Life Saving Wells of a Different Kind
Julie Badger Jensen
Matthew 25:35 “I was thirst and ye gave me drink.”
Small, hand dug , shallow wells are blessing and saving lives in Kenya and other areas in Africa. Missionaries, Elder Bruce and Sister Judy Godfrey saw this first hand as they directed Humanitarian Affairs for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Kenya. The Godfreys, along with previous missionaries, have been instrumental in planning and supervising hundreds of these lifesaving wells. Each well serves about 30 families. The total beneficiaries in Kenya are more than 25,000 people and their cattle. Many lives have been changed, and in some cases, saved. A funeral was recently held for a child who died from drinking polluted water in an area without the benefit of a well.
Elder Godfrey explained: “These wells are of a different kind. They are generally from 20 to 100 feet deep. They serve areas where a large Bore Hole is not practical. A technician determines the location and the digging begins. Most are dug by families.”
The Godfreys accompanied by contractor and guide, David Maluti , and public affairs missionaries, Elder David and Sister Julie Jensen , travelled to remote areas of Kenya for an evaluation and impact excursion. Arriving at the Mulei Meleu Well Project , the group met a young mother ,Jacinta Mueli , who is Chair Lady for several families who share the well. She was anxious to demonstrate and enthusiastically pumped clean, clear water. Her vigor and bright smile were worth a thousand words. When asked thru an interpreter how her life was before the well, she answered: “Every night carried water from river while children slept. Women go in big groups for protection to scare away beasts…am grateful from first time saw project. Children very happy now got water. Not sick any more. DON’T EVER TAKE AWAY!!”
In the Thange Village of Kibwezi District Water Chair, Damaris Syombus, a graceful Mother carrying baby Judy on her back, proudly announced: “We drink clean water now. Because well is covered, children won’t fall in. Since clean water, we save one third of our shillings each month because children are well. …do not need medicine. Also, we have trees and garden and drinking trough for small animals and insects. I do not have to walk five miles every day for water.”
At another remote location, Ungani Community Project, a shallow well was being dug. The process could be seen first- hand. Looking into a dark hole, about 8 feet across, hammering was heard below. Shortly a young man, Wambua Kithome, could be seen skillfully pulling himself upward on a thick, sisel rope. Holding a bucket filled with small pieces of rock in one hand, he maneuvered himself out of the opening. His strong, sinewy arms and legs told a story of strength and courage. He emptied his bucket and was soon on his way back into the dark, brick-lined opening.
A village bystander commented: “We make bricks, burn to make hard, hire a mason to put bricks for 12 feet down to hold soil to make safe to dig a hole.” The digging can sometimes take months or even years. When the well is deep enough, LDS CHARITIES steps in and provides wire, mesh, a technician, cement rebar, and a pump. Elder Godfrey stated: “We require the people of the village to work. When they sweat and invest in the well, they will appreciate and take care of it. These wells can last for 50 years supplying clean, clear water. They are affordable and promote self reliance. No permits are necessary. Those of small means can get cheap or free water. Though the process is long and hard, these wells are needed.”
Small hand dug wells are blessing and saving lives in Kenya. Many more are needed. Contractor David Maluti said: “People are astonished at the good works of LDS CHARITIES. “ Elder Godfrey commented: “The hardest question in Humanitarian work is: Who do we help? The conclusion is: This is the Lord’s work. He will direct the humanitarian missionaries where they need to go.”