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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.

The Container is Finally There

By Tim Rasmussen , Sunday, December 7th, 2014

The container finally left Seattle on the Veronique.  It made the scheduled stops in Oakland and then Balboa, Panama where the container was unloaded.  The container was in Balboa for 4 days and then was loaded onto the Esther Schulte, a smaller container ship that could enter the small ports at several countries in Central America.  The Ester Schulte made a stop or two and then arrived at Puerto Quetzal on the 24th.

Mr. Berny Leonardo was at the port of the 25th and began the process of getting the container through customs and onto a truck for the trip to NE Guatemala where our shop is located.  As usual, an armed guard would accompany the truck on the trip from the port to our shop.

I called Berny every day or two and he let me know the customs process was moving along slowly.   The government has increased the procedures for importation.  Now three separate inspections are required.  (Naturally we must pay for each)  Berny was informed by the port authorities that since the container was on a chassis, there was a fee of 1000Q (Quetzals) per day while it was there. There is no use pointing out that they made the decision to put it on a chassis when it first arrived and was unloaded.

One of the difficulties in importing a container is that the Shipping Company’s office is in Guatemala City and the fees had to be paid for in person there and then a document confirming the payment had to be presented in person to the Port authorities   So importing means several round trips.  It is about 4 hours one way, if the traffic is not bad.

Finally the customs officials presented the bill of  $6,000 USD for the duty on the container.  This was in addition to all the fees for inspections, storage, and moving that had been paid as a part of the process.  Berny paid the fee and they released the container.  Finally ready to go!

The container left the port on the night of Dec 5 for the 12-14 hour trip to our shop.  Only local trucks can come into Guatemala City during the day, so trucks carrying goods to other places wait in a huge parking lot outside the city until 10 at night when they can go through the city.

The container was safely unloaded in the evening of the 6th.  Thank the Lord everything was intact. The only damage was to our bank account, but we had enough.  In fact, the Lord gives us a never-ending supply of just enough.

What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

By Tim Rasmussen , Thursday, October 23rd, 2014

The container needed to be in Port of Seattle by noon on Friday to make the cut off for the ship, so the loading at Bartholomew’s shop in Spokane was scheduled 7 am on Wednesday, October 15.   As usual, we were given 2 hours to load  (which is not enough), but this is our tenth container and we have learned to have as many things on pallets as we can so the loading is faster and the cargo more secure in the container.

We received a call from the driver about 7:30.  He seemed confused about the route to the shop from the Interstate, but he finally arrived about 45 minutes late.  There was a serious language difficulty communicating with the driver and he had difficulty backing the truck up to the shop door, but we got the truck was positioned and began loading.  The driver did not seem to take any interest in what was being loaded, which had not been the case with previous drivers, but stayed in his truck the entire time.

The loading was finished at about 10: 30 except for putting the all-terrain forklift into the container.  We needed the driver turn the truck around and back up to our loading dock so we could drive the forklift into the container.  In trying to position the truck, the driver did not seem to understand we needed him to move the rear of the truck so it was square to the loading dock and he would not follow our directions.    Finally, we bridged the gap with an iron sheet and precariously loaded the 10,000 lb forklift.  The total weight of the container was close to the 42,000 lb limit.

The driver tried to pull away from the dock to close the doors, but the truck would not move.  He did not seem to know how to release the trailer brakes.  Gary finally climbed up in the cab and made him understand that he had to rev the engine to build up air pressure to release the brakes. After about 15 minutes, he got the truck moving and closed and sealed the doors and left the yard for the 6-hour drive to dock in Seattle.  We were concerned for our cargo and our concern increased as the driver tried to make an impossibly sharp turn out of the driveway and nearly put the rig in the ditch.  We had never had this kind of trouble on this end of a voyage, but the container was our of our hands and on it’s way.

We received word on the following Tuesday that the container had missed the noon Friday cut-off at the port for loading on the ship. There had been no word to us, but the trucking company had rolled the booking to the next ship, which was to leave on Oct 29.  The container was unaccounted for during those days.

After many emails, we learned the container entered the port on Monday, but there was a question about who would be responsible for the late gate fee, the booking roll-over fee, the daily storage fee till the next ship, and the fee for this and for that.  At least the container was at the port, and hopefully the cargo was still intact.  We do not think we should pay for this delay, but our agent will negotiate the responsibility for the extra fees incurred.

We are anxious for our precious cargo, but as usual, we had entrusted this container into the Lord’s care so we will just trust Him to take care of our precious cargo and deliver it safe to our shop in Guatemala so its contents can be used to provide clean water and reducing human suffering.   This has never happened on the start of the voyage, and we hoped it was not a signal of trouble ahead for this container.

