Installing pumps and dedicating wells gets to be rather routine by the middle of your tour of duty in Malawi. However, now and then something happens to shake you up a bit and tell you others appreciate what you are doing in the Shallow Well Program of Marion Medical Mission.
Tuesday, October 3rd started out as an ordinary day for me with the well team working out of Mzuzu. After breakfast with Jodi and Jim McGill (mission co-workers with the Synod of Livingstonia, Church of Central Africa Presbyterian–CCAP) and their kids, I drove downtown to the CCAP motor pool, where well materials are stored, to load up for the day. Mr. Silungwe, Field Officer for the Mzuzu area, and Custom Inglui, a well worker and driver from Mzuzu, helped me load materials for 10 wells. By 7:15 a.m. we were on the main road to Ekwendeni. There we turned off on secondary roads to the area north and east. Along the way to the first well, we picked up local well workers and arrived at our first well at 9:15.
The second well was nearby and we unloaded materials in the village that sponsored the well. There a lady on the local well committee came out of her house to greet us and then accompanied us to the well site with a covered basket on her head. I usually ask the local people how far it is to the well, so I can take my water canteen along if it is some distance away. This time I forgot to ask and assumed it was a short walk. In the heat of the day this was a serious lapse in memory.
We walked through an upland area, then descended into a dry river bed, and 20 minutes later we were at the well site near the river bank. Along the way we had passed the village’s present water supply-two holes about 4 feet deep dug in the river bed with a little dirty water in them. At the well site, the water level was deeper than anticipated and required more PVC pipe. Someone volunteered to walk back to the truck to get the needed part,probably a 2-mile round trip. In the meantime, we put together the pump and sat in the shade waiting for the worker to return. By this time I was extremely thirsty and kicking myself for not bringing along my canteen. Then the lady from the village unwrapped her basket, which she had carried all that way on her head. Behold, it contained cokes for all the workers to drink. What a treat that was for me!! Even though the coke was warm, it was wet and it slaked my thirst. What a caring person our village friend turned out to be!!
It was a small gesture and my thirst probably was not life-threatening, but this shows how caring our Malawian friends can be and how much they appreciate a reliable source of clean water. You never know what a day of welling will be like.