09.24.2014 | Last Day in Liberia
With things at Dolo up and running and the plumbers installing chlorinators at ELWA, we finally felt confident leaving those projects alone for the day and venturing to do some additional assessments. The first of these took place today at the Island Clinic, on the north side of Monrovia. Evidently our guides had not called ahead to alert the proper personnel that we were coming because, at the gate of the ETU (Ebola Treatment Unit), we had to introduce ourselves and our purpose at least five different times before finally being allowed entrance.
We were advised by Dr. Deal prior to leaving the States that, under no circumstances, should we have to enter any of the ETU’s. However, the well that this particular facility depended on lay exactly in the center of what the clinic administration referred to as the ‘red zone’. We were escorted up onto the roof of the 4 story hospital, only one floor of which is housing patients and that only since Sunday. This allowed us access to the water tanks which were filling and used for washing and disinfecting.
From there we had a breathtaking view of the ocean and a little harbor framed by small village houses. It would have been the perfect tropical scene were it not for the trauma that also invaded our field of vision. From our vantage point, we also had full view into the Ebola ward and could see children and adults lying in a strewn about manner. As we watched, a red SUV pulled up and Liberian Red Cross workers proceeded to pull the lifeless body of a man out of the backseat and wrap him up. The war is very much still raging.
The design at Island Clinic was very encouraging though as accommodations were made in the design for adding different potency levels of chlorine to kill virus and disease. There is still much talk on the local radio and on the street of people who have not yet accepted the fact that Ebola is real. A million rumors have been circulated that the death and sickness is actually a government conspiracy or perhaps a curse from God. The fact that the hospitals are treating the disease with due respect and that people are bringing their sick loved ones in demonstrates that the tide is turning in educating the people of Monrovia and dispelling the lies.
Please pray that those in the outlying towns and far distant villages would also believe and that, by faith and deed, health will be restored.
09.23.2014 | Dolo Town, outside of Monrovia
Today was quite eventful with the delivery of chlorinators and detailed training with the Dolo Town system operators. One mission of our trip here and of every single visit to villages and nations around the globe that Water Missions undertakes is the goal of spreading the Living Water message, which is the gospel.
The nation of Liberia is Christian and many of the people have devout beliefs steeped in rich tradition. As such, most of the individuals we encounter daily have been taught the same message that many of us have since infancy. Yet there is one glaring difference in the faith that I have and that of those we are mingling with during this crisis. Approximately 50% of the population of Liberia is illiterate and I hear this evidenced as children and adults alike try to sound out “wa—tah mish—uns”, the words scrolled across my shirt.
Water Missions has recently been blessed to engage In Touch Ministries as one of our most beloved partners and possibly the one with the greatest eternal consequences. Part of mine and Pat’s role here is to locate Liberian partners who can distribute some of the gifts that this relationship has garnered. Through partnership with the local chapter of Campus Crusade, nearly a thousand people will have the entire audio New Testament available to them at the push of a button!!! Additionally, with the implementation of a new device called LightStream, folks in Dolo Town and many other villages will soon be able to receive the spoken word directly transmitted to their cell phones (and everyone has a cell phone here). These same devices can also be formatted to reproduce proper sanitation techniques and other media directly tailored to prevent the Ebola Virus from spreading.
There is an old song I grew up listening to called “Thank You for Giving to the Lord” (thanks, Dad). I guess I think it’s pretty awesome that someday, you or I might run across a face in heaven that is so excited to meet us because we played some little part in getting the gospel to them.
Tomorrow we’re off to look at some additional sites that may be getting a Living Water™ Treatment System. While me and Pat may not get the chance to actually set that equipment up and see the water flow, we have every confidence that it will and that the Living Water message will be alive in Liberia for many years to come.
09.21.2014 | Dolo Town, outside of Monrovia
Safe water is running at Dolo Town!!!
