Walking to the well

It is easy for us to take for granted our almost unlimited water supply in the UK – delivered from a tap in our own home. In Nigeria, we often hear of villages with a limited water supply.

In the village of Okpudu, every last drop of water is precious to the people who live there. There are many villages like Okpudu in Nigeria and it is often difficult to know how to help so many people. But if we can make a difference in one village like Okpudu, the impact can soon spread throughout the area. With this in mind, earlier this year, with the help of my church and some other supporters we were able to build a well in Okpudu.
When we first asked the Okpudu people where their water source was, they told us that the trek was not for enefu (white) people . With much persistence they agreed to take us to the source of their drinking water. We walked there with some of the children to see for ourselves. We knew many of these children through the Bible Club that we held every Friday in the village. The journey was about an hour’s trek through farmland and bush.

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We met many children along the way travelling to collect water with their jerry cans. When we arrived at the water source, we couldn’t see anything past the mass of children. I went a little closer and it was then quite shocked at what I saw: barely a trickle of water! The people in Okpudu, plus three neighbouring villages, use this as their main source of water. I proceeded to watch the children as they put a bowl under a rock ledge and waited for it to fill up. Then they transferred it into their jerry can. As we began the walk back to the village I helped a little girl carry her jerry can in a rickety old wheelbarrow.This water is often dirty and disease–ridden. The people must know this by looking at it but they drink it anyway as this is the only source of water they have. As a result water–borne disease has caused much sickness and death in the community.After seeing the great need for a proper and safe water supply in the village we needed to help somehow. We discussed with the local church the possibility of building a well in the community . We got in touch with supporters at home and when the funds became available, the process began. 

The Project Begins

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The well, 9 ft wide and 20 ft deep, was dug by only one man. It was amazing to watch how he worked and the skill and technique that he had. In total it took him three and a half days to dig the well. It was great to see the community become involved as the women helped to move all the soil away. They plastered the wall three separate times to make it watertight. This will allow storage of water during rainy season. I liked to help out when I could, which surprised many of the people in the community. They thought that a white girl would not be strong enough to do some of the jobs.

The next stage was the construction of a block tower for the two huge water tanks. We had to make many trips back and forth from Ogugu in the pickup truck collecting water, cement, blocks, wood and iron rods. The trip was about a 20 minute drive along a bumpy remote road.

We were never stuck to find help from the children who were always keen to join us. They would often come at 7am on the dot in case they missed anything! Victor (a Nigerian working with Advance) has many connections with builders who were able to carry out the work for the water project. Without his knowledge, skills, enthusiasm and hard work, none of this would have been possible. I was and am grateful for all he has done.

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I took on the job of painter! In Nigeria it is the culture to say “Well done”, when you are working, walking or doing pretty much anything. You would think I became a professional painter with the amount of praise I received each day. One day a child asked me how I became such a good painter. I had to smile and said that it was by watching other people paint. The child then said, “If I keep watching you, then I will become a good painter!”

Soon it was time to plumb the water system. It looked like an impossible puzzle – connecting a maze of pipes together – but Victor enjoyed the challenge. Rain water is collected from the church roof and passed through the pipe system into the well. To start things off we arranged for a water tanker to fill up from a borehole and deliver the first supply of water. Then once the rainy season arrived the rain replenished the well.

There’s nothing better after a hard day than picking a fresh mango off a tree.

There was always smiles and laughter as well as all the hard work. At the end of each day, on our way back from Okpudu, we always stopped at a mango tree. There’s nothing better after a hard day than picking a fresh mango off a tree.

We bought a generator so that the people can pump the water from the well up into the large storage tanks. The storage tanks then supply four taps using gravity for water pressure. Everyone was keen to see the first pumping of the water from the well into the tanks. It was exciting to see the water starting to flow from the pipes! To begin with an idea and see it come to completion put a massive smile on all our faces. The women started running over to the taps with their basins, cheering, smiling and dancing. One woman scooped up some of the water in her hand and drank it. Victor and I looked at her and said, “Well, how does it taste?” Laughing, she replied, “Very good!”.

Building Relationships

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During the few weeks of the project we built many great relationships with the people in the village. We would sometimes visit their homes, and as we worked I would often find myself surrounded by children from the Bible Club. We had some interesting chats about Jesus and I would ask you to keep them in your prayers. The people were so welcoming and always grateful for what we were doing. This led to a great opportunity to share with them why we were in their village, doing what we were doing. We reminded them that we were merely the vessels God used to make this water project happen and that we needed to give God all the glory and praise.

We wanted to leave them a verse as a reminder of who was in control of the whole project. Jeremiah Ch 29v11 seemed like an appropriate choice. We wrote it on the wall as a reminder that God knows everything about them and He had their future planned out long ago. The people of Okpudu never thought something like this would happen in their little village, but God had a plan for them.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Jeremiah 29:11

On the 1st June 2015 we commissioned the opening of the water project. With the help of many people from the UK, Ogugu and most importantly with God’s help, we were able to make a difference to this one village. The community were so grateful and extend their thankfulness to everyone. Please continue to pray for the village of Okpudu. Pray that God would continue to be their main focus in all that they do.

Katie spent a year in Nigeria on a short term placement. If you are interested in finding out more about short or long term missionary work, get in touch with us here.