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Jay Gallagher returns from recent trip to Guatemala

By Tim Rasmussen , Tuesday, May 15th, 2018

Jay Gallagher just returned from a visit to Guatemala as a volunteer for Water for Life. He came down for about 3 weeks and stayed very busy with many jobs that need doing at the shop and in the field. Jay comes from Belle, Missouri where he operates Custom Pump and Well Drilling.
He became interested in Water for Life as a result of an on-line forum sponsored by the National Ground Water Association and reading about us in this journal and visiting our booth at NGWA conventions. This was his third trip as one of our volunteers. Each visit has been a little bit longer as he has found more and more things where his talents can be useful.
Jay is an excellent detail man and has done a lot of pump repair and refurbishment in villages where the pumps have failed or are failing. He maintains a log of what he has done and helps us keep track of jobs and sites that need attention. This is a never-ending task as we drill more wells. We now are at 113.
I asked Jay for some observations from this year’s season. He said that there were lots of unexpected repairs and problems, but one by one, each one (more…)

Needs – Rotary Drill

By Tim Rasmussen , Friday, January 26th, 2018

One of the challenges Water for Life faces is the dwindling number of cable tool drillers. There are a limited number of men with experience in this technology and very few ways for interested persons to get experience in the technology. Probably this is because cable tool drilling is a technology that has been overtaken and passed by modern hydraulic and digital technology.

We utilize cable tool drills because we can fix things that break and wear out with a welder and basic tools, and for the more obvious reason is that is all we have. We now have three 22-W drilling rigs in service in Guatemala. These rigs have been upgraded to diesel power, so they are not very expensive to run and diesel fuel is more available than gasoline. We have a fuel trailer we can fill and take to the field if necessary to refuel a drilling rig once it is set up.

Water for Life has a loyal cadre of men who have experience in cable drilling and who are willing to donate some time to come and help the villagers in our area. Water for Life would not exist (more…)

Tan Hoc was having a problem

By Tim Rasmussen , Monday, January 16th, 2017

While I was in Guatemala someone called Berny and reported that the pump at Tan Hoc was having a problem, so Berny and my wife Annette and I went out to look at the situation. Tan Hoc is about 12 miles out the road that runs from Poptun past our headquarters toward the old town of La Compuerto on the Guatemala frontier with Belize.

Tan Hoc is about 12 miles, but it takes about 1 hour. Most of the road is sufficiently bad, but there are some very weird spots. One in particular requires you to crest a hill without seeing where the road goes beyond. It takes a little courage to just keep going over the ridge without being able to see beyond (more…)

Container with PET Machines

By Tim Rasmussen , Saturday, September 17th, 2016

The container with the PET machines inside made it through customs in record time. It took two days of work by Berny to secure the documents allowing the container to be loaded on a truck and moved out of the port. We had sent this container to Puerto Barrios on the Caribbean side of Guatemala. This is the main port and the importation process is more organized and efficient than on the Pacific ports.

The container was taken to Poptun and unloaded at the school for handicapped children, which would serve as the distribution point. In co-ordination with the local ministry of health, the word had circulated widely and 120 people had been identified as qualified to receive one. The machines were assembled over the next two weeks and arraignments made for (more…)

Water for Life has a new PET

By Tim Rasmussen , Tuesday, July 19th, 2016

Water for Life has a new PET. Not the kind you take home to your family, but the kind you give away to someone who needs it. It does
not require food or water or a warm place to stay and very little maintenance. PET stands for Personal Energy Transportation. This is a device that carries folks who have no legs or no use of their legs. They are free to those who need them, if they can get them. That is where Water for Life comes in. We will help those folks get a PET. Let me tell you about a PET.


Several years ago I was in Poptun and I watched as a woman made her way down the street. She moved by holding herself off the ground with her hands and swinging her torso between her two arms and then repeating. Her legs were underneath her, but she wore something that kept them folded because they were quite useless. Her hands were in the filth of the street. I watched her as she lifted herself up onto the first step of the collective bus and made her way toward a seat. She was not able to lift herself up to get onto the seat, but stayed on the floor of the bus. This was her life, in the dirt and filth. A PET will change it.

The PET is a three wheeled, hand powered, part wheel-chair, part cart that is (more…)

Carl Pixley and Pipe for Guatemala

By Tim Rasmussen , Monday, June 6th, 2016

Carl Pixley looked over the collection of tools and machinery cluttered around his shop and on the approach from the road. “There is a lot of history here,” he said, as we walked toward the old drilling rig that was sunk nearly axle deep in the earth. The truck carrying the 22W looked very tired. It was an early 1940s military 6×6. The tires were still holding air, but not much else. Opening the door invited attack by the hornets and bees that had taken up residence inside the old truck.

Gary looked over the old rig. It dated from the early 1940s as well. Some things could be salvaged; perhaps the rig itself was OK. The motor on the rig was probably junk though. The exhaust pipe was open to the sky, collecting all the rain and snow over the last fifteen or more years and most likely the engine was seized and could not (more…)

Doyle Knight and the truck trip

By Tim Rasmussen , Tuesday, April 5th, 2016

Doyle Knight shifted anxiously in his seat. He was approaching the Mexican border crossing at Brownville Texas, driving a large donated truck heading for Guatemala to be put in service with Water for Life. It had already been a long trip from Spokane, but there was still a long way to go. Really the border was about the halfway point. There were three men in the truck and they made sure their passports were in readily available and for the third time they checked all the documents for the truck and the vehicle they were towing behind the truck.

Crossing the border can be a difficult process. If you drive a vehicle into Mexico and let them know you intend to go entirely (more…)

Berny Back to Puerto Quetzal

By Tim Rasmussen , Tuesday, February 2nd, 2016

Berny Leonardo got into the truck and started out of Guatemala City headed back to Puerto Quetzal. This was the fifth time he had made the trip to and from Puerto Quetzal in his efforts to get containers into Guatemala this year. The demands of the Port Authority and the Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) make this effort necessary. The process is difficult and time consuming. Not because they purposely made it difficult, but more because that is just the way it is in Guatemala.

Water for Life had never tried to get three containers into Guatemala in one season, and our hopes of a smooth process were being slowly dashed. There is a new government in place and the persons in charge of the importation process did not have much experience at it. The new government has instituted new procedures that they are trying to get everyone to follow but the procedures do not take into consideration the ease for the customer.

For example, there is a point at which a fee must be paid to the shipping company MSC. The fee isn’t much, but it must be paid before the importation process can go to the next step. The problem is that there is no MSC office at the port. Berny has to go back to Guatemala City to pay the money at the MSC office. They can’t accept the money, so the process is to go the MSC office, get a deposit slip, then go to the bank to deposit the money, and then back to the office to present proof of the deposit and then to get a receipt from MSC and go back to the Port Authority with the receipt.

This may seem not so much trouble, but it is a 4 hour drive to Puerto Quetzal from Guatemala City one way. There is often a line at the bank that must be negotiated. It takes a whole day just to manage this one step in the process. There are several steps in the importation process and all the while, the Port is charging $140 US per day for storage of the container. It does not matter if the day of storage is a weekend day when all the offices are closed or not. A day is a day when they are adding up the storage fees.

Berny drove out of the city, heading back to the port. He knew that he would have to make the trip again in a couple of days, because this was just the second container and the third was scheduled to come into Puerto Quetzal soon. He approached each task patiently. If he is asked how it is going, he will usually reply, “Well, thanks to the good Lord, we are gaining on it.” He knows all his work is in service to the poorest of his countrymen. He is helping to bring them life and health through the gift of clean water. That is what Water for Life. Thank you for your help.at-well-site

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…)