Former Craig man to share experience of African mission
June 17, 2011
If you go …
What: Harvey Craft’s slideshow presentation on mission work in Malawi, Africa
When: 6 p.m. Sunday
Where: Calvary Baptist Church, 1050 Yampa Ave.
— The presentation is free and open to anyone. For more information, call 824-5222.
Former Craig resident Harvey Craft said a recent mission in Africa changed his perspective on Western culture.
"Nobody over here is happy," he said. "Everybody has everything in the world and nobody is happy."
Things are different half a world away, he said.
Last year, Craft spent six weeks in Malawi, Africa, as a volunteer for the Marion Medical Mission Shallow Well Program. The program helps small villages construct community wells for safe drinking water.
Craft, who lived in Craig from 1978 to 2007, will share his experiences in a slideshow presentation at 6 p.m. Sunday at Calvary Baptist Church, 1050 Yampa Ave., in Craig.
Craft, now of West Plains, Mo., said the mission has helped install more than 12,000 wells throughout Malawi, Tanzania and Zambia in the past 20 years.
Each well, which costs about $400 to install, can provide safe drinking water for up to 400 people.
Without the wells, Craft said many villages get drinking water from open air sources.
Unsafe water contributes to a high infant mortality rate, Craft said. In Malawi, roughly one-third of children under 5 years old die, many from water-borne illnesses.
Although volunteers are there to help, Craft said most of the well construction is done by villagers.
"We don't do anything for them they can't do themselves," he said. "It's a self-help project. If a village wants a well, they have to form a committee and apply to the mission group for assistance."
From there, the mission helps each village pick the ideal location for the well, and guidance on how to build it.
"We go in during the dry season … and we find out where they're getting water now — a water hole, a stream," Craft said. "And, we direct them on where to put the well in."
Craft said the wells are generally sited 12 feet in elevation higher than where the water source is. The villagers dig until they find the water table, then dig six feet deeper.
"That way, they have a viable well during the dry season," he said.
The reason for asking villagers to do the work is simple.
"They do the work, so they have ownership of the well," he said.
Craft said brick making is a common skill among Malawians. Many homes throughout the country are built from handmade bricks.
Those same bricks are used in well construction.
The villagers stack loose brick at the bottom of the well so water can filter in. Then mortared bricks are layered above and sealed with clay.
The clay prevents ground water from seeping into the well and contaminating the water supply.
When the brickwork is complete, a contractor is hired by the mission to cap the well.
That's when volunteers like Craft get involved.
"As the well team, our job was to go in, install the pump, hold a dedication ceremony — a church service, pray, have a good time, sing and dance — and go to the next well," he said.
The installation and dedication at each location takes about an hour.
Craft said he installed pumps in 92 wells during his stay.
The pumps are simple in construction, Craft said. They consist of a 20-foot-long PVC pipe that threads through a hole in the well cap, and extends to the bottom of the well. Mounted to the top of the pipe is a hand pump and spigot.
Although the design is simple, Craft said the wells are safe and durable.
"We did a survey last August of 100 random wells throughout the country and found no biological contamination in any of them," he said. "We also did another survey that told us 97 percent of the wells we've done in the last 20 years are still in operation."
Before installing well pumps, Craft spent the early weeks of his visit performing maintenance on the mission's truck fleet.
"I had 17 days to get 16 trucks ready for the (well) team," he said.
Roads in Malawi are scarce and poorly maintained.
"To drive a distance from Craig to Hayden would take five hours. That's how bad the roads are," he said. "They have ox cart paths. There's one paved highway in the whole country.
"Trucks just get beat up. The roads are just bad, bad. It's almost impossible to stay in the seat. My shoulders were black and blue from bouncing against the seatbelt."
Craft said the country is poor, and many support themselves through subsistence farming.
"It's very poverty stricken," he said. "The average Malawi citizen lives on 20 cents a day. They scratch their living out of the soil the way they've done it for 1,000 years."
Despite the hardships, Craft said the Malawians are hardworking, happy people.
"Over there, they don't know luxury," he said. "If they have clean water, they're tickled to death.
"If they have a house to live in — even if they had to make their own bricks to build it — they're blessed. … Things don't make happiness."
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