Friday, September 23, 2011

Well cleaning project in Croatia....

I’m quite sure that after my last couple of blogs you have asked the question, “Do they ever work?” The answer to that is an emphatic, sometimes! Yes, during the week we really do try to keep our shoulder to the wheel and give our humanitarian work priority over having fun. But even then the work is so amazing and chock full of wonderful experiences that we find ourselves wondering, “Is this really work?” For instance, this week we had arranged with the Croatian Red Cross to go look at some of the well projects that the church funds. We have for the last 3 years funded teams to go into the remote villages and clean wells. It is an ongoing project with much to be accomplished. It’s an unusual water project because usually we try to bring clean water into a community by either tapping a spring and buying a holding tank for the community, buying pipe to hook up to an existing system or creating a new water source by digging wells. But the terrain here in the Eastern part of Croatia does not lend itself to any of those possibilities. It is an agricultural rich area. Not much industry with farm houses quite far away from each other and no close towns to distribute clean water from. Many of these people left during the war and in the last 5 years have been coming home. The wells have been polluted; either intentionally or by neglect and non-use. We were told by our field guide and host that the area we were in on Tuesday was a border area over disputed land between Serbia and Croatia. As a result the area was heavily planted with land mines by both sides. As we drove around he cautioned us if we ever came by ourselves to never go off the paved roads. He also showed us the signs, what they looked like and what they said. Okay, that was enough to worry us a little. He said that unfortunately the locals are a little lax in obeying the signs and are sometimes walking in the forest; a very dangerous thing to do.

That being said, the teams that go down into the wells to clean them never know what they are going to bring up. They do find land mines, grenades and unexploded ordinances on occasion. When they do find stuff like that they bring in professionals from the army. They also find carcasses of dead animals and human remains. During the war, they were thrown in the wells to intentionally pollute them. As we watched the process we wondered how they would ever know WHAT was WHAT that got brought up! Everything was covered with a black tar like substance, decomposing “something”. It was pretty gross looking and smelled just putrid! No wonder the well water was polluted! But my point is: it would be pretty difficult to identify a grenade, for instance, in all that gook. The men who do this really are brave and work in a very dangerous profession. We aren’t sure what they get paid, but suspect it’s about $2.50-$3.00 an hour. Not much, but they are happy to have a job.

As we stood there watching the process of cleaning this well on Tuesday. I couldn’t help but wonder, “What would I be doing today if I was home? Would I be sewing in my beautiful sewing room with my sisters, would I be babysitting one or two of my darling grandchildren? Would I be doing laundry, cooking a family dinner, putting my garden to bed for the winter? They all sounded pretty good to me, but how amazing was it that here I was, clear across the world, standing in front of an old farm house with chickens running underfoot, watching this extraordinary act of bravery and love take place; Seeing the faces of grateful recipients as they watched the process in disbelief that someone from another part of the world would care enough about them to donate money so that they could have clean water again. If it seemed incredible to them, it seemed almost surreal to me. I was having one of my many moments in time that I hope to never forget, when the work that we do crystallizes into something more than humanitarian aid, it really becomes the pure love of Christ. It leaves me so humble to be a servant and a representative of our Savior. It leaves me so grateful to those who love and support us on this mission. It leaves me so happy to be serving a mission in this amazing place and I realize that as full and active as my life is at home, I have been blessed beyond measure to be here.

We had our Banja Luka water project approved this week and had an appointment with them today to tell them the good news. The Red Cross director was so excited to hear that our project had been thourougly examined by our U.S. short term specialists and had been approved by both Germany and Salt Lake. When can we start? They are so excited and have waited a long time for funding to come for this particular project.

This coming Monday we will also visit the rehabilitation hospital here in Banja Luka and get some more pictures. We will be closing that project after we give the play room 4 new baby dolls, wooden cars from the Happy Factory, road carpet for the cars and the director of the facility will get our signature framed picture of Christ at the pools of Bethesda. We bought wooden furniture for the play room as well, but they have been using it for awhile now. We just haven’t gotten back with the toys yet.

Our little library project that we have done needs to be closed as well, but it’s a four hour drive to the school, so we hope to get up there next week. The books have been delivered to the school and they seem very pleased and happy with them! We love to go and see the end results of our projects.

