Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Christmas Gutters

David first visited our sponsor child Sam and his family four years ago.  At that time they were living in a thatched mud hut which was painted beautifully with pictures.  Unfortunately the thatch was in bad repair and the leaky roof let in rain.  In partnership with the church here we were able to help build a brick house with a corrugated metal roof which was completed in 2011.

Water: in Canada we often took it for granted. We turned taps on without a second thought. Living in Uganda has taught us what a precious resource water is. Rural Ugandans, like Sam’s family, often walk long distances to obtain clean water at bore holes. Although Uganda often receives torrential downpours during the rainy seasons, much of that water is never collected for household use. Installing gutters and a water storage tank is one way that rainwater can be collected and used. We approached Aunt Jovia, Sam’s mom, with the idea and received an enthusiastic go ahead. After contracting a man to build a cement base for the tank and gathering supplies we were ready.

The Saturday before Christmas David and I drove out to Sam’s house in a borrowed jeep. We began by trying to remove the make-shift gutter that had been attached to the house. The noise brought Sam’s Jajja (grandmother) out of the house to see what the commotion was about. She settled down in a shady spot to supervise operations for the day.

The first casualty of the day was David’s Ugandan hammer that snapped as he tried to remove the first bracket. Off to Kiwoko we went to buy another hammer. By the time we returned a small crowd had gathered curious to see what we were up to. David kept everyone entertained with a running commentary on the proceedings.

One of our goals for the day was to have Sam and his siblings participate as much as possible and so before too long we had them measuring, hammering, sawing and climbing the ladder. When they weren’t directly involved they happily played with scrap nails and wood practising their hammering skills.

By mid-day we were ready to eat the lunch of beans, posho and pumpkin that Jajja had prepared.  Then it was back to work installing the gutters and cleaning out the storage tank before adding the last piece of downspout.

Everyone had a lesson on turning the tap on and off and then posed for one last picture. We ended the day by handing out some Christmas gifts and headed for home.


We’d been told that dry season was here and so wondered whether it would be months before the tank would ever collect any water. At dinner time on Christmas Eve we heard the distant sound of thunder and held our breath. And then it came. Perhaps the longest, most persistent rainfall we have experienced in all our time here. It rained and rained and rained. Our own cistern rose 2 metres. It was all I could do to keep David from rushing out to see what was happening at Sam’s. Christmas morning David spotted Sam’s older brother and ran out to ask him what had happened. The 1000 litre storage tank was full!
Water: our welcome Christmas gift this year.


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