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Archive for 2015

Brake Repairs

By Tim Rasmussen , Saturday, October 31st, 2015

As I write this in November, Water for Life is getting ready to ship another container to Guatemala, filled with supplies, material and equipment. We have been gathering it all year, but in these last few weeks the pace is quicker. Gary has made numerous trips around Washington to gather donated items and his shop is loaded with pallets of items. We have crated and palletized everything to make the work of loading and unloading easier.

This year we again have a lot of things to ship to the Ministry of Health to be used in the Government Hospital and in local Public Health programs. Many items have been donated by ALSCO, a major supplier of hospital linens, bedding and hospital supplies. They generously provide us with many boxes of used but clean and useful (more…)

Whats it like to volunteer?

By Tim Rasmussen , Sunday, August 2nd, 2015

volunteer-kitchenWhat is it like to come to Guatemala and drill water wells for the people? Where in Guatemala is Water for Life located? What are the accommodations like? How is the food? Is Guatemala safe? Do I need shots? Is the equipment any good? What if I get sick or hurt?

There are many questions that a person may have when they begin to consider coming to Guatemala to work with Water for Life International. For people who have traveled to third-world countries before, these questions are (more…)

Drilling in Guatemala

By Tim Rasmussen , Thursday, April 9th, 2015

The first note was written by Jon Hansen.  He is from Washington and is one of our volunteer drillers. He is winding up the season’s work in Guatemala and wrote this to let Gary know about the progress of a well in the village of San Francisco.  He was working with his son and helper Jacob Hansen.

“Had a rugged day today. Went to open the hole up to 8 inches to case the hole with 6 inch steel. Had clutch problems, but got them cleaned up and got the clutch adjusted okay. Then the main line divider broke and the line on the storage side fell on top and locked the cable underneath, keeping it from unspooling. The picture shows the bottom break.  I had to cut out some pieces of the divider to free the line. So before being used again, the line will have to be pulled off and the divider replaced. Then the tools got stuck in the hole wedged above the jars. When I got them out I called it a day.

Hopefully tomorrow I will set some 6 inch casing and get some 4 inch PVC set. There is 11 ft of water from 104 to 115 ft. I bailed for and hour and came up with about 11 ft. Of water each time. Figure 13 g.p.m. But it will probably do more as long as the static holds.


And another note from Dominic Parmantier.  He too is from the Seattle area and has been with us for several years. He was working with Bob Cole.

“Before leaving, Bob & I took a run out to El Achilito and El Pato to look at the wells.

El Achilito – Pump produces no water. It feels like a bad check valve or possibly pump body. There was enough resistance that I don’t think it was a broken coupler or rod.  They indicated that it has been out for about a month.

El Pato – Hand pump operational. The solar pump was not working, and they indicated it has been out for 4 months. We reset the switches to clear the low water error so that the power in and power out lights on the control panel were lit and none of the error lights were lit, but it did not pump water.

I could not find any spare pump/check valve parts in the shop or the south container.  If there is a way of sending down something before December to get them up and going, I would be interested in pushing that solution along.



Larry and the Lady

By Tim Rasmussen , Monday, April 6th, 2015

Most people in villages in Guatemala have to work hard to stay alive. There is no public assistance. There is no welfare. There is no old age assistance. When it comes to living when you are old, the only resource is your family and relatives, if you have them. If you do not have family to help you, you are on your own.

Larry Duffield watched the woman walk up the road toward the spot where the rig was set up. He could tell she was old but he could not say how old she might be. She was carrying a plastic sack, heavy with things from the market and she walked like she was slightly crippled. She was walking up hill toward her home, a thatched roofed, single room shack up beyond the rig beside the track that served as a road. Larry had seen her leave her home and come down the hill a few hours earlier. She had nodded and waved as she went on down the hill past the rig.

It was hot like it usually is in NE Guatemala. There was sometimes a little breeze that would stir the dust in the road, but not enough to feel refreshing. The rig had been there for a few days, steadily pounding its way to the cool clean water below ground. For the first couple of days, the village folks had gathered around watching, but when the water was not quickly obtained, they had drifted off to the things they usually do. For the women, that meant working in the homes or shelling corn or doing laundry in some creek or pond, and to the men and boys that meant doing nothing.

That is life in Guatemala. Women do most of the work that keeps a family alive; cooking, washing, hauling water, and tending to children and animals. The men usually cannot find work for money, but they do not help the women much. There are centuries of culture behind this division of labor and there is no pressure to change it.

Larry watched as the lady labored up the hill toward him. There was a lull in the drilling just then, and as the woman reached him, he stepped to her side and made motions to help her with her burden. For a fleeting moment he wondered if he might be breaking some cultural rule, but then he decided maybe it would give the men a hint or even shame them so they might help the woman a little in the future.

The lady smiled as she handed the sack to him, and he fell in walking beside her. Together they went on up the hill. They did not talk, because Larry does not speak Spanish and she did not speak English, but they communicated just the same, in the universal language of one person helping another.

At the top of the hill, as she took the bag from Larry she simply said, “Gracias.” That was all. She went on into the rude little building and Larry went back down the hill to the rig.

Water for Life brings the gift of clean water to people who need it. They cannot pay for it. They cannot even contribute. The only thing they have to give us is their thanks. That is all they have. But, it is enough.

If you would like to help someone to have a better life, please consider supporting our work in NE Guatemala.

You Can’t Get There From Here

By Tim Rasmussen , Wednesday, March 18th, 2015

Craig Gresham is from Poulsbo, Washington. He is the owner of Gresham well drilling.  He came to Guatemala to drill wells with us last year and he volunteered again to lend his skill and talents to our efforts.

Since he is “retired,” he has been spending a lot of time at his seaside home in Hermosillo Mexico, where he enjoys the fishing, the easy life and visits from his friends that he has met over the years.  He left from Hermosillo to come to our headquarters in NE Guatemala for this drilling season.

He made plans to fly from Hermosillo to Mexico City and then on to Guatemala City.  But the volcano near Guatemala City ruled differently.  It chose this time to erupt and fill the sky with abrasive ash such that airlines would not fly, or could not fly into Guatemala City.  Craig’s plane flew from Mexico City, but it could not land in Guatemala City due to the volcano and returned to Mexico City for the night.  Not much progress so far!

The next morning, Craig headed back to the airport and when he found that it was still impossible to get into Guatemala City, he decided to try to get to Guatemala, but to avoid Guatemala City.  That meant he had to fly to Houston Texas and then fly to Belize. Because of the schedule, he would have to spend the night in Houston. Once he got to Belize, he could fly on TACA airlines and get to Flores, Guatemala, which is in NE Guatemala and about 2 hours from our shop.

This last plan worked although it meant two more days of travel.  In all, it was four days traveling, three times the distance and double the cost. But it was worth it all.   I asked Craig what was the best thing about being part of Water for Life?  His answer was quick, “Seeing the people and the appreciation of the people for the water that we can provide.”

Water for Life now provides water to about 25,000 people.  Our pumps are at work in more than 70 villages and locations.  We are committed to a sustainable water supply for these villages and so we maintain the pumps all year round and keep them in operation.  Our donors and volunteers make all of this happen. In fact, without them, none of this would be happening.  We provide the place and the means, but it takes a person with a heart to help others that really makes Water for Life work.  Thank you to all.

Wear and Tear

By Tim Rasmussen , Tuesday, March 17th, 2015

One of the problems we face in Guatemala  is the result of the heavy use of hand  pumps.  We count Baker Manufacturing as one of our supporters and they  make available the best hand pumps at prices we can afford.   Pumps with brass cylinders, heavy castings and stainless steel pump rods. These pumps are engineered to be tough and they can normally be expected to give many years of good service without repair.

But the uses we put them to are not normal.  There are often 300 to 400 people in a village.  Because of this, the pumps are in constant use. The water is usually high in iron and high in particulates and that might contribute to the wear rates, but we have found in some villages that the pump will need to be serviced with new leathers every three or four years or less.

We have found the holes in some of the pump handles wear oval and other holes get wallowed out and the joint gets sloppy. The threaded brass bushing that guides the pump rod get worn to the threads and sometimes beyond. We have had to replace handles and other parts, and we have been looking at ways to address this wear problem.    We have tried to weld material into the hole and then drill it out, but that is really not satisfactory.

During a recent trip to a dentist in Santa Elena, (who is from Spain and has as good equipment as a dentist in the states and speaks very good English), Gary noticed a very nice looking machine shop.  He went in and saw good milling equipment and the owner was immediately knowledgeable as Gary explained to him that we needed to do.

The next time Gary went to Santa Elena, he took a new handle and a few worn ones and other parts that needed to be repaired. In all there needed to be 17 bushings installed.  The owner looked it all over, said he could help us and gave us a price of about 200 Quetzals for each bushing installed and he would supply the bushings. That is about $25 USD.

In a few days, Gary went back and picked up the handles and other parts.  The work appeared to have been done carefully. The bushings were installed and looked right and the parts repainted.  Gary learned he made the bushings out of 1” bar stock and drilled out the 5/8” hole.  Perhaps this problem is solved.     Time and use will tell.  We will give them plenty of both.

