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Drilling a Well of Love in Kijgari: An Appeal for Help
March 22, 2010
Dear Friends of the Azawak,
I am excited to share with you our most recent adventure drilling of our Kijigari Well of Love. Denis Gontero – Amman Imman’s Niger Program Director, and my husband -- returned from the bush with amazing and inspiring stories, as well as photos and footage to share our newest tale of relief and change.
Before I go any further, let me start by saying that although the borehole has been successfully drilled, it has yet to provide the people with the abundant water it is capable of producing. This is the wrenching irony, and where the story turns from inspiration to an appeal:
In order to make water accessible for the people of Kijigari, we need to raise $50,000 by May. This is how much is still needed to build the infrastructure that will bring the water to the surface.
I ask you to join me on this adventure to the village of Kijigari, and follow with me to its closure so that together we can satisfy the quest of the people for water.
A Convoy of Hope Leaves from Niamey
Denis left Niamey on February 1st to join a convoy of five rigs, equipped with drills, tubes, and all kinds of impressive machinery. After two days of travel from Niamey to Tahoua, then through Abalak, Denis and the construction team finally reached the village of Kijigari. As the convoy barreled into the village, they were generously welcomed by curious children, passers-by, and community leaders praying that construction happen safely.
The rest of the day was devoted to setting up the machinery and equipment. The first thing that had to happen was to find water to create mud necessary for the drilling. Several members of the team traveled another 20km away at one of the rare marshes that had not yet dried, and then filled up large holes that had been dug around the borehole location to create mud pits. Those that stayed in Kijigari placed the equipment and machinery, and prepared all drilling bits and tubing.
Songs of Thanks as Drilling Begins
At 5 AM the next morning, the construction site glowed from miles away while temporary light structures lit the otherwise dark and barren landscape. Denis sat with villagers of all ages in anticipation while 9 meter drilling tubes were loaded onto the drill bit. Then, whoosh, drilling began. Silt and mud churned out, as the machine drilled deeper and deeper. A sediment sample was taken every meter drilled, and set aside for examination.
As the dawn of the day brought the hot sun to shine on Kijigari, village children crowded in glee around the drilling site. Young girls danced and sang songs in Tamashek -- the local language -- giving thanks that their long trips in search for water would end, as water would soon flow in their home. The children’s exaltation was coupled late afternoon when sediment samples proved the presence of water.
180 meters deep into the ground, initial drilling ended.
Placing Permanent Tubing and Blowing Air to Clean 180 meters Deep
Once the initial drilling ended, the hole-making tubes were lifted out one by one, only to be replaced by PVC plastic tubing. These long and sturdy blue tubes were loaded onto another drill bit resembling a monster with big teeth, and carefully placed into the hole in order to permanently align its walls and prevent it from caving in.
Less than 48 hours later, machine and engine sounds halted as drilling came to a close. Now came time to “blow out” the borehole. This consisted of blowing heavy bouts of air into the hole in order to clean it out of sediment and dirt that had fallen in during the drilling. Denis recalls mud shooting out of the borehole. As water continued spewing out into the night, one construction worker took a “shower” in the downpour for the first time in several days. Only the next day did the water come out clear and potable.
Finally…. water for everyone
The “blowing out” procedure was followed by the pump trials, which show how much water can be pumped out of the borehole without the water level plummeting. These tests also determine the type of pump and engine that must be used once the borehole is equipped. After six hours of constant pumping, the water level hardly budged, indicating that the aquifer is bountiful.
Denis and our local representative, Moumine, visited households inviting villagers to fill up all their water containers and jerry cans during this process. Once the pump trials began, nomads and villagers from far and near came to fill as many containers as they could handle. Donkeys pulled wagons covered with ten or more jerry cans and barrels. Men, women and children carried up to five jerry cans, and waited patiently their turn. Women did their laundry, and children bathed in the runoff. A group of four young girls washed their hair. More children sang and danced, this time jumping in the puddles formed by the water. Even the animals drank to their heart’s content.
The next day, people still traveled to the borehole hoping to fetch water, only to be turned away….
Joy Turns to Anxious Anticipation
After seven hours of joy and hope in gathering water, people had to be turned away the following day. The pumping trials, although successful, had ended. Instead, the team had begun loading tubing and other equipment onto their lorries, in preparation for departure. One single construction team member stood packing sand around a capped tube sticking out of the ground, the only proof of the borehole accessing water 180 meters below. A few men and children watched as he placed a lock on the tube, and handed the keys to the village chief.
Who could have guessed that over the past many days, banging machinery had replaced the pounding of millet, camel yelps, and blowing wind? Mothers asked Denis, “Do we have to go back to searching for water afar? How much longer must we wait before we can drink this water?”. .. the same water that was so tangible and drinkable just the day before. Denis wanted to answer, “Right away”, but instead had to respond, “We are working very hard to come up with the money needed to bring the water above ground, we hope before the height of the dry season”.
Making The Water Flow In Kijigari: What You Can Do
The dry season has already hit the land, and Kijigari villagers have gone back to traveling 20 to 30 miles a day in 105 degree heat looking for water. Yet water lies 180 meters at the bottom of a deep pipe installed right in their village. Every day Denis, Moumine, and I get messages from the villagers asking when we will be able to bring the water to the surface. They are counting the time, not in months or days, but in seconds and minutes. The lives of their children lie in our hands.
Pure and permanent water in Kijigari is only $50,000 away. You can help Amman Imman make the water flow. Over the next two months we intend to build the water tower, pump, faucets and animal troughs - before the height of the dry season - BUT WE NEED YOUR HELP.
Over the last four years students around the world, particularly in Montessori schools, raised the funds that helped us drill the Kijigari Montessori Well of Love, dedicated to our dear late Dennis Hamilton. This spring, thanks to our new partnership with the Earth Day Network, A Walk For Water and the Amman-a-thon have been named official Earth Day events.
Here's what you can do to join our Heroes of Compassion and help make water flow in Kijigari by May:
- Become an Individual or Corporate Sponsor and offer to match the funds raised by a school. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to find out how.
- Plan your own official A Walk For Water or Amman-a-thon Earth Day event in your community. Step-by-step guides are available. Visit www.ammanimman.org/walk to sign up.
- Help in your own creative and compassionate way.
Please be a part of fulfilling the mothers' wishes, and help raise $50,000 to bring clean and plentiful water to their thirsty children by May.
Yours in Hope and Love for the Children of the Azawak,
For more information about Amman Imman, please visit http://www.waterishope.org. To read about student efforts to help, visit: