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Saturday, July 2, 2011

Rainwater Harvesting for 3rd World Locations

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Gutters 101 in Rwanda.
 Meant to be a guide for people interested in installing rainwater harvesting systems in remote locations for the use of drinking water.
Rainwater catchment is an ancient technology that can be used to gather water for drinking and other purposes. It is inexpensive, compared to well drilling. The rainfall is currently stable and predictable in Rwanda and the ability of our community to embed and interact with theirs by doing these projects  allows us opportunity to establish relationships and empower them to have improved health and hygiene and assists in creating a local economy and draws congregation to the local churches and gets the different denominations to work together.


When looking at a potential site to harvest rainwater have access and safety be the first consideration. If the building is too tall the risks to members of your team getting injured are greater. If the building is set on a hillside this makes the ladder work more difficult or dangerous.  Sites that are too high must be excluded from potential sites or the work must be outsourced, or safe scaffolding must be erected.
Scaffolding erected in Kirinda, Rwanda

Make a line drawing from an aerial point of view that shows the outline of the building, the dimensions of the roof area and the location of the rain tank. Consider the use of a compass ( which we didn't think to bring ) and indicate on your drawing the side of the building where the work will happen.

Along with calculations of the water yield from the roof it was recommend that we get the name of the pastor or manager, the rough amount of people attending the building and denomination. Get as many pictures as possible of where the gutters will mount in addition to field measurements. Indicate what the mounting surface may be, i.e. metal beams, logs or fascia board, etc.
Water yields are calculated by taking the square footage of the roof, which is length of eave times distance from roof edge to peak, and multiplying that by the inches of rainfall annually. One thousand square feet of roof yield 624 gallons per one inch of rain. The low end average for where we were working is 40'' inches per year, so a two thousand square foot roof with 40 inches of rain per year would yield 49,920 gallons per year on a  average rainfall year, so the yields usually will overwhelm the storage capacity and plans for the overflow discharge should be taken into consideration when deciding the location of the tank foundation. The managers of the locations should be encouraged to use as much water as possible from the tanks during the rainy season whether it was used for crop irrigation or storage in containers, and be educated on the yield per day rationed out over their expected dry season. For example, assuming a 5000 litre tank was full at the start of a three month dry season the amount of water available per day would be about fourteen gallons. The formula is 1,320.86 gallons divided by 90 to equal 14.67 gallons per day for 90 days. Or viewed another way; 60 people per day could have one quart of drinking water per day for 90 days during the dry season.

To see the site evaluations put together by our team CLICK HERE.

Some questions you might answer during your site evaluations;
Is there security or secure storage for tools and equipment? Is there a place nearby to buy drinking water or lunches? Is there power to recharge batteries? If there are no roads that the truck delivering the tanks can drive be sure to arrange for extra man power to carry the tanks in by hand.


Each location where rainwater harvest systems are to be provided should have formed a water committee.  The committee is responsible for providing volunteers to assist in the installation. They should work with the pastors to collect as much money as possible to " buy-in " to their rainwater catchment. They should be encouraged to organize a twice yearly cleaning and inspection of the gutters to maximize the lifespan. By assisting in the installation members of the committee will have the knowledge to repair the gutters if there is a problem. Make sure they know how to use and when to clean the filtration device.

The rainwater system usually consists of; a foundation for the tank, the rain tank, gutters, pipes, wood and fasteners. Also for the water to be safe to drink a filter must be included. Materials for a system that yields as much as 50,000 gallon per year can be as little as $2,000.00, including a Sawyer type filter.


After the site has been selected and the materials ordered the first step in construction is to plan and build the foundation for the tank. Placing the tank on a raised foundation gives a gravity assist to the water pressure and allows for gerry cans or buckets to be filled easily.
Our prototype square foundation.

The foundations we constructed consisted of 2 tons of square cut stone and eight sacks of concrete. The foundation installation should be scheduled for about one week prior to the gutter installation teams arrival so the concrete has time to dry.

The Rwandans use cut rock as filler in the foundation and then the spaces are filled with concrete. Some say a round foundation saves concrete. For our first trip, a square tank foundation was chosen as it allows room for the ball-valve and lock box to have a surface on which to sit. We have since moved on to round foundations with a dedicated area for the nozzle.The advanced preparation step seems critical as the foundations need time to dry, so for maximum success, consider rotating a person or team in a head of the construction team to view, plan and order materials and initiate the foundation construction. Ideally, the foundation would be prepared and all the materials would be delivered to the sites and stored in a secure location prior to the arrival of the team members that would supervise the rainwater systems installation.
17th Foundation in the Karongi District.


Ladder be
 You may be required to trim the beams or modify the building to make the gutters possible. Try to get the locals to do as much of the work as possible so they get experience working with tools and so they feel a greater sense of ownership over what will be their rainwater system.

Beware that they will likely not be wearing safety glasses and may have never handled a power tool before; you must always be on guard to prevent an injury and have first aid items available.

Have extra volunteers on hand to be securing a ladder while somebody works on it, so to minimize injury. The ladders we used had been modified to allow access to a large overhanging roof eave and because of that they were somewhat unstable and wanted to flip. ( PHOTOTIP for working on ladders using both hands ) Designate one person to gather up all sharp metal scraps as the local children will collect anything left on the ground.

Have name tags and markers for the local volunteers so they feel like an important part of the project. Label all water bottles with the volunteers names. There should be one person who's assigned task is site security to protect the backpacks, bags, tools and cameras. 

Creating a straight line for mounting the gutter;
The " Distance Beam " is installed.

You will need to create a straight line where none exists. The method developed by Bob Johnson calls for using one piece of wood to create the mounting surface and a second piece of wood to create a vertical surface, and then a horizontal fascia board. Most buildings have rafters set far apart. In many cases there is ten to fifteen feet between each beam end and this forces a continuous fascia to be installed for the gutter to have proper support.

Here the fascia board with the pre-mounted gutter brackets is being attached to the vertical runner board which is fastened to the distance beam . Beware the heavy weight of the wood and the many sharp screws protruding from the backside of the fascia. 
We cut a notch into a length of drain pipe so that one of our assistants could support the weight of the fascia from the ground.

Our first location had a mixture of metal framing studs and "L" metal. The roof was very uneven. The first step was to place the " distance beams " on each end. Then a string is placed between the end beams and pulled very tight so that the remaining distance beams have a straight line to butt up to.
In this instance the metal beams could not be cut back any more and part of the gutter was set behind the roof edge, so that water would leak behind in a rain. We had to get creative and use extra lengths of gutter, split in two and used to channel the water into the gutter.
This shows a structure with tree branches for beams and rafters. We sandwich the logs between sections of cut lumber and create a larger vertical mounting surface for the fascia board.

After the distance beams are placed The next step is to install the " vertical runners ".

The vertical runners may be 2" x 4" x 10" to allow for the recommended 1/8" per foot suggested slope.

As these initial alignment steps are critical I suggest having the senior mechanically inclined person on your team perform this step.  The distance beams must be both soundly attached and vertically aligned.
This building had a metal fascia and roof. We used blocks of wood to extend the gutter brackets closer to the roof edge so the water didn't overshoot the gutters.

The locals can be utilized to add re-enforcing screws after the initial alignment is finished.
I call the first boards the " distance " boards as they create the distance of the gutter from the wall and determine  where the roof edge is in the context of where the gutter sits. These have  the facing edge cut vertically and the back edge cut to the angle of the wall with the goal of having the new wood look like it is part of the structure of the building. The wood will be crooked, wet and heavy. As you drive a screw into it sap will leak out.
This picture shows the distance beam and vertical runner attached and ready for the fascia.