We are going to order our first container of humanitarian goods from the Salt Lake Humanitarian Center. We got some extra funds from our wonderful file leaders in Germany and with much thought and prayer have decided to use those sacred funds to bring in the requested in-kind goods from the center. We will order, new-born kits, hygiene kits, blankets, crib blankets and perhaps some medical supplies. The Red Cross will be the ones to distribute the goods. They have arrangements with many of the local municipalities that if they provide the new born kits the municipalities will add diapers, formula or whatever their budgets can afford to the kits for the new babies. Several years ago they brought in a container and have run out of the new born kits so the cities have been asking, “Where is your end of the bargain?” We can’t say enough about the good work that the Red Cross does. They are pretty amazing and do so many great things. We are very proud to be a partner with them.

So all you wonderful sisters, brothers and youth who have put together hygiene kits, new born kits and tied blankets or crib quilts, this is where some of them will go! We have seen so much need in the out laying villages. In the big cities, the need is not so much, but as we travel into the more remote areas we see a tremendous lack of even the most basic necessities. Warmth for both adults and infants will become available through the Red Cross and through your willing donations.

When I think of you in your cultural halls, walking around tables putting tooth paste and soaps into hygiene kits, I love you! When in my mind I see sisters on their hands and knees, marking a quilt, or sitting around one tying it, I love you! When I see you going through your fabric storage to donate it, I love you! And when I see you marking that tithing slip in the Humanitarian line- I adore you! My heart swells with love and respect for all of you that share your bounties of life with others. As this container is ordered and received, I will try to post pictures of some of the recipients for you to perhaps share at your next humanitarian activity.
On our way to Glina, Croatia. It is a remote area in eastern Croatia. The town itself has about 10,000 residents, but there are many small communities around the town.

This is a little fuzzy, but it’s a land mine sign. Saying, “stay out of this area”

The well had been mostly pumped dry by the time we got there. The church has purchased and equipped 5 teams to work on well projects. Underwater submersible pumps are part of the equipment.

Our Red Cross field guide spoke wonderful English so we didn’t have to bring a translator with us. Here he is trying to explain the process to me. The lady in the back ground was a neighbor who came to watch. The other one lives in the house.

Our two heroes of the day- the well team from Glina and the Red Cross Glina manager.

This house was built by the owner’s grandfather. It is over 100 years old; in the winter they can’t live upstairs because there are too many windows broken so it’s too cold. They just use the main floor. They left during the war and returned 5 years ago.

This is the well and one of the team members. They have not used the well water since they returned. They found a small spring in the woods behind their home and although it gives spotty amounts of water that is what their water source has been. They had run a pipe from the spring and the spigot by the bath tub is what you are seeing. Note the mirror on the well wall. That is where the man of the house shaves. No inside plumbing.
I believe it's worth saying that after the well is clean, there will still be no running water into the house, it will be brought up one bucket full at a time and carried in.

Jim and I with our new friends!

She was so happy! She kept hugging me and saying, "hvala, hvala!" Thank-you, Thank-you!
After the well is pumped out they spray a mixture of water and chlorine to clean the sides.

Looks pretty gross, doesn’t it?

This little tool cost about $1,000. It detects gas levels in the well. A pretty important piece of equipment I think.

While this guy checks for gases…..

This guy suits up for the dirty work. We wondered if they drew straws and he lost!

This is the bucket of high tech tools that will be sent down to the guy in the well.

Note the safety rope. Once he got down there he took it off. They said he can’t move around with it on. Hope they never need to get him out in an emergency!

The first load of black grossness that came out. An old bucket and boards from the well enclosure.

The well started filling up again, so they started the pump and this is what came out!

After about 5 or 6 buckets of black tar decomposition gunk, you could see the bottom of the well. If you look really hard at this picture you can see a  wood cross at the bottom. It was the support for the first layer of rock. No cement was used, it was all just rock fit together by grandpa.

Death of old friends…My walking shoes were pretty disgustingly dirty so I put them in the washer with the Croatian version of bleach, hummm, you think it’s a solvent for shoe glue???? I grieved as I threw them away, but have embraced my new pair of Croatian walking shoes that will do quite nicely until I come home!

Car Washing- Vedran and Vanja come every week and wash our car. We pay them a small amount, about $7.00. Last time they got paid, Jim said, “okay, today we are having a lesson about tithing….” You can guess the rest, but they were so excited to know how to pay tithing! They probably would have paid it before but I believe they didn’t know how to figure the 10%. Wow! Do we love these kids! They are such a joy to us! We love our week-ends being here and having church with them.

1 comment:

Robin said...

How I envy your experiences. Isn't it easy to love people. Why can't the world figure this out?