Exciting news from a boring project

Exciting news from a boring project

A borehole gave this community something more than health: it offered them a shot at unity. And by supporting BMS World Mission, you helped them find it.

The deadlock seemed hopeless. Two factions in the village in rural Uganda could not agree on where to dig a borehole, and their disagreement had gone on so long that the BMS team who had come to the village with a limited window for drilling (also called ‘boring’) were worried that they would have to leave without finding clean, healthy water – so essential for community health and flourishing in places like rural Uganda.

A team learning how to use the village drill to dig a borehole.
The BMS team visit rural villages and dig boreholes which provide clean water for whole communities.

BMS and local partners had arrived in the morning to consult with the community about where the borehole they had requested should be dug, and it had taken all day to come to an answer, one that half the village was less than pleased with. When the well failed to reach good water, BMS worker Tim Darby decided that it would be best to come back the following day, hoping for more agreement – otherwise he and the drilling team would have to move on to another village.

Watch how Tim’s team use a man-powered drill to dig a borehole.

Three Petri dishes containing bacteria from three water sources
A BMS-supported team ran tests on three local water sources: stream water, an existing borehole, and a borehole that they built. The right-hand dish contains water from the borehole and is completely clean.

The drilling project Tim helps to run is an innovative one, spending some of its time on commercial drilling (a kind of ‘business as mission’), which helps to fund the free well-boring that this village was so close to missing out on. They couldn’t stay in the village forever, as Uganda has a great deal of need for safe, clean drinking water.

When the team returned, they expected to find the community in much the same state as the day before. But instead, they found optimism, helpfulness. Unity. The village had met the night before and decided on a completely new drill site – miles away from the sites that had been in dispute. They told BMS water engineer Tim: “We knew that the other place would not work because we were not united. But now we know you will find water.” The team began digging in the morning, and they did! By the evening they had installed a handpump – a new record time for Tim and his team.

This is something that Tim sees regularly in his work: communities coming together over their collective need for clean water. Because when Tim and his team dig boreholes, they’re not just providing water. They’re encouraging people to live healthier lifestyles by making water easier to access. They’re protecting people from waterborne diseases such as cholera and E. coli. They’re freeing up time in the day for people, especially women and girls, who previously had to walk for hours every day to dirty water sources. And they’re doing it in a sustainable way, making the drills they operate pay, both for the good of the local environment and for the community. As Tim puts it: “Every single borehole changes and improves lives.”

This isn’t water as charity, pumped into a community that Tim thinks needs it. It’s a process of consultation with local people, asking them what they need and how they would like to receive it, engaging them and involving them so that communities, with a little help from BMS, can give themselves hope. Now that’s far from boring!

After this handpump was installed, a committee of nine people elected from the local community were trained for two days to manage the borehole. The rest of the community were also offered training on good sanitary health. They were taught how to keep the pump safe and clean, but also to care for and depend on one another to keep the borehole working.

Water is a basic need and a fundamental right. If we all work together, with respect and generosity, all people could have access to it. Pray with us today that this would happen.

People digging a borehole in Uganda.
The boreholes dug by Tim’s team encourage local communities to work together to maintain them.

Tim’s team have already provided many communities with clean water. But there are still people in Uganda and around the world whose water sources are limited or unsafe. Please pray today for:

  • Communities in Uganda without access to clean water. Pray for good health among them, and that they will soon be able to drink without danger.
  • Tim and his team as they bore wells for rural communities. Pray that their work goes smoothly, and that people will soon see the benefits.
  • Villages who have already received boreholes. Pray that they are able to safely maintain them in years to come, and that they will experience unity in their communities.

Words by Laura Durrant.

Can a better toilet really change your life?

Can a better toilet really change your life?

Loo slabs are creating jobs and improving health in 20 villages in northern Uganda.

It’s not very British to talk about toilets. But if yours got taken away and replaced with a crumbling, festering long drop, made from mud and sticks, you’d probably have a few things to say.

In northern Uganda, a lot of people don’t have access to clean toilets. In northern Uganda, a lot of people die from diseases related to poor sanitation. A survey that BMS World Mission workers recently carried out in Gulu District showed that diarrhoea is the third biggest killer in the region.

That’s why BMS water and sanitation engineer Tim Darby is passionate about… (you guessed it!) toilets. He’s been helping Christians in villages across Gulu District and beyond learn how to make durable and affordable concrete latrine slabs, so that everyone has the chance to have a cleaner, safer toilet.

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I’m now raising some funds that can make my family also to be fed well. I could even be able to pay the school fees of my daughter.

Watch this three-minute video to find out how this project is impacting the lives of communities and newly trained business people.

Tim has helped train 40 people from 20 villages in how to make the latrine slabs, how to market and sell them, and in budgeting and book keeping. These people now have skills and businesses that will enable them to provide for their families. And, as part of their contract, each business has agreed to give eight slabs away to the poorest people in their village for free – ensuring that the blessings are shared and the most vulnerable people are benefitting from this project.

The chicken-slab industrial complex

The slabs come in two sizes, the smaller of which can be purchased for the price of a chicken, which means they should be affordable for everyone. In fact, that’s part of their marketing campaign – if you have a chicken, you can have a clean toilet! Some of the businesses are even doing a straight exchange: a chicken for a slab.

“I’m now raising some funds that can make my family also to be fed well," says Omgom Robin, one of the new businessmen
“I’m now raising some funds that can make my family also to be fed well," says Omgom Robin, one of the new businessmen

Another aspect of Tim’s marketing campaign for the new businesses is to run a launch event in each village (as you’ll have seen in the video). Loud music booms to attract the crowds – and as many as 100 people have been known to crowd around to see what’s going on. During each launch, certificates are awarded to entrepreneurs, a local community leader explains why good sanitation is important, four young people from a local Baptist church perform dramas (much to the crowd’s enjoyment), and one lucky person wins a free slab in a raffle!

The launch creates the buzz these new businesses need, and many of them are already running successfully.

“I’m now raising some funds that can make my family also to be fed well,” says Omgom Robin, one of the entrepreneurs making the slabs. “I could even be able to pay the school fees of my daughter.”

When toilets are the pits

Most people in Gulu District use pit latrines – deep holes that are dug in the ground. When the ‘seat’ is made from mud and sticks, like it is for most families in rural areas, these toilets are very hard to clean and are prone to collapsing. Disease spreads more easily when faeces and waste can’t be safely washed away. By placing a large concrete slab over these toilets, they instantly become more hygienic. They provide a safe place to stand and they can be washed clean. It sounds simple – and it is. And yet these slabs are having a massive impact on people’s health.

BMS worker Tim Darby explains the importance of good sanitation at Omgom Robin's business launch
BMS worker Tim Darby explains the importance of good sanitation at Omgom Robin's business launch

“The health benefits are actually very hard to quantify,” says Tim. “However, the natural bi-product of improved sanitation for most people will be better health. Ultimately, it can prevent some people from having very serious illnesses, or even death in some cases.”

So, can a better toilet really change your life? For the 40 people who now have jobs and are getting an income to feed their families and send their children to school – it can. And for the potentially hundreds of men, women and children who are less likely to get sick or even die from diarrhoeal diseases – it can, too.

All of this has happened because of your giving. From Tim, Robin and all those benefitting from improved sanitation in northern Uganda – thank you!

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