We initially had some trouble with too many fine particles in the water which refused to be filtered by our Living Water™ Treatment System. However, the addition of Alum hit the spot and Pat’s liquid chlorine mixture was the icing on the cake. The villagers were a little hesitant at first and asked us if they could do their laundry in the water. However, remembering Molly Greene’s precedent set so many years ago in Honduras, I walked up and took a drink from the tap and then everyone wanted to try it. Huge victory!!!
Another little bonus to the day was finally getting a couple of the little kids in the town to smile. I had been playing with them when time allowed and trying to break through to those stoic little faces. I got a couple of them to hold up the Water Missions banner for a photo and was so glad to see them running around with grins.
09.20.2014 | Monrovia, Liberia
Today was a day off for us. We went to church with Zeela. Everyone going to church is required to wash their hands with chlorinated water prior to going into the building. In addition everyone’s temperature is checked and no one with a fever is allowed to enter.
Even at church we met someone who remembers Dr. Deal. A lady approached us as we entered a asked if we were from Water Missions. She said had heard from Dr. Deal while he was here that WMI needed chlorine tablets for the water treatment equipment. This woman had located and purchased tablets on her own and had them in her car hoping that she would find us. Unfortunately they were not the correct type of chlorine.
But the initiative of this woman is an example of the spirit and determination we see among many of the Liberians. There is concern and even fear because of Ebola but there is also a determination to do what needs to be done and an expectation that they will overcome this disease. It is truly remarkable.
09.19.2014 | ELWA Hospital, Monrovia, Liberia
Today we received a call from the person in charge of the water systems at the ELWA (we learned today that ELWA stands for Eternal Love Winning Africa) hospital and Ebola units. Because the ELWA Ebola treatment units are being expanded rapidly and this location is now the largest Ebola treatment center in Liberia, they are having problems keeping up with the increasing demand for water. There are currently two pumping stations that deliver water to three separate water distribution systems.
We were able to assess the condition of four different wells and determine that they could seriously benefit from our Erosion Chlorinators as well as a Grundfos pump. While they were dropping chlorine into the well every other week, the levels were not up to World Health Organization standards. This was particularly disconcerting at one well where piles of trash were littered all around and, again, no bathrooms were evident. The entire hospital gets its drinking water from these wells.
We developed a plan to install three stand-alone chlorinators, one on each distribution system. We have two chlorinators in country now that came with the air shipment. We will return to ELWA next week to install these two and train their maintenance people so that they will be able to install the third when the sea shipment arrives. This shipment also contains the chlorine tablets that will be needed to keep the water safe for the future. We left chlorine test strips with the staff at ELWA. We also plan to give them a full disaster response test kit before we leave so that they can do a better job of monitoring the water at this facility from now on. We will also leave them at least one of our spare submersible pumps since they have no spares of any kind and they are barely supplying the water demand now and the demand is increasing as Doctors Without Borders brings more Ebola units on line.
As we walked from one well to another, a truck pulled up with three men in the front and another in the back. We were quickly able to determine that the man in the back was being brought to the hospital by his friends. He was in fairly good shape although there was an all-too-familiar fatigued slump to his shoulders. The aid workers outside the gate began grilling him,
“Are you vomiting?”
As we drove back by the front gate to the comfort of our hotel, a crowd had developed to watch as four aid workers dressed in yellow full bodied protective gear were carrying the last shroud-wrapped body inside the gate. Evidently, an additional wing of the hospital has been opened which I can only count as a blessing even though it was too late for some.
It is good to know that we will be helping this new hospital wing and their workers to provide safe water to those with Ebola and those without and that we will be helping to prevent disease in Dolo Town. Safe water will be flowing for many very soon.
Pat and Jeremy
09.18.2014 | Dolo Town, outside of Monrovia
We have identified our first site to implement safe water: Dolo Town! The community is near the airport about 50km outside of downtown Monrovia and has recently been lifted from Ebola quarantine. Most people in the community currently get their water from shallow wells, which are highly susceptible to bacteria.
