On The Road With OK Clean Water
Wednesday, February 10th promised to be a day of visits, meetings and inspection of work sites and so it was. Starting out at a little past 8 a.m. Visi Edwin and Sister Catherine left Tobin passing through Kumbo heading north. Just past the Baptist Hospital in Kumbo the paved road ended and the navigation of ruts, deep holes and much dust began.
When we arrived at our first stop, Duy/Ngamantse, the delegation from the Water Project Committee welcomed us and escorted us to the site of the spring. The view on the way up the hill was beautiful despite the ubiquitous presence of the dust in the air. Trekking though grass and over rocks we made it to the site where the villagers have begun to dig the catchment. Here the conversation centered around both the water sources present and the reliability of the water supply even in the dry season. Descending the hill we took time to stop at the site where the villagers had already begun to collect the stones and sand needed for the project. We then joined the villagers who had gathered to welcome us and to formally make their request for a village water system. As of now, there is no pipe-borne water in the village. The daily trek to and from the stream in the valley takes about an hour and a half; the time needed depends on the age of the person going for the water. Our meeting began with the traditional singing of songs of welcome by both the Moslem and the Christian women followed by the presentation of flowers by one of the nursery school children. The official welcome speech highlighted the need for clean pipe-borne water in the village, the work already done by the villagers and their commitment to provide the stones from a nearby quarry, the needed sand, as well as the labor needed to dig the 400m trench from the source of the water to the village. While the present population of the village is relatively small, about 600, the building of new homes in the area is in evidence and many people from more densely populated areas such as Kumbo and Kiyan come to Duy/Ngamantse to farm. The conversation with the villagers stressed the collaborative nature of the OK project and the need for sustainability once the project is completed. The members of the Water Project Committee and the villagers made it clear that their need is great and they are ready to do whatever it takes to bring water to their village. The gathering concluded with the presentation of gifts – white beans which fetch a very good price in the market, sweet carrots, sugar cane and a fowl. All tokens of the generosity and gratitude of the villagers. Before heading out to our next stop, we had to take time to partake of a meal of fufu corn and vegetables.
Leaving Duy/Ngamantse, we headed still farther north to Mbabu. Here we were welcomed by Tata John who grew up in the village and who continues to be an advocate for community development in the area. With Tata John as our guide we headed out to the work site where the women were digging the trench needed for the pipeline. Men and women take turns on the two community work days that occur each week. The demarcated area is located in a marsh so the women were, quite literally, up to their waist in mud! With their hoes they were doing the hard work of digging to a depth of 5 feet. After greeting the women and congratulating them on their commitment to such a difficult job, one young woman started singing the traditional song, "We are together, we are one." Such a tribute to their spirit and to their commitment! The members of the Water Project Committee said that despite the challenges, the work would be completed before the rainy season begins in earnest some time in late April early May. From the work site we drove to the Fon’s Palace. This traditional ruler, the Fon of Nseh, supports and, where needed, challenges his people to honor their commitment to villages projects. The Fon takes a personal interest in village water projects knowing how great the need for clean water is. He is grateful for the work of the OK Clean Water Project in his Fondom. After our meeting with the Fon we were served a meal of fufu corn with chicken in a sauce and beverages were served including the traditional palm wine. As an expression of his gratitude, the Fon gifted us with a fowl and wine.
The last stop on our itinerary for the day was St. John Bosco Mission in Ngarum. Here we checked on the progress of the work being done and to discuss the change made in the original proposal. OK Clean Water had agreed to help pay for the construction of a much needed well. The principal of the school, for reasons of his own, had decided to dig a borehole instead of a well. Digging a borehole is a very different process with its own challenges. The financial commitment of OK remains unchanged despite the additional costs associated with a borehole. The principal is hopeful that they will have water soon as the end of the dry season is when the water supply can be very limited.
By four o’clock we headed back to Tobin. Approaching the village of Kikaikelaki outside of Kumbo we could see that there was a problem up ahead of us as vehicles were lined up at the top of a hill. In time, we realized that a two door car unable to make it up the hill in the rutted road covered in dust was trying to back down the hill! Fortunately, our two door, four wheel drive Suzuki can handle the roads that have been described by one visitor as "indescribable"! Upon our arrival back in Tobin we unloaded our sacks of beans, carrots, and the fowls before taking the car to the car wash! On entering the house, someone commented on my new look. I had left in the morning with silver hair and returned with "brown" hair! That is how much dust we collected in the course of the day!
Once again, energy, commitment, and gratitude were the themes of the day. The professional advice of Visi Edwin is a source of encouragement for the villagers who all too often have been disappointed by the promises of politicians. The villagers learn to appreciate the fact that in their partnership with OK Clean Water they are educating OK supporters about the great need for water and the many stages of work in building a village water system. OK - Laying a Lifeline…one village at a time…