Author: Eric

As we progress toward our goal of reaching 100 wells, the drilling locations have become more remote. During our first 50 wells it felt as though we canvassed as many “easy” communities as possible. Not that is wasn’t difficult, we are usually the only game in the village. But a daily commute on average was 90 minutes one way, and we could sleep at our own compound each night.

The last 20 wells stretched our teams, our equipment and our reach on La Gonave. Drilling Gros Mangles was an incredible achievement. It was nearly four hours away and required one day just to transfer and set up the equipment, when the salt flats were dry enough to support our rig. It had proven the extent of where we could reach and still sleep at home per se.

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Since we only drill one month per year, each day is critical to keeping the drill bit in the ground. We can’t afford to have 50% of our days spent on travel time and set up. Since we will reach to the very west end of the island this summer, far from our compound, it was time to not only locate villages that we could access for drilling, but also find a few new places we could house our drilling teams. That would prove to be difficult but not impossible.

This year as we scouted, we visited many villages that were some of the most remote places on La Gonave. We touched the west end at Plain Trou Louis and the highest peak in the region of Lotorre, half mile above sea level, as well as the pebble covered southern coast at Pointe A Raquette.

photoWe met villagers who hike a half day to fetch water for their families. As they explained, they don’t even drink water every day because the travel time would prohibit any other activities in life. Water is the foundation of physical human existence. In these places, the fragility of life is evident in every family. Being born into such a remote and harsh environment is a crap shoot for survival. Lives melt away in complete obscurity as people die without adequate water. Nobody knows them, and their stories go untold.

These families were gracious as always. Some shared from their fresh harvest of peanuts, mangos, or opened their churches to allow us a place to roll out the sleeping bags. They were curious and kind, always willing to give the nothing they had. It certainly endears you to Gonavians. This drives me to dream of doing that which seems so unconventional and risky while we search for water.

Some of the accommodations yielded tarantulas the size of my hand, which kept our media guru Erik Hansen from Webster Street Media up all night with his headlamp and my only spoon, hunting these fuzzy man eating beasts. It felt like we were living in a washing machine the half day we spent each day riding in the back of a 4×4 bouncing over rocks and ravines. We viewed the landscape as we slammed off each other and the gear we carried. The views over cliffs were majestic but hoped our “chauffer guide” would steer clear of. Had we rolled off a cliff there was no “life flight” to bring us to safety.

All in all we located 15 villages that may very well represent the last 30 locations we drill for water wells. These locations hold a mysterious unrelenting challenge as some must have felt waiting at their camp before ascending to the peak of Everest. Fortunately made new friends, and even found a remote “outpost” that will serve as our final base camp before we push forward to 100.

As we wound down the trip, my good friend Kent Harle and I found some old Honda XR400 motorcycles to go blow off some steam. We spent an afternoon traveling at a much higher rate of speed, which raised our fun factor to its zenith. It was an epic way to finish a grueling week.

There is plenty of prep to be completed over the next four months, but the route and locations are clarified, and obstacles defined. It’s time to put our heads down and complete the prep before looking up again at our goal sometime in late May.

Screenshot 2013-11-26 09.39.18It’s hard to put into words the incredible amount of success that we have experienced in 2013.  Since importing the Schramm T64 onto the island of La Gonave back in the summer of 2007, we have experienced many challenges and acclimated to the pressures of drilling in such a tough environment.

This year was quite special in our history of sending drilling teams from Guts Church.  We took on the greatest challenges yet, traveling to distant places such as Gros Mangles, and mountain peaks in Bua Bolie. But through it all our teams from Guts Church performed at their highest levels and we saw the greatest victories yet.  I couldn’t be more proud of all the men from Guts Church who volunteered their time and money and risked their health to come and drill alongside Curt King and our Haitian workers.

My heart is filled with gratitude for our partnership with Curt King and his commitment to help us complete our goal of 100 wells on La Gonave.  It is such an honor to work alongside a master craftsman who has spent his life drilling in remote places around the world honing his skills and now, seeing him at the peak of his career working with us is humbling.  Curt anchors our teams and ensures we operate safely and productively, thank you Curt!