Tom Richardson

By Tim Rasmussen , Tuesday, March 17th, 2015

Tom Richardson was hot. The sun was hot. The metal on the rig was hot. The thin dogs laying the shade seemed hot.  The whole world seemed hot. The only shade was a small piece of tarp that hung weakly against the bright tropical sun.  There was no breeze. A few lazy clouds were motionless in the sky, but there was no chance they were headed toward them.  It was hot and was going to stay hot.

This was far cry from what Tom was usually doing in February.  He is the owner of H2O Well Service in Hayden Lake Idaho, and at this time of year he was usually in cold weather, keeping his business and his employees busy with pump service and drilling using his three Rotary drilling rigs.  This kind of drilling with a cable tool was also new to him.  The heat, the relentless pounding of the cable rig, and the daily progress that is usually measured in a few dozen feet at most, often less.  It was different, but he liked it.

Tom was helping Craig Gresham of Poulsbo Washington.  They were in the village of La’Esperanza in the savannah lands of rural NE Guatemala.  The work was going well enough, if two weeks to drill a hole 300 feet deep can be described as well enough, and he was enjoying himself.  The village people were very friendly.  Mostly they were happy to just sit and watch and listen to the relentless pounding of the old cable rig.

Craig had been watching the bull reel intently.  It seemed one side of the drum would move just a little sometimes and the other side would not. This drum should be one solid piece. Whatever was going on, Craig did not like it. He made a decision and acted quickly.  He shut down the drill.  He explained to Tom what he thought was going on and started to carefully withdraw the tools from the hole. If what ever was breaking on the drum gave way, it would send the tools and maybe the cable to the bottom of the hole with not very many ways to retrieve them.

Slowly and smoothly the cable came up and wound around the spool till the tools were out of the ground. Craig and Tom removed the tools, lowered the derrick and brought the rig back to the shop.

One day later the problem was plain. The main spool drum was cracked in two pieces, part of the reel had been badly worn in the center, and it had been repaired at least twice before.  Other material had been welded on top of the weak spool, but it was too weak underneath. There was nothing left to weld to. The crew decided it could not be fixed. This rig was done drilling without serious repair.

We had not realized how important it was at the time, but previously, Bob Perry of Spanish Fork Utah, had been impressed to send a new bull reel in the container.  With just a few modifications, it was exactly what was needed to make the repair.  We had what we needed before we needed it. The good book says,  “Before you call, I will answer.”  He did.

Two days hard work for Tom and Craig and the new reel and new bolts from Guatemala city it was installed and ready to go on beating holes into the earth to bring the blessing of clean water to folks who have none.

Please help us in this project, or better yet come and help us.  We can offer you a chance to chance to change someone’s life, and maybe your own.

No Passport

By Tim Rasmussen , Tuesday, March 10th, 2015

No Passport?   No Problem?

Ramiro Gonzales, also known as “Speedy,” is one of our volunteers. Speedy was born in Guatemala, but has lived all his life in the US.  He and his friend Bucky Mowry, are from the Columbus Ohio area.  They have worked for us for at least 7 drilling seasons and have contributed trucks, equipment, and experience and energy to Water for Life.

I am not sure where Speedy got his name, but it is probably from his love for things that go fast, from auto racing when he was a young man to his current love for airplanes.  This year they traveled in a new plane, a 260 Piper Comanche with speed modifications and loaded down with supplies and gifts for village folks. Bucky and Speedy.     Bucky’s mom makes baby blankets all year and this year sent 60 of them for village mothers with babies. There was so much stuff to put into the plane that Speedy removed the rear seats to make room and save weight.

There is a lot of paperwork to do when you make an international flight in a small plane.  Every document regarding the plane must be current and correct. The GPS system must be upgraded. The airworthiness certificate, repair records and ownership documents must be in order and available.  The governments of foreign countries are very careful with small aircraft entering the country because of smuggling drugs and other contraband.

Speedy and Bucky took off from Ohio and headed south to Florida.  Their point of departure for the flight across the Caribbean was Naples.  And here they would make the last paperwork preparations and make sure the plane was ready. The flight across the Caribbean is 5 ½ hours to Flores Guatemala.  The plane is equipped with extra fuel tanks that give total a capacity of 90 gallons.

Early in the morning they launched for the trip.  It was uneventful, but there is some anxiety when you reach the point of no return.  From there you cannot go back, you can only go on.  But the engine keeps on with a steady roar and the only thing to do is monitor the progress on the GPS, watch the engine gauges, keep an eye on the fuel flow meters and fuel tanks, watch the altimeter and keep on going forward.  It is a long way to land, but the airplane is fast, keeping up a steady 180 knots.  Finally they cross the shoreline and head to Flores International Airport, where they will go through Guatemala Immigration and Customs.

After they landed and went into the office and started to do the paperwork to come on into the country, Speedy reached for his passport and it wasn’t in his pocket.  In fact, it was home in his dresser drawer!  In his focus on getting the airplane into the country, he had forgotten to make preparation for getting himself into the country.