While the distance beams and vertical runners are being installed onto the building the gutter brackets can be installed onto the fascia board on the ground. Typically these brackets have three screws. The spacing formula  is lineal length of gutters multiplied by twelve to produce inches, divided by however many brackets you have ( but minus two because you don't count the first and last in this math ) equals the spacing between brackets for any given length.
We used a chalk line to mark straight lines on the fascia boards and numbered each section of wood so the brackets could be spaced out and pre-installed, a task well suited to the local volunteers. When we hung the wood the gutter brackets were already on and aligned and the fascia wood itself was sloped towards the tank location. Beware that metal roofs allow the water to gain volume and if the gutters are pitched too hard or sloped far blow the roof edge the rain may overshoot.
We had good luck pre-installing the gutter brackets on the lengths of fascia board as this minimized ladder time.  Reviewing spacing; We had a certain number of brackets to work with on the two locations. On the first location I decided to use 44 brackets in 78 lineal feet, so  coming in from the edges of the fascia board six inches, determine the distance between the two end gutter brackets, multiple the footage times twelve to convert to inches and divide by the number of brackets ( minus two for the end unit already placed ). Example; 78 lineal feet x 12" = 936" divided by 42 equals a bracket spacing of 21.2727273 inches, or 21 and one quarter inch spacing for a total of 44 brackets that would be spread over that 78 lineal feet.
The fascia boards with the pre-installed gutter brackets can now be installed on to the building. We placed a portion of wood on the end of each sections backside, a " joiner board " on each length of fascia board that would allow the following section to be quickly aligned using the chalked line and preset screws.
This is the step where the slope of the gutter is determined. Have one of the project planers " tack " the boards in place using the 1/8" a foot or as needed for slope then have the local assistants go through and add re-enforcing screws after the grade has been established.

Demonstrate to the volunteers how it is that the ladders are to be held and insist that they never deviate from that task. A serious slash or a compound fracture is serious business  in Africa and great care needs to be taken to avoid this.

Each length of fascia had a " joiner " board pre-placed on the backside so that the following section could be quickly lined up and the mounting facilitated. It is shown above as the small block directly above and to the left of the tank, on the back-side of the fascia.

We used plumbers tape as re-enforcing strap to add extra strength to the fascia board. These could in theory be wrapped around the gutter as well; 

As you will have hung fascia board already with pre-aligned gutter brackets the gutter should pop right in. Each section joins together with toothed couplers and the process is straightforward compared to the challenges of alignment that come with installing the distance beams and vertical runners and fascia boards. With the fascia hung with the pre-installed gutter brackets the gutter can now be placed in the gutter brackets and on to the building. We use a plastic hammer to tap the seams tightly together.

The half round gutter is slipped into the back hook of the gutter bracket, and the the front loop is hooked over the bead of the front of the gutter. Place the outlet for the gutter as close as possible to the tank inlet, cutting the gutter sections before and after the outlet with a sawzall. If you have good luck none of the gutter seams will land on a bracket. If they do, you may have to remove the gutter bracket. The plastic is soft and unlikely to break when you are snapping the gutter into place.
The video below shows Rwandans installing the sections of gutters.  You can kind of see the ladder extensions we had welded on to accommodate the larger overhang of the roof line at our second location;
After the gutters are placed into the brackets
Our first project had a very uneven roof line and because of the thick welded iron framing we could not cut the beams back very far, so the roof had to be modified, or something done to prevent the water from leaking behind the gutter. The picture below illustrates how we solved the problem of the roof edge being too close to the back of the gutter;
Sections of gutter split in half with a circular saw was used as a counter flashing because some of the water would have leaked behind the gutter as the roof line was very uneven. Screws were driven through the inverted gutter and into the fascia above the main gutter to hold the flashing in place. A glued, toothed gutter section coupler is visible.