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During 2013 we drilled 14 wells, nine of which produced fresh water in six communities that had no available fresh water sources locally.  Collectively these wells produce fresh water for up to 9,000 people per day. At this stage we have drilled approximately 70 wells on our way to our goal of 100.  Of these 70 wells, approximately 35 produce fresh potable drinking water daily.  This translates for up to 35,000 people, or 1/3 of the population of La Gonave having access to fresh water locally every day.

Our ability to access some of the most dangerous and remote places on La Gonave is nothing short of miraculous.  We can see God’s divine intervention working with us each day as we attempt accessing new well sites.  Our hearts thrive on the challenge of attempting wells in villages who watch us, hoping with emotions ranging from excitement to desperation as they wait to see if the drill bit will yield it’s liquid fruit from beneath the surface.  And many experience joy as we find water.

One particular town was La Cayene.  A coastal town on the northern side of La Gonave, completely isolated by a rocky ridge and no quality roads which impede the ability for any organization to even want to attempt access.  But this year we chose to try.  As our well drilling machine crawled up the ridge, and we walked next to it praying the tires would hold out, I questioned why we would risk our equipment on this village.

At the ridge top, we looked down at the village within walking distance and asked the locals to clear us a spot.  We knew that this was probably our best shot as drilling by the coast would produce only salty water.  The locals worked for a day clearing a site, and we set the equipment and began drilling.

As always happens the crowd gathered watching, waiting hoping and praying.  About two hours in, it happened, clear blue water shot from the ground, it was s gusher!  Curt took the cup and tasted the water but his smile turned somber as he spit our salty water.  We passed the cup into the crowd and their frowns confirmed our suspicion, unusable. With a clenched jaw and no small amount of anger I looked at our team and said “we are not quitting, lets go down the ridge and into the village.”  It was a move that had no common sense, but there was no way we could pack up and leave.  Curt and I have a “three strikes your out” rule, and he probably knew that’s what we needed to do.  He held strong and the crew followed. Within a half mile we had a flat, and put on our last spare. The locals told us of fresh water that seeped from rocks just west of the town, maybe there we could drill.  The crew was quiet as we arrived and set up the equipment and went about our work.  The locals worked alongside, helping to arrange casing, after clearing the site.

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Again we hit water and the crowd held its breath.  This time Curt tasted the water pressed his lips together and smiled.  The crowd erupted in laughter, relief and praise.  I took my drilling hat and poured precious life giving water over my head. As the crowd partied on, Curt turned to me and said “there isn’t a geologist alive that would tell us to drill here, it’s a miracle.”  I replied “lets drill another.”  And we did, and hit fresh water again.

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Everyone roots for the underdog and there is no dog under this one.  The island of La Gonave produces the poorest people, in the poorest country in the western hemisphere.

Visiting La Gonave with the idea of bringing change can be quite a daunting task.  The need is certainly quantifiable.  There is between 75% and 90% unemployment.  The largest employers on the island are NGO’s (non governmental organizations) doing their best to help.  There are no public schools, no real municipalities, no roads, no public power, water or sanitation systems, etc.

It is easy to talk about “the island” and refer to it’s inhabitance in terms of population density, age, gender and location.  But these are real people, each of whom has their own story.  They have dreams, talents, emotions and desires just like us.  Once a project begins to touch people whom you meet, it all becomes personal.

Although we do our best to tell the stories through blogs, videos and photos, it is impossible to capture the essence of the punishing poverty unless you are actually there.

Until you smell the stench, live without water in the heat, walk on craggy rock covered roads, and through fields covered in thorns, hold starving children for yourself, and experience the desperation of human suffering, you just can’t quantify this.  It is impossible to measure the sea of compassion that flows from our hearts for the people of La Gonave and this is why we do what we do.

As we drilled water wells last week in La Cayan we handed rolls of Smarties to children between two and six years old.  These children unwrapped their candies and were happy to share their treat with other children around them. The fact that these children who have nothing, were willing to share their gift certainly moved and convicted us.

Every time we drill a well, or feed a child, it reinforces that poverty can be overcome.  It is within our power, our ability to defeat poverty.  Truthfully if we work together with our resources, poverty will topple.

La Gonave is desolate, but it doesn’t have to be.

