9 chairs aligned up on the stage, off to the side and angled much like a choir would be, with flowers and other small decorations to honor us. So we climbed up 5 stairs and took our perch on stage facing the rest of the congregation. The service was nice though, a traditional Ugandan church service, with several chances for the audience to come up to share. Three of our team members shared a brief testimony or message, and a couple others shared some songs. After church, we actually got started on the project. One of the interns, Jared, and I went to the site to do some investigatory hole digging. Two Ugandan workers met us at the site with Pastor Daniel. We dug holes in various locations to identify water table depths and soil strata. In the process, we identified a small spring and an outcropping of rocks - both significant design constraints for the site. Pastor Dan then led us on a walk home – about 2 miles. It was so interesting to walk through these little villages and authentic Ugandan home sites. It really was a cool experience to walk through and was exactly what you would picture Africa to look like. From the reactions we got, we were the first mzungus to pass through that area in a long time.
Monday – Again, Pastor Daniel led a group of us on a walk around town to visit a few water source sites. This was another highlight as we got to see so many people and places that we would never otherwise see. After a few stops and about 2 miles of walking, we all hopped on ‘bicycle bodas’ to carry us to the site. We tested 5 different water sources in all for bacteria and also specifically for e-Coli. Tomorrow we’ll see what the test results are. In the afternoon, the Howie’s arrived and we all sat under a tree and listened to them tell their life story. It was so interesting to hear this Pastor and his wife from Northern Ireland tell of their business being bombed 23 times by the IRA, receiving death threats, meeting with the leader of the IRA, and finally how they got serious about their faith and began to become involved with projects in Uganda. Their story is inspiring, and harrowing!
Tuesday – Intern Jared and I headed back to the site today as the architectural drawings were nowhere near ready for me to look at the structural side of things. So Pastor Daniel hired a couple of locals to walk around the site and dig some test holes to perform water percolation tests the next day. At the start, Jared and I took turns operating the hand-auger. But after a few short minutes, the local guys not so subtly took over the digging duties for the rest of the day. It was hard just standing there watching them, waiting for the holes to be dug so we could do our testing, but they insisted they liked the work and seemed to be enjoying doing something different. After 4 hours, we had 4 holes dug, varying in depth between 4 and 8 feet. We sampled the different layers of soil in each to determine structural adequacy and also the quality of soil for use in the wastewater systems on the site. We also filled the holes with water to saturate them for the percolation tests tomorrow. After returning in the afternoon for a few hours, we walked from the site back to the main road where we waited for the rest of the group to pick us up in a matatu. As we were waiting for what turned into an hour, the two local guys helping us, Wilbur and Paul, hailed down a woman carrying warm corn on the cob on her head and bought some for us. It was so humbling to have first watched them dig all day at their insistence, and then to have them buy us corn (they didn’t buy any for themselves). It was a good example of Ugandan hospitality. These guys probably make about $2 a day, so the $0.20 they spent on our corn is substantial to them. I thought about giving them money to pay for it, but I knew better – that would have been extremely insulting. Somehow, I am going to try to see to it that they are compensated. Beyond that, we did run the water tests on the vials collected the day before. The results: the rain tank at the house where we’re staying had both bacteria and e-coli, as did the surface ground water at the site (the rain tank water where we’re staying is used only for laundry and bathing – you can be sure I’m being extra careful not to ingest any while bathing!). The good news is the two bore holes now being used by the locals near the site were both clean – it just shows that money spent towards clean water produces tangible results, as the fifth and final location tested was a local spring that had been tapped, which showed bacteria (though no e-coli). Pictures: (top) Pastor Daniel's compound where we stayed all week. (next) The work room, as we listen to Pastor Daniel talk about some of the needs for the new school. (next) The church where we were the guests of honor - right up on stage! (next) me with some of the kids after church - a large chunk of the 300 attendees that day walked up on stage afterwards to greet us (next) Some of our team walking through the villages, as more and more village kids joined behind us as we went. These kids followed us for the better part of a kilometer. (next) On site digging test holes. (next) me and intern Greg "in the bush". Actually, that's a coffee tree. (next) Team leader Janet and a few others on our trip to the site riding "bicycle bodas". (next) One of the traditional water holes (springs) used by the local villagers. Tests later showed that bacteria existed in the water. (next) A drilled bore hole that was installed by westerners near the project site. This well goes down 100 meters and produces clean water for the local villagers in the area. The cost of installing one of these wells is somewhere between $10,000 and $15,000, depending on the required depth. According to the well drilling company, this particular well can produce 7,000 liters of water an hour.


Kristen said…
Brad, so glad you are home safe and sound, I'm sure Alisha is too. Thank you for the update of your trip!!
Traci Morrow said…
Glad you're home safely, and WOW. I can only imagine that this trip was monumental in confirming the need for you to be there. Heck, it makes me want to go. What a blessing to have a skill that you can use to change things mightily in a land where there is so much to be done.

Cant wait for Part II.

Love you all bunches - I am feeling the need for a skype call - especially after the birthday call we got this morning! :) (and have listened to over and over....

"Have a good week - enjoy your presents and your party and your pinata!"

Uh...thanks Jonah. We were'nt GOING to have a pinata till you floated that little diddy out there! ;o)

Much love!
Aunt Ta

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