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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.

pet-for-container

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…)

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.