Beware that if the fascia boards are not vertically plumb when they are hung the half round gutter will tend to twist and the face of it bending down or up effects the eye and creates an optical illusion, like the gutter is not sloping towards the drain. As much more slope is used than in a normal Western installation this is okay.  Function, not aesthetics are the most important thing. A sharply pitched gutter will be less likely to clog. A clogged gutter is heavy and makes the system fail prematurely.
Each length of gutter is placed in turn into the gutter brackets with the end piece having a cap, then a coupler is used to join sections of gutters leading to the drainage location which is usually near the center of the building. The drain, or drop-outlet connects to the adjoining section of gutter like the couplers. The end caps work with compression and PVC glue. The installing of the gutter sections themselves are simple and it only takes an eye for detail to seal the seams and couplers thoroughly. No glue should be applied until all the gutter is hung and the initial water test is complete as once it is glued there are no more adjustments possible.
To test the gutters we used a 5 gallon bucket and manually dumped it in near an end cap. If properly installed the water will flow quickly out and in a few minutes the seams can be sealed. A water test is not mandatory but serves well to inspire confidence and demonstrates how the gutters work. Make sure all edges of the teeth of the gutter couplers are glued. Click HERE to see an example of an improper glue job.
All gutter material on our trip was PVC plastic from China that is light-weight and easy to assemble.
The roof was sloped high in the middle at our first location; although in the picture below it looks like the gutter slopes down four inches they were really about 1/8" per foot. We water tested this gutter and it drained dry even though the eye told us that it would hold water.

 This location was difficult in part because the building was set down on a hill and the road made the gutters at perfect eye level and you could see any flaws.When in doubt, test with water. You want to make sure the gutters drain even though  double the normal  amount of brackets are used in these examples. These brackets were spaced about 15" apart. We opted for a tight spacing because there are many filed gutter systems that we saw with wide spacing and sometimes no glue in the seams.

Once all the gutter sections are placed in the brackets, it is time to prepare the rain tank.
We placed the tank on the foundation pad and assembled the sections of drain pipe. The pipe may go back to the wall and into a roof washer, or first flush device, or directly into the tank. We did not have access to pipe couplers so used extra elbows and cut the flanged end off and used those as couplers. We experimented with splitting a short length of pipe to use as a coupler. Other people flange a pipe end using heat but the examples I saw using this method had uneven wall thickness and the pipe appears paper thin. I recommend that pvc couplers be brought in from home with the other project consumables.
After the pipe, or downspout from the gutter is assembled ( without glue ) and routed to the tank, marks are made where in inlet, overflow and bulkhead fittings are to be installed. In hindsight I would have installed a second bulkhead fitting on the two tanks to leave in reserve as that is the weakpoint on a rainwater tank; a child can stand on and snap off the valve causing the tank to drain out.
We used holesaws to drill the three holes. It is advised to have a set of holesaws as the size of the bulkhead fittings vary and in some cases four inch pipe may be used to accomodate large volumes of water. Once the holes are drilled place the tank on it's on the ground and have a volunteer climb inside so that the bulkhead fittings may be quickly installed and a thin layer of silicone caulk can be applied around the fittings. Fumes gather in the new tanks so expedite this process and have the volunteer out of the tanks asap. Once the fittings are installed place the tank back on the foundation pad. Now the final steps can be completed.

This shows the tank with the installed bulkhead and the parts laid out in order; from the tank. A 1" male/male fitting, a banjo valve, a 1" male to female hose barb. All fittings have teflon tape applied and are tightly fitted. Inspect each component for cracks after assembly and replace if broken. Flexible hose was attached to the hose barb and a lock box was placed around the valve.

Once the rain tank is back on the pad and has the bulkhead fittings installed double check that the drain pipes are fitting correctly and then glue them.

Jados completed the installation of the downspout.

A lock box was provided for security and to protect the valves. A metal dedication placard is placed and then the filter assembly is provided.

A Sawyer filter is used to purify the rainwater in our example. A two bucket gravity fed system was provided for each location. Clean plastic buckets were somewhat hard to come by and the stands were made to fit the largest buckets that could be purchased.

Our assistant Jados stands next to the completed filtration assembly.

Other methods may involve ferrocement and manually operated first flush diverters. This guide is specifically for conditions and methods teams from Saddleback Church and members of the P.E.A.C.E. plan developed by Rick Warren  may encounter in our efforts in Rwanda. It is provided publicly  so that other groups may have examples and be facilitated in their efforts to provide clean water to people in need. Every minute, 200 hundred children die due to water related illness. 

Special thanks to My wife and family. Larry and Carolyn McBridge, the Cass family and all the awesome folks at and http://www.nothirstychild/ and Paul Kagame.                                                                                                           

This is a work in progress....