We arrived at the airport to collect our Living Water™ Treatment System and other goods and, to our dismay, found a minivan waiting to make the pickup. I recognize that many readers likely don’t know the size of our treatment system but suffice it to say, Pat, on all of his many Disaster Response adventures, had never before seen a minivan make the tote. I, with all the tact of hydrogen bomb, laughed out loud when the driver explained that the system was going in the back of this minivan. However, ten minutes later, with no fewer than fifteen Liberian forklifts and a half-inch to spare, the system was snugly in place and riding on the axles.
I have to backup at this point. A couple of days ago, I commented about the relief of seeing my bag safely spinning on the carousel at the airport. This does not begin to compare with the sheer bliss of walking around a shipment that WMI Volunteers put their sweat and fingerprints all over and seeing each and every item exactly as we packed it two weeks ago. There’s the spare parts box that Mac and Ted painstakingly put together; the tool kit that Joe patiently supervised; the totalizer that cranky Tom S. put together from his favorite stool; the extra chlorinators that Ed, Dr. T, and Rich meticulously lined up; and the extra pumps that we know will work because Mike S. and the Gene Team wired them up just the other day. I’ll bet if a crime lab dusted this stuff for prints, they’d find 70 different sets. I guess that’s one little part of what makes WMI such a cool family to be a part of. (Oh yeah, and I didn’t forget Bob and Art’s pressure relief valves…)
In many ways, Pat and I are the lucky ones because we’ll actually get to slap the finishing touches on that system tomorrow and see the amazed faces of the folks in Dolo as they see their well once again producing safe water. I could take a thousand pictures and write a thousand more words and still not convey the pride I feel in the volunteers and staff that make those drops possible. God has truly blessed us in refining us to the point of being found worthy to work in this one little part of his Kingdom.
09.17.2014 | Outside of Monrovia, Liberia
Years of military training have taught me to be very conscious of my surroundings, particularly when driving. In Iraq, we became adept at recognizing the signs of a potential roadside danger and I still occasionally catch myself swerving to avoid objects in the road that my mind tells me could be explosive devices. So today, when driving to potential sites to assess the water sources, we were forced to come to a quick halt because of a group of young men deliberately placing objects in the road and my mind instantly began signaling to exercise all caution. However, a quick analysis of these individuals told a far different story than any intent to cause harm. Rather, they methodically stacked limbs and furniture in the road with what I can only label as a sense of sadness.
As a host of frustrated drivers honked and yelled, they began pointing to the village just off the highway. Their reason for taking such drastic action being that four of their friends and loved ones lay dead and it had been days since they requested to have the bodies removed. As soon as the police arrived, they explained their predicament and just as forlornly removed the debris from the road. Our driver had attempted to go around the impromptu roadblock and gotten our vehicle stuck. To reinforce their desire to perform no ill will, many of the offenders came and lifted our truck out of the ditch and placed it back on the road to continue on our way. Not quite the scene I was trained to react to.
Following that escapade, our trip continued with remarkable success. We performed assessments of two different wells finding one that holds excellent promise as a training site for our future operators. I have renewed respect for many of our international staff who perform hundreds of these same assessments every year and have to separate the valuable data from the useless. I was also very glad that my fiancé bought me some heavy duty rain boots before I left because the rain has scarcely let up since our arrival here.
Feeling good from the progress made, Pat and I jumped back in the truck that MAP International has so graciously provided and began the 50 km drive back to our hotel in Monrovia. One sobering moment occurred during our drive back as we passed a truck laden with large black bags, which instantly sobered our crew and reminded us that these are not just any other safe water projects.
Please pray that the necessary beds quickly become available so that ill Liberians can get the type of care you or I would. Your prayers thus far have been very much felt!
09.16.2014 | Drinking From a Fire Hose
It’s nearing the end of our first full day in Monrovia and we are getting the full effect of the rainy season. Although they tell us that the rains are declining, it has been a steady downpour for about 6 hours and many streets are impassable to all but the most rugged vehicles. I noticed a great many SUVs with ‘snorkel kits’ on them when we first arrived and now I am beginning to understand why.