Loading Container for 2015

By Tim Rasmussen , Thursday, October 16th, 2014

This year we decided to send the container earlier because Gary was going to Guatemala in November to attend the graduation of his sponsored child at the orphanage. We tried to time it so Gary would be there when the container came into the country. There are usually problems at customs in one form or another and while we never send an American in to the customs office, it is good for one of us to be available to facilitate communications with the shipping company when a problem comes to the surface.

Loading Container 2015This year is special because of the all terrain forklift that we obtained and are shipping in the container. We have a small forklift in our shop, but it is no good outside. We needed something that can lift a length of well casing and put it on the roof rack of our pickups. This older CASE model will be just the ticket. CASE machines are common in Guatemala and parts will be no problem.

We also loaded a huge amount of hospital equipment donated to us by Deaconess hospital in Spokane. We shipped two x-ray machines, monitors, anesthesia machines, and 40 cases of linens, operating room lights, and tons of other things. The folks at the Ministry of Health and in the Government Hospital will be very happy. The hospital previously did not have an x-ray machine. These donations will improve the level of health care in
We now have 3 drilling rigs to support with pipe, pumps and tools. There are 67 wells we must keep serviced and producing. We believe that nearly 25,000 people are (more…)

Thanks to Corporate Doners

By Tim Rasmussen , Friday, July 18th, 2014

Water for Life International does the work in Guatemala, but we could not do it at all if it were not for our volunteer drillers who come each year and donate their time and experience to bring clean water to folks who have none. And the drillers could not drill if it were not for the donors who give money and materials to make their work possible. There are many companies who help us by providing material as a donation or at such reduced prices that it might as well be a donation. We would like to give recognition to the some of these companies.

Cetco supplies 2 pallets of bentonite each year for surface seals on the wells.
Baker Manufacturing sells the 11HD hand pumps & appurtenances to us each year at a deep discount.
The Spokane branch of Mitchell, Lewis & Staver Co., sets aside submersible pumps and motors that become available throughout the year. They also donate new pumps and fittings to WFL that serve critical needs that we encounter.
The STA-RITE pump company donates new pumps each year.
The Spokane branch of Preferred Pump gives a very good price to WFL for Grundfos solar pumps. This allows us to provide water in the deeper (400’-550’) wells when electricity is not available and the water level is beyond the capability of the hand pumps.
Basin & Range Drilling is owned by one of our volunteer drillers, Bob Perry. The company often donates much needed cable tools and parts in addition to the things Bob personally donates and supplies to us.
Tacoma Pump & Drilling donates much needed pump supplies (again above and beyond what our friends and the owners, Jon & Chris Hanson, supply). They also recruit others to drill and assist the project.
We also extend a warm thank you to the many contractors who donate casing, tools, elevators, cable, and parts when we contact them.

We do have some a special need. Our old Ford F350 trucks are wearing out. We have been purchasing Mitsubishi double cab diesel pickups to replace them. The smaller trucks work better on the roads and it is easier to obtain parts for them and store them in the off-season. We have a critical need to purchase another pickup for our dental and medical teams. A used diesel, 4 door, Mitsubishi will cost $15,000.00, but will serve many years.

If you can’t go to Guatemala and wish to be an integral part of improving the health of people, please consider helping us with this critical need.

El Pato

By admin , Sunday, May 25th, 2014

El Pato is one of the villages where H2O has been invited to give the vital and precious good liquid for that makes a healthy life.
It is located some 470 km from the Guatemala City. To get there it will take you some 11 hrs by road. In the village, most of the people speak only the Mayan quiche language. In dry season, many of the people will normally walk 1.5 hr. to bring some water to their home to use.
After some volunteers from H2O arrived with trucks and drilling system, they began to have a much better life. For them the white men brought joy and less work to have nice clean water to drink and use.
This year the villagers where still happier instead of having one pump they had 2 pumps. Thanks to some good kind hearted persons, we were able to give them a solar pump too.
But they did not now that the dry season this year was going to be harder. The demand for water was more and the first hand pump broke. So the call to H2o went out and we came to help. From the base where the equipment is to the El Pato village is almost 3 hrs driving in and another 3 hrs again to get out back. The road is terrible. Big holes and ruff rocks. Everything was going well until we came to a place where the truck stuck into a mud hole in the rode and underneath was a (more…)


By Tim Rasmussen , Monday, March 24th, 2014

“AHICAM” is the name given to a small orphanage just outside of the city of Poptun where Water for Life International has its Guatemala headquarters. It is built on the side of a hill and accessed by a short but bumpy stretch of road. Luis and his wife, who are supported only by local people and church groups, operate the orphanage. They take tough cases that the court sends to them, but like the situation of other orphanages, the state sends them children but does not pay anything for their care. There are presently 42 children at the facility. Until this past season, the orphanage (more…)