Harvesting Rainwater in Uganda, Africa

We wanted to share with you our amazing journey to Uganda Africa, where we had the opportunity to bring fresh clean water to a school that was in desperate need. We installed a 20,000 gallon RainXchange system at a school that currently has over 500 students and harvesting rainwatercontinues to grow. The system is harvesting rainwater and purify it so that it is safe to drink. All of the available water sources for miles around the community are 100{ae9afc2219953506df2b3c4d3638f1c2fa2f2fc0ddbac60fac24724efb0c4df3} contaminated. Students were becoming extremely ill almost everyday, and because of this they were unable to go to school to receive their education. By harvesting rainwater and purifying it not only will the school and surrounding community become healthier, but they will finally be able to improve their all around quality of life. This was the second time that my dad and I were able to travel to a community in Africa and help them by installing one of these systems. In 2014 we traveled to Ghana, Africa on one of these trips, and we are proud to say that the community is now thriving due to the presence of clean water. I took a journal with me to be able to document our trip. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as we did experiencing it.

Day 1: January 2

The trip started with us heading to the Philadelphia airport around 9am to catch our first of three flights. We first met up with Ray and Lisa who were just as eager as we were to start the journey to Africa. We then met up with our International Needs Network organizer Tom Farley who would be accompanying the team on the trip once we landed in Detroit. Next we were off to Amsterdam to meet the rest of the team.

Day 2: January 3

After a long plane ride we landed in Amsterdam very early in the morning and luckily found a great place to get omelets. During breakfast we met up with most of the team, but a few people had flights that were running late so we did not get to see them until we were boardingharvesting rainwater our next flight. One member of the team, John Adams had his flight into Uganda canceled because they did not think he would make it on time! Luckily he got switched back onto our flight and made it on just before we took off. Our flight from Amsterdam to Entebee Africa had a one hour pit stop in Rwanda, so that more passengers could get on before we entered Entebbe, Uganda. With the 8 hour time difference between Uganda and home it was pretty late at night once we finally got off the plane. Unfortunately a handful of our team had their luggage missing, and it would be a few days before they finally got it back. On the way out of the airport Lisa McGinnis, an Aquascape employee, got her drone confiscated by the Ugandan police. The drone was meant to take areal shots during the trip, but the police did not trust what it was being used for and this ended up being quit the hassle. Finally we made it to our first hotel which luckily was right down the street from the airport, and got ready for the next days travel to where we would be staying for the duration of the project.

Day 3: January 4

After only a few hours of sleep we boarded a bus packed full of the 21 team members and got ready for our 2 hour bus ride to the school where we would be working. Due to very heavy traffic and difficult dirt roads our trip took almost 5 hours on the bus, which was a lot longerharvesting rainwater then what was expected; so we decided to just go straight to our permanent hotel instead of going to the school and we would instead start working early the next morning. During our bus ride we got our first glance at what life in Kampala, the capital of Uganda, was like. Only around 60{ae9afc2219953506df2b3c4d3638f1c2fa2f2fc0ddbac60fac24724efb0c4df3} of the people in the city have access to their own bathrooms, so there are public restrooms all over the city. They are essentially big concrete rooms with a hole in the middle of the floor and no running water. There are large gutters cut into the sides of the roads for the runoff stormwater to drain out of the city, but trash and sewage also find their way into these gutters. It was rough to see how many people filled buckets for drinking and cooking from these gutters, and we actually saw some people bathing in the water as well. After checking into our hotel we took a nice boat trip up the River Nile. We were on a large wooden boat captained by a local named Alex. He took us to The Source of the River Nile where we got to visit a small shop and a bar floating on the river. It was an amazing place to hangout and see the sunset.

harvesting rainwater

Day 4: January 5

Woke up to eggs, tons of delicious fruit and instant coffee for breakfast. We were supposed to leave for Buikwe around 7am but the bus was a half hour late to pick us up. On the way to the work site we would toss candy and snacks out of the bus window to the kids that we passed by. Most of the areas we drove through were poverty stricken, so the children were not use to getting sweets or much of anything from adults. At first most were very apprehensive, but once they realized what was going on they were extremely excited to see us. When we arrived at Buikwe we were extremely excited to see that the hole for the basin was dug, and we only had some minor leveling to get it ready for the aquablox. We also added some sand as extra padding above the dirt. While most of the team, with the help of some local workers started on leveling the basin Brian Helfrich, John Adams, Jason and I started working on the power to run the system. A solar panel was harvesting rainwaterinstalled to power the pump to get water to run from the underground basin through the UV filter system and into the 20,000 gallon holding tank. A battery was hooked up, and it would be charged by the solar panel so that during the night there was still power for the pump. To make this all work first we had to build a structure to mount the electrical panel, UV filter system and back up battery to the cement wall inside the school. We used old pieces of scrap wood and pallets that were held in place by concrete nails to mount everything. Everything was going well until we realized we needed more wire and a few other materials. Without the connivence of a HomeDepot, it would be a challenge to have someone find all the specific materials that we still needed. Another issue that we ran into was that the solar panel needed to be on a 5-10 degree angle to optimize solar intake, but the roof of the school made it around a 50 degree angle. We luckily found a small shop in a near by town that made metal bed frames and gates. They were able to fabricate longer legs for the solar panel in order to make the correct angle. By the end of the day we had almost all the materials we needed for the solar side of the project, the basin was leveled out and ready for liner, and all of the Aquablox had been built and were ready to go. Happy and tired we headed back to our hotel for some dinner and much needed sleep.

