The day was already sticky and hot, and it wasn’t even 9am yet. We slathered on the sunscreen, mixing it on our already-sweaty arms and legs. Today was the day of the first well-dig, and we were ready to get it on. What followed in the coming days was a beautiful dance of digging, drilling, pumping and sealing. But today would be our first water-well out of 5 that we would have the honor of bringing to families and neighborhoods.
As we huddled around the heavy-packed sod we were about to tear up, there was something mysterious and magical that hung in the air. This element, water, is something that connects us all – to all life. Water is something that is so basic, yet in some parts of the world so precious because it cannot be just turned on with a switch. Many people are forced to labor and sacrifice time and energy to provide this very basic, life-giving source by carrying it for miles to their families or villages. And here we were, standing on this holy ground that would soon become a source of life and thrival in a few hours. The moment felt holy, because under our feet was the stuff that held the precious necessity that connects us all – H2O.
We gathered around for a moment and offered this hallowed ground to God, as well as our sweat, muscles and minds. The humble honor of participating in such a gift was astounding. After our pause, we jumped in and began to dig…and dig and dig.
It’s very interesting the steps that are involved in drilling a well by hand. They are as follows:
– Dig the overflow “tank” – about 4 feet deep.
– Pat down the inner walls of the overflow tank – most of the dirt is clay-like and so it makes for a perfect natural tank
– Pour river or pond water (whatever is available close by) into the overflow tank and fill it up, as well as a large trash-can-sized container with extra water.
– Start up the generator that pumps the river water into the drill. (the drill consists of a drill-tip that you connect the other piping to, and then you connect the water pump to the piping, which then runs down through the piping and jets out through the drill tip.)
– Connect all the drill pieces, and begin to drill the well, turning it by hand with two monkey wrenches. This is a tough job and different participants in the well-drilling have to rotate every 10 minutes.
– As the water level may lower, the bucket-brigade continues to fill up the overflow tank.
– As the drill gets deeper, you add more pipe
– Keep adding pipe until you hit the fresh, clean water well in the earth. (You can tell when you’ve hit the fresh water because of the minerals that will come out with the water.)
– Flush out the drill hole, and add the pvc pipe
– Flush out the dirty pump water.
– Put on the top of the pump and WALA! You have a fresh water well!
It was pretty amazing to be able to drill by hand water from the earth, and to help provide that basic human need to our Peruvian brothers and sisters. It was humbling for me to partake in the beauty of that labor. I thought of my own experience, and how easy it is to get water, and how I don’t treat it with the sacredness it deserves. You see, water unites all of life. They say that 70% of the human body consists of water. They also say that 77-78% of the human brain is water. Blood is 55% Plasma, and plasma is about 90-92% water, which makes blood about 50% water. Water unites us, just as air unites us…just as love, laughter, and life unites us.
Since getting back to the States and watching my flushing toilet; and seeing the miracle of my washing machine; and being able to draw a hot bubble bath with the turn of a spigot, or pour out a glass of clear water from my faucets that exist in several rooms in my house, I am humbled. What makes me so blessed to have the luxury of this basic necessity of water literally at my fingertips? Why doesn’t the whole world have this luxury? We are all deserving of this blessing – because we are all partly made of water, and so water unites us. But then once again, I stop and think: most of us are unaware of the luxuries we possess. We cannot fully understand it’s weight until we have experienced life without it…and so, who is truly more wealthy? Those of us who have all these conveniences and grumble, complain and wrestle with feeling entitled and “needing” more; or those who have labored for the right to have water – who have carried it for miles and have shared it with their thirsty friends and family – and who finally get a well in their home or neighborhood and truly feel the luxury of the water that now comes forth with just a turn of the switch! They celebrate every mouthful on their parched lips because they know the true meaning of the wealth of this basic, life-giving necessity! May we all remember that we are treading on holy ground all the time, and the necessities of this life are what unite us…and this is what makes life and community and basic human rights truly holy.