37-year-old Adam Langford of Glastonbury had a dream to drill a water well in Africa. Alive & Well, a charity operating in Sierra Leone, made Adam’s dream come true. Adam, who has spent 17 years drilling boreholes, had always hoped to bring his skills to bear to alleviate poverty in Africa. It so happens that Alive & Well had already drilled 60 boreholes in Sierra Leone, one of the world’s poorest countries. Says Kim Findlay, managing director of Alive & Well, ‘Our African drilling crew was experienced but desperately needed training in the finer points of percussion drilling. When we were contacted by Adam, I knew we had the man to help us.’
In November 2015 Adam travelled to Freetown , to be met by a member of Sierra Leone’s parliament Hon Senesi Fawundu. From there they took a four-wheel drive truck and an eight-hour drive into the jungle to the village of Korigboma part of Mr Fawundu’s constituency.
Adam says ‘For the next 10 days I shared the life of the villagers eating their food and entertaining the kids at night, many of whom will have seen a white man only once or twice before.
During my stay, we were able to drill two holes. Unfortunately, we hit rock the first time and so moved to another village, Mano, where we found a good head of water at 10 metres.’
Life in Sierra Leone is not easy even by African standards. In the 1990’s Sierra Leone was in the grip of a vicious civil war. We spoke to villagers about the conflict and life since democracy was restored. Says Chief Komara of Mano Village, ‘The rebels came over the border from Liberia and took everything in this and other villages around here. Then they rounded up hundreds of villagers and forced them to walk in the jungle. Many died of illness and starvation. All the animals in the jungle were killed for food. Sometime the soldiers chopped off arms, hands, lips and ears. The war is passed, we are determined to live peacefully, even with people who were killing us then.’ Thirty metres from his house a mass grave attests to the killing.
I asked him about life in the village now. ‘We own some land where we farm rice, cocoa, and palm oil trees. The village gets two to three million Leonies a year from this. (The equivalent of £285!)’ With Ebola we were unable to trade, so we lost even this income.’ The village is home to about 250 people.
We asked a villager in Makka, where Alive & Well have drilled a well sponsored by Clifton College and another local charity, Rory’s Well, what difference has the well made to her life? Her name was Manawa Tuay, aged 80. Speaking through an interpreter she said ‘I had six children but two have died. I have lived in this village all my life. Before the well came last year we had to walk to the stream half a mile away for water. For me it was heavy carrying the water. But the water was dirty and my grandchildren often get diarrhoea. Nobody in my family died but I know lots of (other) children died before we got the well.’ Her words were echoed by Sombo Kallon of Semabu village who added ‘God Bless the well. Without the well we would have got Ebola. The stream is filthy because people defecate in it.’
Alive & Well aim to drill one well for every 250 people in a village. Says Adam Langford, ‘It is difficult to teach the drillers to work safely. I was keen to get across that if one of them is injured then the drilling must stop and people who should have clean water will not get it. I trained our guys how to lift the 150 kg drill bits properly and how to keep feet and hands intact. Drilling water in Sierra Leone makes me feel I personally can change lives for the better.’
Each well costs about £2,800 to drill and to install a pump. Alive & Well can be contacted at www.alivewell.org.uk.
For more information contact Sean Mills 01453 521421.
Sean is a volunteer with Alive & Well and went to Sierra Leone with Adam Langford.