Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Water Projects and Visits from Salt Lake City

Greetings to Family and Friends:

We are still in the business of doing water in Zimbabwe and are in the very early stages of our next water and sanitation project in a place called Gormonzi. The water district and head man had picked out the sites in the villages where they would like to have the boreholes placed, but now comes the reality part, is there water in those areas. We hired a water dowser to find out for sure in preparation for the drilling team to go in and actually drill. We are planning on drilling 14 new boreholes and repairing 16 old ones. It was an interesting experience to go with the dowser to locate water. It is somewhat voodoo stuff mixed with a little technology. This man comes highly recommended and has been doing this for years. His accuracy is very impressive.

Water Dowsing With Elder Bean

We met him at the district office on a very rainy morning and planned on accompanying him to locate four water sites. He did this by a method they call water dowsing. This is done by the use of two wires that are held straight out from your body with a wire going down towards the ground. You walk around the selected area and when water is present the two wires cross and he puts a peg in the ground and that is where the driller will drill the borehole. Elder Bean and I looked at each other, rolled our eyes and said “like that is going to work”. He was very serious and said that he would come back in the morning and use a battery operated water locator (restivity machine) to confirm. The next thing he did, which made us roll our eyes even more, was take three different size soda water bottles out of his pack and fill them with water. He then balanced the small one on the flat of his hand, palm up, and walked across the alleged water site. It stayed up right and didn’t tip over. He then took the middle size one filled it with water and walked across the water site, this time the bottle tipped on its side and spilled the water on the ground. The dowser said, OK there is so many meters (gave us the amount) of water down there and wrote it in his book. Now we are really skeptical and asked him if we could try it. Elder Bean went first, we almost felt silly doing it, he walked across the site where water supposedly was and the wires crossed. I tried it and it was so weird, the wires crossed where the water site was. We went back the next day with the machine and it also indicated that there was water below each of those pegged sites. So guess what, we have now drilled seven sites and abundant water has been found at each site, so far no dry holes. It is magic.

More Water Dowsing

Setting up Restivity Machine

We then went with the water man to site some more water points. We drove on dirt paths into little villages that are normally reached only by walking. These villages are very picturesque and very green with all kinds of tall grasses, huts and gardens. Life looks very hard there, but the setting is very pretty. They grow all the food that they eat and have some chickens for eggs. The head woman of the village came to greet us and drove with us in our truck to other potential water sites. She was very old, it would be hard to guess her age, she was barefoot and skinny, with a lot of missing teeth, and you could tell she had worked very hard in her life and still does. She looked so fragile and so wrinkled, but was very mentally sharp and the village people look to her to impart words of wisdom. When I shook her hand, it was much calloused as were her feet. I am sure she doesn’t even feel the prickly bushes and sharp grasses that she walks on and through. As I am walking through the tall grass around the villages looking at projects, I keep worrying about snakes. These African snakes are not to be taken lightly. There are cobras, pythons, and black mambas, just to name a few of the many poisonous ones. I always make sure I am at the back of the line or in the middle as we are walking through the fields, so the snakes have been scared away before I get there, or have bitten somebody else. I justify this by thinking every man and woman here has to take care of themselves. It is a hard country and is not for sissies.

Sis. Bean in tall grass (watch for snakes!)
It is always surprising how many little kids there are out in the villages, they just pop up out of the tall grass and seem to be everywhere. At first you think there is no one there, and then little heads start popping up and you hear little giggles. When we drive out to these rural villages, the little kids always come to watch us; they rarely see visitors in these far out villages, and probably never white ones. They are very curious, but stay their distance until we entice them over with sweets that we have in our truck, brought for this purpose. We also have a few balloons and they are very interested in this thin rubber ball that floats up in the air. If adults are there we always ask if it is OK to give them treats. We always feel so badly when we see them, most are very skinny, barefoot, very tattered clothing and a lot of the time they are coughing with a runny nose. Their clothing is inadequate for the rains or wind and you just have to walk away and leave them knowing that this is their life and you try to make it a little better in some ways, like water access, boreholes, latrines, or an agriculture project to help their village do a little better and a tiny sweet from our truck.. I thought after living in Uganda I was toughened up a bit, but it still makes us have mixed emotions, we feel terrible to see their condition and happy to see their darling little faces. I think about how little they have or require and how much we have. The African children are very sweet and seem like happy little people, they smile at you all while you are talking to them, but they are very shy. They also like to sneak a touch on your skin, if they are brave enough. I think they want to see if the white skin feels like their own. After a heavy rain, you see them soaking wet, dirty, and wading in puddles of dirty water, laughing and playing just like kids do all over the world. I see them at church with fancy hairdos and big smiles and you just want to take them home with you.

