As I’m writing this I’m looking down into the driveway where Evens, Chris and Alex are fixing the second water pump of the day. Not sure how much help Alex is being…
The pump repair shop, also known as the driveway.
The mission pump house, the pressure tank (blue) and the older pump.
This week we’ve had three water pumps break on us. Earlier in the week Chris and Evens went to install the new submersible pump on the well in Kan Marie so we could start working on some irrigation things out there and have water available for construction. That pump now needs to go in for repairs, and best guess is that it needs a boost of power when it first starts and then can cycle down to lower power usage, so it might be burned out. Not a fun problem to have.
With that going on Chris decided to turn Evens’ attention to swapping out the pump on the well at the mission. It had been making funny sounds and Chris realized the bearings need to be replaced. We’ve had a back up pump sitting in the store room for a couple of years. That may not make any sense to anyone living outside of Haiti, but anyone living here is probably nodding knowingly. We used to go through at least a pump a year, so when we switched over to a more powerful system to keep up with all the sand washing, Chris got a back up, and thankfully we haven’t had to use it.
The job seemed simple and everyone figured it would take a couple of hours. That was until the rope broke when they were lifting the pipe out of the well and the pipe smashed down to the bottom of the well, filling the valve at the bottom with gravel.
The back up pump worked great when Evens checked it, but when he hooked it up, it turned on, then went off. It had sucked up some of the gravel.
They reinstalled the main pump, and because they were tired and it was getting dark and had been a long day, and small oversight resulted in the main pump sucking up gravel too.
We had been working off the water in the tanks for the entire day. There was nothing left save enough to run one more 5 gallon bottle of drinking water. It was dark. We were not getting any more water last night. We had to use what we had. That was all there was.
The kids didn’t get baths. We didn’t wash dishes. We brushed our teeth with a cup of water. I used a bowl of water with dish soap, and a cloth to wipe down counters and the table after dinner. We used the same water to wash hands. We didn’t flush the toilet. I was really hot and sweaty and knew I wouldn’t sleep if I didn’t get to rinse off before bed. I filled a salad bowl halfway and used a cup and a wash cloth and had a very limited bucket bath.
While I was in “the shower” I got to thinking. As I climbed in bed I let out a big sigh. Chris thought it was from frustration, and reminded me that it was just one night without water.
But, I wasn’t frustrated. In fact, I was actually grateful.
When I first moved to Haiti back in 2005, things weren’t as well set up at the mission as they are now. Chris had done a great job with what he had available at the time, as most missionaries and expats who live here do. We had all the batteries we could afford, but often they didn’t provide enough power to get through the night, so it was normal to have the fans turn off at 3 am. That was it, no more cool breeze. It was normal to run out of water, because we had to conserve battery power and the pump was one of the biggest power sucks. That meant we were usually limited to one shower per day. It meant feeling sweaty and sticky until after supper when things started to cool off, and having a cold shower before we crawled into bed.
Over the years as our funding has increased, we’ve worked at improving the power and water systems because the work we do is dependent on those things every day. We also know that a contributing factor to burn out here is stress from not having basic things regularly available while you’re trying to deal with all sorts of other issues.
I was grateful for the reminder of how far we had come as an organization. How much we’ve developed. How much the investment from our donors has allowed us to improve how we do things here, and that normally, in the day to day, we weren’t limited in what we could accomplish because of power or water like so many other projects we know.
But, more than that, I was grateful for the reminder of how most people here live. The very people we, as an organization, exist to serve.
In the day to day, most Haitian families get their water one bucket at a time. As Yonese carried buckets of water upstairs to have for washing dishes etc I was really aware of that fact. When she asked me if we could still do laundry if we manually filled the tub on the washer (by carrying buckets) I asked her if she really wanted to do that, and she said she did. She still pumped out 3 loads of wash!
When you carry every ounce of water home in a bucket or gallon container, you think about every drop you use.
How much do you really need to do dishes? How much will you drink? Will you toss what’s in your cup because it’s gotten a bit warm? How much do you need to brush your teeth? What do you really need to bathe?
I was grateful for the reminder that it’s easy to take access to water for granted. No, we can’t drink our water straight out of the faucet here, but I always have a waiting bottle of treated water, or a way to get more that doesn’t involve walking somewhere with a bucket to get it.
It’s easy for me to take for granted that I can fill a bathtub and send my kids to bed clean. Or that I can wash several loads of laundry in a day if I want. I can wash all the dishes my heart desires. I don’t have to think about mopping my floors. Or making coffee. Or even washing my hands. Flushing the toilet? No problem, and basically a given.
Was it frustrating to not have water. Of course. As Chris said, “We need to hope for success, but plan for failure,” and that meant having buckets available and having one to go down the well to fill the others up over the weekend if at least one of the pumps couldn’t get fixed. But, could we do it? Yes.
The good news is that early in the afternoon yesterday I heard the washing machine sputter to life as the pump cycled for the first time in 24 hours. As I looked down in the driveway to the pump house and yelled “good job!” to Evens and Thony I saw nothing but a relieved smile on Thony’s face.
Today we’re grateful for water.
We’re also grateful for the work that we’re able to do here because of our donors and supporters. We’re grateful that while we can’t give people running water in their homes, we can provide them a filter that can treat the water that they do have access to so that they can have peace of mind.
Have you ever thought about ALL the ways you use water in a day? How long could you go without running water?