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Rwanda trip journal, Part 3

5000 litre rainwater harvest tank Kibuye, Rwanda


This was our recreation day. The hygiene team wanted to see the two churches where we installed the rain harvest systems and then we went to the local market where the ladies bought skirts and I got a cute little dress for Avery, my daughter. I know it is nothing my wife would select, but there wasn’t much of a selection and it was only 3000 RF ( Rwandan Francs ) which is about $3.80 .

Then we took a small boat over to Bat Island, where as the name implies, there are millions of large bats. We hiked for five minutes into the interior and when our guide gave the signal we started clapping which woke the bats up and sent them into a panic flight. There were cows there; a herd of about seven. They were the healthiest cows I have seen so far. Then we went to “ Peace “ island where there is a little shack that sells cold cokes and fries. Pete and I brought travel fishing poles and cast a few times to say we have been fishing in Africa.

There are only little 4” long sardine looking fish called sombasas. I guess there is a massive methane deposit under the lake, so it is pretty much a dead lake. I heard that occasionally gas vents and people along the shore have been killed by the fumes, which is comforting as we are staying in rooms maybe two thousand feet from the shore. We met a boat load of teenage girls on Peace Island who are here from San Diego helping a pastor build a clinic.
Sambasa Boats at Amahoro Island
Tonight we will all go to a different hotel where a celebration feast is planned. Our rooms have no power or water today so I am eager for a shower and hope the power is on again soon as all my batteries are almost drained. Now, for a little shuteye before diner…
I woke up totally disorientated at sundown thinking it was sunrise and that I had missed diner. The place we went to had a buffet prepared with the usual fruits, pasta and potatoes but there was the added treat of tender beef in pepper sauce and banana bread for desert. It was outstanding.
Tomorrow we all split up and go to various churches in teams of two as guest pastors. Those who know me will be laughing out loud at that notion, but I guess it is part of the job. I will speak for a few minutes about the clean water project we are doing and Pete will handle the religious stuff. It’s difficult for me to talk out loud about that stuff. It is not a question of believing in God or not, but for me it is a personal and private thing.
For the first time I get the sense of the trip winding down. I mentioned that to the other team and they don’t feel that as they have three days of work left. I need about two hours for some detail work and testing at our two locations.

Tomorrow the plan is to go out with a local pastor to visit some other churches that may be potential locations for other systems to be installed by other teams. I love getting out into the country away from the urban area of Kibuye.


Speaking in the church was no big deal. I just reprised the post I made to the blog. There were some other muzumkoos from Pennsylvania and that took some of the pressure off me and Pete.  The pastor and his people seemed genuinely grateful for the catchment ( I am finally getting used to that term ). Then we went to the pastor’s home and unloaded some of our gift items. I have found that it does no good whatsoever for us to say to these people, “ we are coming to visit, please do not prepare any food as we know it is a big deal and we don’t need that. “ Everywhere we go they have sodas and food, even if that means they ask others from their village to bring items like potatoes and beans for them to prepare. The first pastor’s house was Pastor Valance, and he runs the church where we installed the first system. He seemed embarrassed that he had only room temperature sodas and no flushing toilets.
Then Pete and I took Jasquec and our driver to the Bethany for some cold drinks and wifi. We finished the day by visiting a man’s home named Augustine. I guess he is on staff at Saddleback as a master trainer. This was maybe thirty minutes outside town. It was almost dark when we got there and he had us walk ten minutes to a field where he showed us the location where he wants to build his church.

