Empowerment 101: African Team Learns to Fix Wells Themselves

Clean Water | Print

“But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded.”

-2 Chronicles 15:7

Sometimes, loving someone means stepping back and letting them find solutions to their own problems. This is the kind of empowerment that BGR partners strive to give people through the projects you support. It’s a blessed thing (and necessary, at times!) to take action in a time of great need—to drill a well in a village with no water or cover a freezing family with a blanket. But when you teach people to take the reins on their own—that’s when God can do wonders in a community!

No one knows this better than a team of nine newly minted pump repair specialists in Africa.

You helped volunteers train them to repair broken water pumps.  

More than 230,000 people live in just one refugee camp. That’s lots of people who need lots of water. Though many wells have been drilled throughout the settlement, pumps can break and leave wells essentially dry. Rather than send volunteers to repair the pumps and leave, you supported a project to train locals how to complete the repairs themselves.

The nine Africans chosen for the training stood in a circle around a pump, watching closely, as the trainers walked them through a repair step by step.

Step 1: Remove the pump head and pull the pipe out of the well.

Step 2: Assess the pipe and fix the problem.

Step 3: Lower the pipe back into the hole, replace the pump head, and let the water flow.

Sounds simple enough, right? Now, it was the team’s turn to try. The trainers took a step back and watched the team successfully repair a pump on their own. After several more successful repairs, the trainers felt the team was confident enough to launch on their own, and they left.

Two months later, the team was busy repairing yet another pump. After removing the pump head, they hoisted the pipe out of the hole and found the problem—a few seals that had gone bad. So far, so good.

But then, as it happens, a small mistake became a big problem.

As they were lowering the pipe back, they failed to double-check their safety measures. The pipe slipped and disappeared into the hole, causing more damage to the well on its way down. Their hearts sank with it. After a full day of trying, no tool could retrieve the pipe—it was too far down. Frustrated, the team was ready to quit and walk away.

At that moment, it would be easy to say, “I guess they weren’t ready. The trainers should have just fixed all the pumps for them.” And maybe they could have, giving water to thousands more people! But what would happen the next time a pump broke? Who would be there to fix it?

Instead, a team leader refused to let them give up.

He encouraged the team to keep trying—find a solution, finish the repair. After a total of three days and an email to one of the trainers, they finally fished the lost pipe from the hole using a special tool and fixed the well damage. By now, people had gathered to see what would happen. Many had brought buckets, hoping to finally fill them from a well that hadn’t produced water in over a year.

As the crowd watched, the team slid the pipe carefully—carefully—back into place. No slips this time. They placed the pump head back on and started pumping. Everyone held their breaths, waiting.

As that first bucket of water poured from the pump head, the crowd roared in joy. The repair team danced, clapping each other on the back and hugging.  They congratulated each other, knowing they had done something that months before would have been impossible.

You helped create an impact that could last for generations.

The team has gone on to repair more than five pumps. Over 2,500 people now have a consistent clean water source. Those are incredible outcomes! But only God could measure the importance of that celebration. That team now has the confidence to help their community with their own hands. That translates to a lifetime of better lives.

Thank you for loving people in need. Thank you for loving them enough to let them make mistakes and create their own solutions. You can give again and bring that dignity to more communities around the world.