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This past week our driller, Curt King, arrived on La Gonave with one of our Haitian employees to perform maintenance on the drilling rig.  The Big Red Truck fired up and after two days of tinkering and repairs.  State side we received a long list of items for purchase and replacement.

Over the next two weeks Guts Church interns are working to source materials and supplies from around the country to update the 30 year old drilling rig, and push it through the June drilling season.  These parts will be hand carried to La Gonave by members of the drilling teams to ensure their on time arrival.

Details are checked and then double checked.  On La Gonave there are no auto parts stores to pick up a replacements.  So we must plan for what we need and hope the “bailing wire and duct tape” holds out as we push our equipment and drilling teams far into the mountings in search of water on the island of La Gonave.


Screen Shot 2013-05-15 at 11.24.32 AMThis time of year is all logistics.  There is much more that goes into drilling wells then just driving the rig to a site and putting the bit in the ground.  Drilling sites, and road maps must be created, supplies and materials are procured in the USA, and Port Au Prince and shipped to La Gonave.  Endless lists of supplies.  Team trips are formed, meetings held and tickets booked.  Pumps and PVC are inventoried and drilling bits inspected.

 

I am thankful for the team at Guts Church who work hard to help make preparations for the trips, as well as the men who volunteer their time and money to travel to La Gonave and help our people on the ground drill wells.  We are always looking for candidates who may be qualified and have interest in joining a drilling trip so email the info link and we will respond.  Although teams are booked for this year, we keep a waiting list of candidates for the next drilling season.

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The drilling season employs several Haitian men who make their annual wages in June to support their families.  They find odd jobs and scrape by until the next time we see them.  These men are talented and hard working, certainly resourceful.  But they live in an economy with 75% unemployment and no government subsidies.  I am Looking forward to seeing Snaider, Airiant and the crew as they pour concrete pads and install new pumps this June.  I hope the water flows and they have more work installing pumps than they can handle.
We will keep our eyes on the prize.  It’s easy to do that scrolling through photos and seeing faces of those we visited some months ago, who wait for us day by day, waiting for the big red truck to bring fresh water.

HAI06_0004I am reminded of this as we ride motorcycles on challenging trails that we hope will support the drilling rig.  As we attempt to travel further into the island than ever before, we pass children with buckets, some empty and others full, carrying their daily supply of water two hours one way.

People know us on the island.  Not as You Help Haiti but as “Go Machine Rouge”, the Big Red Truck.  People know that water sustains life.  Without it you die.  So Go Machine Rouge is a big deal on La Gonave.  When we ride our motorcycles into a village to investigate the possibilities, hopes are high.

There are so many challenges that we face each year during drilling season, and this scouting trip helped me get my mind right for what lies ahead.  We are thankful for our 35 year old drilling rig because if it breaks we can fix it.  This is within our control.  Unfortunately there are some villages we visited that will not receive water because the roads simply will not support a rig the size of Go Machine Rouge.

It’s heartbreaking to have scheduled a meeting with village officials, only to arrive and tell them we will not be drilling.  With sunken shoulders and long faces they sink into regret.  Maybe another time.

I am so thankful for what Concern is doing to improve the roads around the coast and into low lying mountain villages.  Their work provided access for us to reach new villages in 2011 when we drilled 23 wells in two months.

We also encourage villages to put together a “road work committee” but it is nearly impossible for them to improve road conditions with no equipment, and no supply of good foods and water for crews working.

It is simply mind boggling how on an island so small, people can be completely isolated.  People in mountain villages never travel to the coast, and vice versa.  Road conditions in a brutally mountainous region keep people from sharing information, trading foods or other products, teaching each other, and simply keeping in touch.  Without vehicles, it’s a two day walk to make the 10 mile journey from mountain villages to coastal towns.  And with no way to transport anything, why would someone travel?  The conditions land lock villages and make them natural prisons that keep them disconnected from the world.

I am encouraged one again as we pass through the village of Palma where we drilled and installed wells some years ago.  Its late evening and the sun is setting but there are hundreds of people gathered, visiting while they fill buckets of water for the community around them.  The run off trickles across the path to a large field that is prepped and ready to grow crops this spring.