More Kids
Primary Kids at Church

Kids with balloons
 We meet such interesting resilient people as we travel around this country. Most have faced and endured really tough times, and yet there they are going about their life with optimism and humor and do not seem to spend time thinking about past injustices. A lot of people we meet are just trying to help others. The other day we were stopped by the police for speeding, when he saw our badges, he let us go and said, I don’t want the Lord to be mad at me, go on your way, that was a first for us.

We gave a party for our sanitation training team to celebrate the ending of their training assignment in Muzarabani. It was a lot of fun. Elder Bean made up songs about each of them and then sang to them while accompanying himself on the Ukulele. We played games, watched a DVD using pictures they compiled during the time of our project and we served pizza, chicken, cookies and had root beer floats. The main food that is eaten here and is eaten every day is made from mealy meal (maize flour) and is called Sudza. Anything that is different from that is met with a little skepticism. They did seem to enjoy the pizza though. This is the same team, plus we have hired two additional people, that are doing sanitation training in our new project in the Goromonzi area.

At the Nordstrom Rack
Elder Bean had a birthday in January and so in celebration, I treated him to breakfast in a very charming outdoor café that sets in the middle of a nice art center. They have wonderful food and especially the muffins that are full of all kinds of fruit, even grapes, and are served hot. It isn’t an entirely unselfish gesture on my part, because I like to check out the pottery shop that has wonderful dishes, table cloths, etc, next to the café. That evening we had the two other couples over for a potluck dinner and birthday cake and watched the movie Star Trek. Elder Bean wants a carved walking stick so as soon as we find one he likes, that will be his present. He received some very cute cards from two of our trainers and they also sang Happy Birthday to him in Shona. The two AP’s stopped us in the mission parking lot and sang Happy Birthday to him out of the car window. Everyone loves Elder Bean so that was pretty fun, and he did get some attention that day. We even went shopping, which he doesn’t like to do.

We went to the grocery store and loaded up on food in case of an emergency and if at some point we will need to stay in our apartment. The political violence seems to be escalating and is scattered around in different venues. Last Monday for Family Home Evening we gave a lesson on being prepared. So we and the other couples are taking these events very seriously. We hope things settle down. The elections will not be held until June or after, so we may be in for months of unsettling conditions. We just hope it doesn’t slow down or hold up our water projects. We would not be able to buy diesel for our drilling rigs or even venture out in the rurals. Our mission president will be holding our monthly couples meeting, and we will be discussing what to do if we have to evacuate. We hope it will not come to that.

We visited a primary school this past week. This is the school where we are drilling a borehole on their school ground, which will prevent them from carrying buckets of water from a long way off. We also wanted to see if it was possible to put in a hand washing station close to their latrines. This is a school of 1,200 kids from ages five thru 12. The water for this station would need to come from the new 70 meter deep borehole, which is located downhill from the latrines. We checked to see if somehow the water could be pumped up the hill into a tank by the washing facilities; it would have to be pumped by hand because of the unpredictable access to electricity. We are still working on this problem.

We also saw how the kids were getting their drinking water during the day. Placed at the door of each classroom is a big bucket full of water with one cup setting by it. This water has been carried by the kids from a long distance. At a certain time of the day, the kids line up behind the bucket and proceed to take the cup, dip it in the bucket, drink, then hand the cup back to the kid behind them, who then dips it back into the bucket, drinks, and so on. It is unbelievable, no wonder diseases, colds and worse is passed on. We wonder why we provide clean water for them to drink because by the time the cup gets to the end of the line, it and the water has been contaminated, and probably all of the kids. This is why our sanitation and hygiene training is so important. They are being taught about how germs and diseases are spread and what practices should be eliminated. We hope that the new borehole and the training will help change this practice, and that individual cups and bottles can be filled at the borehole.

Sis. Allred in Bee Outfit

Our mission president asked us to take some visitors from Salt Lake to tour some of our projects in Bulawayo. They are the second counselor and husband from the Relief Society General Board, the first counselor and husband from the primary general board, as well as Elder Dale Renlund in the Africa Southeast Area Presidency and his wife and President Dube, mission president and his wife. It is about a six hour drive from Harare, so we drove there the day before so we could sign the contract with a driller and hire a site monitor for our water project located there. We also visited the water engineering department to find out exact locations where they wanted the boreholes. We stayed at the Holiday Inn and met the next morning with the visitors and drove them to our bee project. The young people, who are heads of households, welcomed them wearing their bee protective clothing that the Church had provided and they welcomed them by singing and dancing for them. They demonstrated how to make candles, and took them on a tour of their wood working shop where the beehives will be made, and also showed them their garden. The kids also sell some “Wacky Snacks” to make a little extra money, so we purchased some and handed them out to the visitors. The snacks look like a puffed up corn chip and are quite spicy. The visitors loved the project and even had suggestions on how to expand it. We then visited a beautiful large Church garden. The families in the ward are each given a plot of land close by the Church to grow a garden. They must plant, weed and care for it. The plots were very healthy and we enjoyed seeing this very successful Church garden and they promised to share some of their healthy vegetable plants with our bee project kids. They have since done so and even helped to plant them.
Bee Keepers
We have now launched the Gormonzi water project. We took our six trainers, site monitor and supervisor out to the Gormonzi area and met with the headmen of each village, as well as the district water officer and the local pastor (who is helping us facilitate the process). They are the leaders of each village where we are going to drill or refurbish a borehole and where our sanitation training will take place. This is called “community entry”.