Day 5: January 6

We were suppose to eat breakfast around 6am and leave for the job at 6:30am, but both breakfast and the bus were late again. When we got to the job site we found out that the materials we had asked for the day before, would not be arriving until later that day. So everyone harvesting rainwaterhelped to put the liner in the basin. While the rest of the team installed the Aquablox, I used a hammer and screw driver to “Shawshank” (make a hole in) the 10 inch thick concrete walls. The holes were needed for access into the building for the wires that were coming from the solar panel that needed to be attached to the rest of the system. To make the task just a bit harder the hole had to be at the top of the wall near the ceiling, but luckily a homemade African ladder was available. After the hole was made and all the Aquablox were in the basin everyone got together to start backfilling the basin. After we filled in most of the hole we were waiting on a delivery of sand, and still waiting on more materials to finish the solar panel system so we ended the day a little early. On the bus ride home from the school tons of kids were waiting just outside their villages for us to stop by and toss them candy. Such a great way to end the day, by putting smiles on all their faces.

Day 6: January 7

We left for the school around 8am since we knew it was going to be a short day of work to finish the project. When we started working John harvesting rainwaterAdams and I went up to finish up mounting the solar panel to the roof, while Sean Frost and Jason worked on hooking up the pump. The rest of the team worked to finish filling in the last bit of the hole outside. Around mid-day the Uganda Fire/Police Truck came so that we could partially fill the underground basin and check the system. The solar panel and backup battery worked on the first try, and so did the pump. The only issue we encountered was that the pipes that led into the UV filter started leaking. After only a few minor adjustments everything started working perfectly! The headmaster of the school and some of the local workers had the first drink from the system and said it was so much better than what they were use to. We brought toys and school supplies to give away to some of the children that attend the school. Their faces lit up when they saw what we had for them. We played a few games of soccer and with the toy trucks in the dirt for a while before it was time to head out. We had a few hours of daylight left, so we went and visited the school where the Aquascape Foundation had installed a system for harvesting rainwater back in 2012 to see how things were running. It was great to see how well the system worked, and knowing that the system we had just finished installing would work just as well for the school in Buikwe. While we visited the school a few of the team members and I went for a hike up a small mountain that overlooked Lake Victoria and a small fishing village. It was an amazing view and the perfect way to finish the day.

harvesting rainwater

Day 7: January 8

Since we finished our project ahead of schedule the team got a day to relax and have some fun! Half of the group went fishing on Lake Victoria, while the other half went for a kayaking trip on the River Nile. The kayaking trip went great, and everyone had tons of fun. The fisherman did not have much luck on the lake, but everyone still had a great time.

Day 8: January 9

harvesting rainwaterWe woke up and took motorcycle taxis into town to a great coffee shop for coffee and some breakfast. Then we all went to a dirt runway airport to board two 11 person planes, so that we could fly into the safari part of our trip. After about an hour flight we landed in the middle of the National Park at Murchison Falls. We got to go out on an evening game drive and see some wildlife before dinner. While we were eating dinner an elephant found it’s way to our hotel, and the security guards had to chase it away from the pool!

Day 9-10: January 10-11

We got to go out on quite a few game drives in the morning and the evening, and saw tons of wildlife. We got to see Lions, Elephants, Ugandan Cobs, Jackals, Leopards, Water Buffalo, Warthogs and Hippos! The team also took a ferry ride up the River Nile to see animals and Murchison Falls. The Falls is a 300 foot drop that is only 25 feet wide, and it feeds the entirety of the White Nile. There was a hiking trail from the base of the Falls to the very top that we got to go on. It was an incredible view from the top, and a great place to experience.

harvesting rainwaterharvesting rainwater

Day 11-12: January 12-13

The team woke up around 5:30am to go out on our last game drive. We got to see tons of animals and enjoy a great breakfast to finish our stay at the Paraa Safari Lodge. Then it was time to get ready for the journey home. We first flew from the dirt runway on the safari to the airport in Entebbe. We waited in the Entebbe airport for about 5 hours. From Entebbe we flew back to Amsterdam where we had a few hour layover. Then from Amsterdam we flew into Detroit, and then finally home to Philadelphia. It took 39 hours for us to get from the Paraa Safari Lodge to our house, but it was all worth it. We could not be happier with how well harvesting rainwater at the school will benefit the entire surrounding community, and we had an amazing time at the safari. It was a trip we will surely rememberer forever.

Special thanks to our team my Dad Jason Turpin, Carla and Ryan Wittstock, Brian Helfrich, Lisa McGinnis, Tom and Nancy Smith, Sean and April Frost, Chris and Diane Baker, Jaak Hariju, Lisa and Ray Oren, Andy, John Adams, Brad Blocksom, Alan Decker, Chris Ostrander and Tom Farley, the Aquascape Foundation, the International Needs Network and everyone back home who supported us!

To see more pictures from our trip click here!

To learn more about harvesting rainwater in Uganda watch the video below!

2017-01-22T22:30:15+00:00Blog, Featured|

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