He had been having services there in a tarp structure but I guess the government doesn’t allow that so his flock of fifty meet on Sundays in his home. He asked us to pray for his church to have the funds to build and so we did there in the dark under strange stars and a crescent moon with the crescent in a place I normally don’t see it. The Big Dipper is upside down here.
I hope to return someday to install a catchment system on his church and hope that he gets it built.
Magical moment in a field.
I cannot say that I will ever be able to return here but I will definitely stay involved with the McBrides and assist in preparing other teams to go out and do the same stuff. Larry mentioned that he and I may return in the near future to prep the ground for other teams. That will not happen unless the church or another generous donor like Karen funds it. I guess there has been no work done while I have been gone and the situation financially will be grim when I return. The main thing has been that my career, which has up until this trip seemed like a meaningless waste of life, now has a meaning like I never could have imagined. This water stuff actually saves lives. The villagers around Augustine’s house in the field where he wants to build a church gathered around and when they were told that we are the folks that help provide the wells, the chlorinators and now the rainwater harvesting, they all cheered and wanted to touch us. This is powerful stuff. I feel that I am meant to be here.
These people astonish me; from Larry, Pete and Joel to the Africans. You can’t help but love the Rwandans and you have to try really hard to have them not love you more. When you are a person that does not have access to running's like I had never seen genuine gratitude before. They were so thankful.

Today is the first day that I feel kind of oogy. I have no energy; it's like I have weights strapped to my arms. I hope it is just that the week finally caught up to me. I know I was bitten by mosquitoes last night as they woke me up, but that shouldn't be a big deal. I slept through breakfast. We went deep into the country to survey two churches that are potential locations for future rainwater harvesting projects. They really need the help. Both locations have roof areas of about 2400 square feet.

Using conservative numbers based on forty inches of rain a year the roofs on those churches would yield well over 62,000 gallons of water a year. RAINFALL DATA FROM HERE.  The high altitude of Rwanda provides the country with a pleasant tropical highland climate, with a mean daily temperature range of less than 2° C (4° F ). Temperatures vary considerably from region to region because of the variations in altitude. At Kigali, on the central plateau, the average temperature is 21° C (70° F ). Rainfall is heaviest in the southwest and lightest in the east. A long rainy season lasts from February to May and a short one from November through December. At Gisovu, in the west, near Kibuye, annual rainfall averages 160 cm (63 in); at Gabiro, in the northeast, 78 cm (31 in); and at Butare, in the south, 115 cm (45 in). I will save the rest of the technical data for part 2 but as I stated another place on my blog they will have more rain than their ability to store it.

Now I wait patiently for my cheese burger ( which was very good ). Then Peter and I went to the market to buy our wives some African skirts. There was a man walking around with a machete, which makes both me and our interpreter nervous; too many images of bad people with sharp blades are stuck in our minds.
We did another house visit in the evening. Although we insisted that they not serve us diner there was again a full spread. It is fascinating to get inside the houses of the Rwandan people. The gratitude they have for the simple little gifts we bring is genuine.


Today we wrapped up some misc. loose ends on the two churches where we installed the rainwater harvesting systems. We were expecting to go out scouting for more locations but the pastor was busy and as is often the case in Rwanda the plans we make get changed. Not much going on today. We are hanging again at the Bethany waiting for cheeseburgers.
View from the Centre Bethany
After lunch we visited two houses, I guess they are CPT, which I think stands for cleanwater peace trainer. The first lady had one of the Sawyer filters and in the three months that she has been using it to clean her city supplied water ( which must be boiled or filtered in order to be safe to drink ) her kids have stopped having stomach issues. The second home didn’t have the filter yet, but she was educated in hygiene and she was shown to us as a model of what the education does. She was tops in a field of fifteen homes. To get the honors they have to have a small vegetable garden, a covered latrine and a tippy-tap. Jasque said her kitchen set up was far better than what he had as a child. Imagine perpetual camping with no toilet paper, just grass. The houses around hers were what you’d imagine as sort of a worst case scenario, in terms of trash and general filth. Some of the neighbors kids were over during our visit and the difference between her children ( the one who had received the hygiene training ) and the neighbors was like night and day. Her child was clean, had clean clothes and was not coughing and did not have a runny noes.

WEDNESDAY-The last working day in Kibuye
I went with just three Rwandans to survey three potential locations for future projects. That was interesting. You can’t help but feel like an important person as the gifts of clean water we bring are hugely important to the Rwandans. We went to a  huge outdoor market in the town of Rugenbara ( safe to assume  I got the spelling wrong ) were there must have been 20,000 people. I bought a traditional Rwandan knife for $0.15.  There was a mild blowing child stampede at our last stop. It was surreal.