Community entry is necessary before we can move in for training. The head people must be met with, explained the program, meet our trainers and provide sites for them to train in, select volunteer trainers and understand where the boreholes and training will take place. We made maps for everyone and schedules of training days, and it is a very big task to just copy all the documents that are needed. We also provided them with bags to carry the documents in. The first meeting involved nine different villages that represent about 1260 families. and we and our team met together to discuss the program. It was impressive to have all the village heads and our trainers, who were wearing their blue T-shirts, in a room together discussing the training. The volunteers must be able to speak, read and write in English, as well as speak the local language, Shona. All the training material is in English, but the training is usually done in Shona. The plan is that they will return to their villages and train the people there.

Hygiene Training

Hygiene Training

Hygiene Training
We took out trainers on the second day to visit more heads of villages. The head people were waiting for us and we had our meeting under a big tree. Most of the people sat in the tall grass, but we got to sit on a long wooden bench. This meeting was held next to a clinic, which provides very basic medical care for around 50 patients a day, and up to 1,500 a month. After the meeting we toured the clinic and talked with some of the patients waiting outside Most were mothers with small babies in their arms and on their backs and many pregnant women. Some babies were being weighed and it was a very interesting method. The babies were naked and put in a sling, which was attached to a large hook, the baby dangled down and the scale hanging above them noted their weight. It looked like a scale where you weigh meat and Elder Bean said they should put a sign under it. Babies - $1.50 per lb. We think we are now ready to enter the community with sanitation training and drilling of boreholes.

Sis. Bean at Health Clinic
Baby Weigher

Meeting with Leaders

There is a lengthy process to go through before starting a training program. We first meet with government officials to get permission to go into their village with a training program. Then we must have the blessing of the pastor who is in charge of the religious training in the villages. It helps to have him on board because he knows each family personally and can help make recommendation for volunteer trainers. Then we need permission from the tribal chief, although this is just a traditional courtesy. Next we must go to the clinic and get the permission of the head woman over all the health facilities in the area (one hospital and one clinic). She must write a letter saying she approves of our training plan. To do this, she and a colleague attended four of our training classes to see if she agrees that we are following the health rules (what rules??), we of course had to pay transportation to and from the training site as well as supply lunch for them. Next is the meeting described earlier with all the head men of the villages, to explain the program to them and introduce them to our trainers who will be training in their particular village.

Political things are heating up a bit and we hope that it doesn’t cause problems for us, our team and our water projects. We are very careful to make sure the headmen know that our training is not political and it is just a sanitation and hygiene program. People are not allowed to gather together unless they have the head man’s approval and he monitors our meetings.

Elder Bean, Pastor and Headman

We are looking forward to having Matt Heaps from Salt Lake visit us for four days. He is in charge of all water projects for the Church worldwide. He visit look at our water projects and perhaps enlarge our water budget for the year. He will come just prior to us attending the Country Director’s meeting in Johannesburg and we will fly with him to the conference. We are very busy and well, but really miss our family and our friends. We can hardly believe we have been here almost eight months. We are also missing constant electricity, clean water to bathe in and wash our fruit and vegetables, eggs, dishes and pans without the help of a capful of bleach and a lot of other conveniences we take for granted in Mukilteo, but with all that, there are wonderful blessings and adventures to be had. Our sacrifices seem small in comparison.

Congratulations to our grandson, Connor Sefcik. He received his acceptance letter from BYU Provo and will be attending there this fall. We are all proud and excited for him. His sister Tayler is there also and is in her third year working on a (PA) physician assistant degree. It will be fun for them to see each other often and she can show him the ropes.

Love to all and thank you for your prayers.

Love, Elder and Sister Bean



  1. This was an awesome post! Thank you for all the wonderful descriptions. We were just saying that we hoped you would make an entry soon so that we could learn how your mission is going. We are driving across the Salt Flats to SLC to attend a RM couples' dinner that the Christensens have organized on Wednesday night. We'll try to get a photo of those who attend and send it your way. We love you! B&K

  2. Please pick out something from the Nordstrom Rack for me...

  3. It is so good to hear what and how you are doing - wish we could be there with you! What memories and friendships you are making. We pray for your safety and success in the work. I enjoyed hearing about the pizza - I doubt that the people realized what a famous pizza maker they had there!