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  • Brian Roos

Working Side by Side

Working Side by Side

A Reflection on Water Development in Kabingo

Water in Kabingo has been a challenge for as long as anyone can remember. I have listened to Fr. Richard’s childhood recollections and discussed the issue on my most recent trip in January of 2020 with Lubega Lawrence, the head of the HFK Ugandan water board. Lubega Lawrence was old enough to be my grandfather. In his appreciation, as we stood at a tap stand in the city center, he told a story that spanned decades (and likely generations) in Kabingo. He said that since he was a young child, the people of Kabingo have not had reliable water sources. To collect water during some seasons, whole groups of our friends in Kabingo would leave their homes very early in the morning (I believe he meant like 2 am) and go to surrounding villages in search of springs and ponds. They would need to arrive there in the dark of morning to be able to get their water before the local people crowded and took over the areas around the ponds. Once people had collected their water, they would head back to Kabingo and hopefully arrive before the sun. This story illustrated to me that by the time my alarm clock goes off, there are likely millions of people in the world who have spent hours merely gathering water for the day

…I find that a sobering thought...

Some decades ago, on a cattle ranch bordering the outskirts of Kabingo, the ranch owners built a dam and formed a pond (see photo below), which they allow everyone to use. During the time that HFK has been in the area, this surface water supply has been available. Surface water presents many problems for safe consumption, but it is still water.

One of the early HFK projects was adding shallow wells in low lying areas around Kabingo and drilling a few deep wells. By 2012 the water supply was increased through these efforts, and we had the opportunity to learn a lot of lessons. Mainly that deep wells in the area have incredibly high iron content, and shallow wells placed in low lying areas are hard to access and run dry during times of drought. The original pumps on the deep wells were hand pumps like the one shown, and the water was not “sweet water”. Once it was removed from the ground, the Iron oxidized quickly. The deep wells/hand pumps remained available, but the shallow well placed in a ravine across the road from the clinic became the closest source for clean & tasty water. However, with the equipment available, transporting any significant quantity of water to the schools proved difficult most of the year and impossible when it rained.

About six years ago, HFK was able to help provide a 4x4 water truck, generator, and electric pump. This equipment allowed the secondary school kids of Kabingo to experience a gift which I have taken for granted. Readily available water. It became clear to HFK’s leaders, partners and mission trip teams that we could drastically increase the time available for education, health, and empowerment if we could expand the potable water supply throughout the area far beyond the schoolyard.

As always, God was at work in our plans before we knew what our plans were. In a very real way, God had aligned our timeline with the Greater Cincinnati Professional Chapter of Engineers Without Borders. In 2015 HFK reached out to EWB-USA to find out how to partner with their organization. We were almost immediately able to partner with a Local EWB chapter that had just completed a project that is within hours of Kabingo. To save time, I will just say this alignment of times, teams and geographies are not at all what EWB-USA told us we could expect when we first reached out to them.

Almost immediately, the partnership between HFK and EWB solidified, and we each became stronger together as we set about developing and building our five-year water plan. In conjunction with the Greater Cincinnati Professional Chapter and Miami University Chapter of Engineers without Borders, the water project today encompasses three deep wells powered by solar pumps, which move up to 9,000 liters per hour to a large scale filtration system that is built on the highest hill in the area. From there, the system uses gravity to filter the Iron, and particulates out of the water using aeration, sedimentation, and slow sand filtration. Daily we are currently supplying ~36 000 liters of clean, filtered, potable water to ~1,000 school students and ~2,500 community members in the Kabingo and surrounding Villages, Ndagwe county, Lwengo district, Uganda.

In addition to providing clean water to Kabingo and four surrounding villages, we have started to move onto the essential next step of sanitation and hygiene.

In conjunction with Wright State University’s EWB chapter, the first of three proposed handwashing stations has been built. This handwashing station was available for secondary students to use as classes began in late Jan 2020. Again God’s timing is immaculate as the COVID-19 pandemic soon gripped the world, and the importance of proper hand hygiene became a worldwide talking point.

It has been a great honor for me to serve on the board of HFK, work side by side with David Tebandeke, whom my wife and I sponsored through both his civil engineering diploma and degree. And, of course, partner with the always amazing group of people from EWB to help empower and provide Hope For Kabingo.

- Brian Roos, HFK Board Member and VP of Infrastructure

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