Twelve men stand around a hole looking down. Two men are eight feet below ground making steady THUMP, SPLASH, SQUEEEEEEECH sounds as they swing hoes over their shoulders and into the muddy water. Each time a tool breaks the water, the two must turn away to avoid being blinded by the flying brown liquid. They, along with everyone else, are completely covered from head to toe in brown clay. Every few minutes, the men in the hole must take a break from digging to bail out water and rocks into makeshift jerry can-pails. After filling these, the people up top slowly haul them up, dump them out, and throw the containers back down. All of the men are directing, joking and yelling in Rutooro, digging the first well ever for their village.
This weekend, I went to Kyente, where Bringing Hope to the Family (BHTF) is constructing a well with money donated from Know, Think, Act. Visiting there, I was once again reminded of just how strong every single individual here can be. When my guide Prossy and I first arrived, only a few men were at the work site. But then one man blew an instrument fashioned from a cow horn and the rest of the community arrived to help dig. Periodically, men would rotate digging, dumping, and watching. Some chewed sugar cane while others roasted corn. Most told stories I couldn’t understand until everyone burst out laughing and Prossy translated. Even though it was hard work mixing cement and carrying down blocks, I felt like I could’ve been at a very muddy field day. Everyone seemed to be in such high spirits.
After digging, the men had to set and cement stone blocks in a circle and fill the remaining outer space with loose rocks. They had to lower each individual stone with a pail down the ten foot deep well without dropping it and knocking out the person at the bottom. Very few people wore shoes and even the engineer didn’t have any special uniform. Whenever a tool broke, they simply gook a pagna (similar to a machete) and shaped a new piece of wood for the hoe handle or whatever they needed. It was incredibly meticulous and laborious work and it made me once again very thankful for all of our machines and electric tools in America.
I’m very happy that this community is finally getting the water they need (their source before was just a shallow, brown water body only a few feet deep and basically stagnant) but it made me think of all the other villages deep in Uganda that are missing out on what many Americans would consider necessities. Kyente did not have a full primary school or medical clinic less than 20 kilometers away. It’s bewildering sometimes the depth of some communities’ poverty and yet the happiness and genuine amiability they still possess. They gave us free lunch and more mangoes than we could eat. I asked Prossy why the community didn’t have a well until now and she told me it had to do with politics and the ability of local leaders to get what they needed.
I’m always impressed by those who can give so much even when they are lacking. I wish to be like that.