Today’s experience was one of countless meetings and handing out business cards to various dignitaries. Many of these recognize our Water Missions logo and ask the whereabouts of Dr. Jeff Deal, his presence still very much felt despite being gone for more than two weeks. Even our waiters at the restaurant inquired about him. The flood of information that we gather at these meetings is almost too much to handle and we are forced to sort through the sad accounts of loss and tragedy and focus on pushing forward. As we met with one ministry official, my eyes were drawn to the board behind him which contained death notices of individuals who had worked in this very office. We must, however, continue to critically analyze the myriad of possible water system locations and put all the pieces of this puzzle together into workable solutions.
One startling fact was offered by the Deputy Minister of Public Works who stated that tests have demonstrated approximately 50% of the wells around Monrovia have some level of e-coli infestation. This is largely due to the nearly complete absence of proper toilets in many areas. I asked him if those numbers were likely higher in rural communities where sanitation is even less available. His response was a simple nod. However, the Deputy Minister did offer a bright spot amidst the chaos mustering a smile and saying, “the silver lining is that, even though it is taking much death from Ebola and other disease, people are becoming far more conscious of the necessity of proper sanitation.” Public health officials have been trying for years to tackle the problems caused by poor hygiene practices. Only now, when the results are fatally evident, are those admonitions being taken to heart.
I am truly blessed to have Pat Haughney as my more-than-capable guide and mentor. In many meetings, I can only sit and listen as he skillfully dictates every relevant detail of what WMI brings to the table. We are hopeful to receive a list of so-called ‘cholera hot-spots’ where the implementation of safe water would hopefully mean prevention of disease rather than bringing more aid to those who are already ill. Pray that we have wisdom as to where the most good can be done with our very limited resources and that we would find favor in convincing officials of the same.
09.15.2014 | Charleston, South Carolina to Monrovia, Liberia
I had plenty of time to reflect on my previous international travel experiences during our various flights. In the past, I’ve always known who the enemy was and what to watch for in my travels with the Army. This scenario presents an entirely different spectrum of potential threats which are neither seen nor necessarily expected.
After two long days of travel, we have finally arrived in Monrovia. As the plane came in for its final descent, I found myself growing increasingly nervous and noticed that feeling was mutual as I made eye contact with other aid workers from various organizations on the flight. Sadly, the enormous plane only had about 40 seats filled, mostly by humanitarian relief workers. We watched as the plane’s crew methodically put on rubber gloves and face masks before we landed. This did nothing to allay our fears. However, Pat and I gave each other an encouraging smile, said our 100th quick prayer, and stepped off the plane to be greeted almost instantly by our first chlorine hand washing station.
It’s funny how little things like seeing your bag on the belt or the truck to pick you up can ease the tension that had been building over the last 31 hours of travel. A warm meal and safe hotel continued to bolster our spirits. We are looking forward to a good night’s rest before launching out in the morning to begin networking and assessing conditions and potential water sources.
We face a multitude of problems with all manner of origins. One that we are only beginning to grasp is that of the people’s deep cultural and religious beliefs. In many cases, they firmly believe that God will heal their families and friends and so pray for them with the laying on of hands. It is this very practice that may very well spread the disease but who are we to tell them what prayers our God will or will not choose to answer? Pray continually that He shows us how to approach each and every conversation and encounter with grace and wisdom.
Our Staff on the Ground:
Pat Haughney (left), Disaster Response Manager, and Jeremy Rees (right), Production Supervisor, traveled to Liberia for two weeks, documenting stories from their travels here. Pat, a seasoned disaster responder, and Jeremy, an experienced US Army Staff Sergeant, worked alongside fellow aid workers to deploy safe water for up to 100,000 people. Join us in praying for the people affected by Ebola in West Africa, the aid workers, and for God’s name to be proclaimed through it all.