Sunday, August 21, 2011
Posted by Kriss Gates
One of the first things that we had to do here was work on a well, because getting water to the people is a huge priority.... We have learned that "Water is Life"!
We had a great community service project for Helping Hands with the Pointe Noire Branch yesterday. The main part of the community project was to help introduce the neighbors to the church by offering to help them get water for the week.
Usually these sweet, hardworking women have to walk well over a mile to get water and then carry it back to their homes.
The women pump the water into yellow "bidos" which are the empty containers that were originally filled with vegetable oil. Then they put a cloth through the handle of the bido and wrap the cloth around their heads, and hoist the bido up... ... and carry the bido on their backs.
The full bidos are VERY, VERY heavy. I can't lift one. A very few women have wheelbarrows which makes is slightly easier to carry. But, many others have babies on their backs...
... so they carry the bidos in their hands. VERY, VERY, VERY heavy.
The women go get the family's water 99% of the time. It is a custom that has been handed down for hundreds of years. The men used to go hunting and fishing... so the women did the work at home, including getting the water.
This is the water they use for everything... cleaning, laundry, bathing, eating, etc. The amount a family uses determines how often the women have to go for water. If the family lives close to the well they will often just get one bido at a time. However, if the family lives far away from the water stations, the women will take several empty bidos and "leap frog" them to get them home.
Our service project evolved from a prior project from a couple of weeks ago, where we built a house on a piece of property owned by a member of our branch to use for families in our branch when they have no work in order to help them get back on their feet.
Part of yesterday's project was to paint the house.
For paint, we used old motor oil. They heated it up and added a chunk of tar, and stirred it until the tar block was melted...
... then they painted it onto the house. They say that it protects the wood from termites and the sun and the rain.
For the next part of the service project, the church offered to fill the water bidos of all the neighbors in the area. The church even paid for the water. It costs 50 cefas (about 10 cents) to fill each bido. The neighbors were thrilled.
When we arrived, the neighbors started to bring out their empty bidos. Water delivery is so precious that they brought out anything that would hold water. A few of the neighborhood families have wheelbarrows. We were overwhelmed when we realized there were over 100 bidos to fill.
The truck could hold about 32 of the bidos at a time. We had our truck and one other about the same size as ours. We drove over the very bumpy road to get to the water station, and filled the first truck load of bidos with water. Then we returned to the home base.
Upon our return, there were at least 200 bidos lined up for us to take. The neighbors were thrilled to have a day off from getting water. At first, it was a little crazy with everyone butting in line.
They didn't want to miss out on this opportunity. However, Elder Garner took over the organizational end of the project...
... and had everyone put their bidos in order of arrival... first come, first served.
The news of the project spread and the feeling of service spread with it. Entire families came and stayed to mingle, and the children were as interested in us, as if we were as if a circus had come to town. They don't usually see white people, especially not 5 at a time!
Elder Gates worked his fanny off for over 5 hours...
... loading and unloading and driving over the crazy road. It would be like being on Disneyland's "Raiders of the Lost Ark" drive for that long. The elders and members of the ward manned the two water stations...
.... and helped fill the bidos we would drop off and switch for the ones they had already filled up.
We lost track of how many trips we made.
I spent a couple of hours playing games with the children. The Hokey Pokey and Limbo were favorites.
When we were exhausted from entertaining the neighborhood, Elder Mutombo and Elder Thompson taught the entire group how to sing "I am a Child of God"... in French, of course.
The morning became a special blur of hundreds of dark faces with big smiles all along the road we drove back and forth on, as the neighbors waved at us with appreciation. The blur included bright yellow Helping Hands vests and bright yellow bidos. The church was appreciated and became well known in that area yesterday, for all that Helping Hands stands for. When we got the final count for the day... we had filled over 709 bidos... It was an honor to be part of the excitement!