For those of us who fly commercial planes, our passports are checked about 3 times to make sure we have them and that everything is in order before we leave the country, but in a small plane none of that is done. In fact, no one checked at all to see if Bucky and Speedy even had a passport when they left the USA.

He was an illegal. (at least for about 20 minutes.) The Guatemala authorities were very understanding however.  They recognized Speedy from prior trips and then accepted his FAA pilots’ license.  He was cleared into the country on a condition that he present his passport within 10 days.  No Passport?  No Problem.

The Volunteers Have a Big Job to Do

By Tim Rasmussen , Tuesday, February 10th, 2015

Every year the volunteers who arrive first at our facilities in Guatemala have a big job to do.  All the apartments must be cleaned and the geckos, lizards and the occasional scorpion must be removed.  There are screens on the windows, but the creatures come through any small crack. There is dust everywhere. The apartments must be made ready to receive the volunteers.  The bedding is washed and distributed. The cabinets are cleaned and made suitable for storage of personal items. Floors swept and mopped.

In the shop each year, the initial start up of the vehicles involves checking
fluids, batteries, changing oil & filters, airing or repairing tires
and fixing the obvious problems we may see. We have more than 10 vehicles on the road in Guatemala and getting them all up and running after sitting still for 8 months in the humidity and heat requires a lot of attention.

For example: the emergency brake on one of the pickups was seized in the sheath and required nearly two days to get it operating freely.   After using one of the vehicles for awhile this year a carrier bearing on the driveline went bad and the replacement from Ford in the States was too small in diameter.  A vacuum pump seized (which impacts the whole array of things operated by the serpentine belt), a fender nearly fell off, and a starter began
dragging too slowly to start the diesel engine. The well drill rigs have rusty brake drums on the cable reels and these must be serviced.  There are also several engines on the rigs and welders which we have to get up and running.

Trying to find replacement items in Guatemala for some of the parts is impossible, so some of these items are sent from the USA with the next volunteers coming to Guatemala.

The drillers are anxious to get drilling in the remote villages.  The
villages we’ve chosen, along with the mayor’s input, are typical
villages where the pigs run free and most of the children are bare butt most of the time.  Most of the folks in these villages speak the Quiche’ dialect. It is a native language that is not like Spanish and people fluent in Spanish cannot understand much of what is said. We have some people who can speak it and often there are people in the village who can speak in Spanish, so we get by.  There is no grid power in most of these villages.

WFL and our drillers  prefer working in remote villages where the need is obvious rather than a large municipality with concrete streets. Please come and help us.  There are lives you can change, not counting your own.

Container Contents 2015

By Tim Rasmussen , Monday, February 9th, 2015

42,823 lbs of material was packed into the container that was shipped. The container made it through Customs and to our shop in NE Guatemala. It was unloaded within the two-hour time frame, mainly because of the help of several of the young men who were staying at the school during vacation.

The material was all in order. The container is usually in a mess due to the unpacking by the Customs officials and their lack of concern about repacking, but this is to be expected. We pack things carefully and there was very little damage to items that were fragile like solar panels.

The inventory of this container is similar to other containers we have sent.
The breakdown is as follows:
7 Gaylord boxes. These are 4×4 heavy-duty boxes that are on a pallet. Each box contains many smaller boxes with material such as fuel filters, pvc glue and fittings, clamps, lights, propane cylinders, drive belts, sinks, jacks, medical equipment, apartment supplies, and all kinds of useful things.

2 pallets of Bentonite, nearly a full spool of drilling cable, 5 spare tires for various trucks and machines, a spool of electrical wire, drive clamps, 16” pipe lengths, 300’ of 6” steel casing pipe, several hundred feet of galvanized steel pipe of 1.5” dia. hundreds of feet of PVC threaded pipe,

34 boxes and barrels containing, a well sounder, linens, teaching supplies, water filters, pitless adapters, pressure tank fittings, buckets, cleaning supplies, a huge supply of nuts, bolts, and various repair materials, and many other things too numerous to mention.

2 mobile x-ray machines, 2 ultra sound machines, operating room lights, examination beds, monitors, hospital linens and blankets, gowns and other medical supplies. Our friends at Deaconess Hospital donated these. These supplies make a world of difference to the local Government Hospital in Poptun, by letting them extend the reach of the local Health Department into villages. Our relationship with the municipal authorities is improved by our donations of these needed supplies and equipment.

A Case all-terrain forklift, a cable drum for one of our 22W drilling rigs, solar pumps and supplies, water tank, 6” well seals. The list goes on and on. All of this material is donated to us or the money is donated to buy the material. We thank our donors for their contributions.