 I got a last look at one of our project sites and it was 100%, with the lock box for the tank valve, the sawyer filters inside the church and the happy children. Jasque and I took a moto-taxi ( motorcycle ) to the Bethany. That place has become a special place to me, right by the water of Lake Kivu.
We met for diner back here at Saint Maries and Pastor Augustine had nice little gifts for Joel, Pete and I. As I sit trying to document my last few thoughts on this place the Catholic girls are singing a sweet sounding song at the school below…
This has been one of the greatest experiences of my life.
Tomorrow we return to the capital of Kigali for shopping for gifts and a final celebration diner. Friday we will get up at five a.m. and drive two and a half hours to an animal sanctuary were we might get a chance to see some wildlife. There really are no wild creatures here where we are, except for birds. Whatever there was didn’t survive the genocide when people fled to the forests to escape the killers.

We went for our last walk in kibuye in the morning before packing up to leave. Larry is able to win over most of the people we encounter on the road as he speaks enough of the language to communicate greetings and answer some questions. He said to an old man in kinyanrwandan “ be strong old man “ and some ladies walking next to us said to him in their language  “ you said everything but good morning! ” to which he replied, “ I am sorry. Good morning old man. Be strong. “ Just that fast he made friends with everybody. They respect him. That makes him more effective.
I tried to drink in everything with my eyes one last time as we walked and I felt a little sad that my time there was ending. I don’t know yet if I ever will be able to return but I can say that I fell in love with both the people and the countryside. We got to do things no tourists ever do; go into villages far away from hotels and meet as friends in people’s houses. We were welcomed as honored guests and they served us food and cold sodas even though for them such things come at great expense to them.
On the way back to Kigali we stopped at a beautiful waterfall and some boys came out. Instead of begging they broke into a song. One played some sort of homemade violin and they sang first in English and then in their own tongue. Once again I was charmed and entranced. I couldn’t help but reach for a coin as everybody snapped pictures and the boy made the coin disappear in a flash so that none of his friends even realized I had given him money. They also received toothbrushes from one of the members of the hygiene team.
There was one more stop, at a genocide memorial at the Catholic church where the walls were pushed in by a bulldozer. I think I must save that tale for the end as we were guided this time into the memorial by a father who had lost all nine children in the war. It was a moving, powerful experience and I caught something a little spooky on my camera.
We arrived in Kigali late in the afternoon and Larry arranged a treat at an all-you-can-eat buffet in an upscale place across the street from the place known in pop culture as the Hotel Rwanda. When we first arrived in Rwanda Kigali seemed so exotic. After our ten days in the quiet and small lakeside town of Kibuye the capitol just seemed dirty and hectic. The infrastructure is…lacking. The sewer system is challenged.  Pete and I shared a room and we were both out shortly after the lights went out for our four hours of rest before the last official day in Africa.
We were up at 4:45 a.m. and out the door. The safari truck was waiting and part of our group piled in for a two hour ride to Akagera National Park.  It was a real treat to see exotic game; cape buffalo, several types of antelope, hippos, zebras, monkeys, baboons and giraffe in their natural habitat. If somebody had said to me a year ago that I would be in a photo with a giraffe in Africa I would have said they were crazy. My friends will probably accuse me of using photoshop to drop myself into the picture.
On the way back to Kigali I stayed awake while the rest of the team on our safari slept. I wanted to look at every shack, every terraced hillside and every person with an impossible load balanced on their head one last time.  Our guide on the game drive, as they call them, lost his daughter in the genocide. He didn’t want to talk about it on the way out. He said to us, “ we want to look forward, not back, “ as we drove. But after hanging out all day we invited him to share a lunch with us at the lodge. We told him a little about what we had been doing in Rwanda and he opened up. He said that he had spent five years looking for his daughter, brother and parents after the genocide. Apparently he found the people directly responsible for their deaths. He said they told him, “ you will never find them. We threw them into the river and they are probably buried in Uganda. “
We finally got back to the hotel and cleaned up and did our final packing.
Those who have encouraged me to go are waiting for the answer to the question; did I find God in Rwanda?
I would say that I was never as lost as they thought. My issue has always been with men who put themselves between other men and God like the politicians disguised as preachers and other power hungry fools trying to define something that is undefinable.  The world is still poisoned and full of them. I write of the child molester protectors, the sham television evangelists and the type of people like the so called Christian priests and nuns who not only did nothing to stop the genocide but actually participated in the mass murder. I still believe that all religions bring one closer to God and that it is men who try to interfere it that journey by trying to judge other people.
I saw love of God and a positive power in the people of Rwanda like I have never seen before. I remember that night when we stood in that field that pastor Augustine wants to build a church on; we made a circle and joined hands with a group of children in the middle and we asked that he be successful in the quest to build his church. It gave me goosebumps
Did I feel the power of God?
Like a lightning bolt.
There was a powerful current of spiritual energy that surrounded us. Their conditions and their ability to be warm and loving and happy anyway made all my problems at home inconsequential for a while. We were working with people with scars from weapons used against them on their bodies and people who wore emotional scars from having lost in some cases, their entire families. These things do not make my own struggles less real, but they did demonstrate that the life you have, including the hardships and struggles, is a beautiful thing.
The Cass family can be proud of the fact that they made possible clean water for hundreds of people. I am still dealing with strange feelings. You get this strange feeling of guilt about everything we have. I felt like I was getting too much credit for making the gutter installation part happen. As we walked up to the door of Larry and Caroyn McBridge two nights after I returned for the debriefing and to see they next team off I was explaining to my wife how everything felt too easy and I wanted to get them to stop treating me like some sort of returning hero. We walked in and there was a standing O for me. It was really, really awkward. But of course, it is nice to be appreciated.