La Gonave is a bittersweet dichotomy.  To view the beauty of the island but experience the desperation of the people makes me realize it is truly poverty in paradise.  

_DSC1442I have been encouraged as we passed villages using the wells we have supplied in years past.  There is a certain difference in the communities where we have installed the wells and villages where we have not.  Crops and fruit trees are growing around homes, people congregate around wells.  There is a change in the attitude people have toward their community and life.

I can’t properly articulate what I’ve seen throughout the island other than saying La Gonave is truly the slums of Haiti (a comment made by our translator).  At it’s best LA Gonave provides a subsistence living for those in the mountains able to grow some crops.  In the lower regions not even this is available.

A consistent clean water source will always be the primary need for those on La Gonave.  Rains come and go, collecting and storing water costs money and is a challenge.  We are at the end of the dry season which makes La Gonave look like a scorched moon landscape.  Most cisterns are dry and those with little water are happy to share with their neighbors.

In the 30 or so villages we have visited I’ve had a few interesting experiences.  We stopped at a cave known at “bat cave” where hundreds of bats nest.  Inside there was a little pool of water people were dipping buckets in and taking home for consumption.  Of course it was contaminated with bat droppings but in their desperate state it was their only option.  We plan to drill a well close by so families in this village can enjoy fresh clean water.

We had a flat tire in Abricot after a two hour ride.  This cluster of mountain villages has 25,000 people and no  economy , but a soccer field built by a wealthy business man in the US.  It’s the only grass I’ve ever seen on La Gonave.  While the tire was being fixed we sipped a fruit drink and visited with a man who lost his right leg after being severely burned making charcoal.  Because there was no proper medical aid they just hacked it off!

We were able to complete the scouting two days early which provided us ample time to bring out the drilling rig and drill for a nearby village.  Thankfully we did hit water at 300 feet, pumping a healthy 8 gallons per minute.  Cheers went out from the hundreds of Haitians that watched and waited hoping we would find water, and we did.

Many villages are desperate for water.   Most nights we were approached with delegations form villages around the area begging us to come and drill.  It is a difficult situation to navigate, but our hope is to reach all Haitians on La Gonave with fresh water.  The need is so great because people simply cannot survive without water.

by Pastor Bill Scheer

_DSC2953For many years millions of dollars have been poured into Haiti, for social justice and ministry. There has been small pockets of change through this culture, but so much seems to have been unaffected.

We aim to do what we can to bring the needed change these people are literally dying to see. LaGonave is a small island off the coast of main Haiti, with over 100,000 people, mostly children living in unimaginable poverty. But, this is changing.

Through the efforts of some amazing people, God is turning this around. Drinking water is being drilled, children are being fed and educated, medical attention is being given, and lives are being enriched all over this 9 x 21 mile island.

A great thing about this, all money given to this effort goes directly to feeding children, drilling water wells, running a medical clinic, and operating a school with hundreds of children grades K – 10.
The budget of this tremendous endeavor is about $250,000. That’s just 2500 people giving $100 (or five giving $50,000).

If you are able, please give something.
Thanks for reading this,

Bill Scheer
Pastor, Guts Church

by Eric English

_DSC1014The drilling team returned to La Gonave after a successful scouting trip which yielded one fresh water well at the end of April.  This time the team will remain on La Gonave for a full two months, drilling water wells in villages with no fresh water supply throughout the region.

Through the first ten days there have been many obstacles the team has had to overcome.  A two day rain storm didn’t slow the drilling operation although it made challenging working conditions even more difficult.  The rough mountainous terrain caused a series of flat tires on the drilling rig, extending work days and increasing the hazard.  A broken U joint sent the drive shaft through the air brake system causing mechanical damage and creating challenging repairs for the team.

All of these challenges were overcome and six additional fresh water wells were drilled through this first ten days of the summer drilling excursion.  The villages of Cherrishib, Abricot, La Palmiste, and Terre Seche received fresh water wells, providing the single source for water within their community.

Crowds of Haitians watched and cheered in each community as the drilling team worked tirelessly for hours in the heat.   Celebrations erupted as the clean water flowed from the freshly drilled holes.

Work will continue in dozens of villages throughout the island of La Gonave this summer.  Remember to give, and to forward this link on your social media.

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