Suddenly all those people at peacewater, whom I had met before yet felt distance, seemed familiar to me. We had all shared an experience; we had went to Rwanda and been ruined. Gloriously ruined. And when I walked in for the debriefing it was like I knew everybody.

Gloriously ruined is the term for having your world view shattered. It is what happens when you are able to help somebody in a meaningful way and you ask nothing in return. It is how you feel when you go into a Walmart and what had been junky stuff before now seems like abundance and amazing quality.

A special thanks again to my wife and all those who made this trip possible.
Next up; The How to Install Rainwater Harvesting Systems in the Third World guide, er...manual. Whatever.

I am finally getting used to my new title; rainwater catchment specialist. I think when I have an office again someday the sign on the door will say something like, " structural drainage engineer . "

 Part one and two of this series on Rwanda can be found here.
Gazillions of photos are linked to in a slide show below;

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Rwanda trip Journal, part 2

Part 2: Working on Clean Water in Kibuye, Rwanda on behalf of No Thirsty Child. and
 Great thanks to my wife Lisa, Mr. and Mrs. Larry McBride and Bill and Karen Cass and Candi and Bill Chavez for making this possible and also to my teammates Joel Lautenschleger and Peter Hoffman.
a new email from Rwanda:" Dearest Larry
I am very glad to inform you that today :Pentecost day we had the tank fulL of rain water everbody at Free Methodist church was shouting of joy I trust that It was the same at Assembly of God church.
May God bless you dearest Larry and all the Team Pastor LĂ©onidas " 6-13-2011

A huge collection of photographs from the trip is HERE.

We scouted our two locations. I guess I am in charge of the installation at this point. Joel is the team leader but I am the technical expert, at gutters lol, so I am making the bulk of the decisions on how the gutter installation is going to go but there is no friction or competition at all. Joel is team leader and managed the project funds and Peter took care of the logistics such has paying for our drivers, rooms and whatnot. We all worked together on the installation and training. The ever present children, sometimes begging and usually pointing and waving at us when we went anywhere and shouting the word for white person. Larry cracks me up, he points back and shouts “ black child “.
We in our world can see the pictures, but you have to come here to see the life they have. It is inconceivable to us. You cannot imagine the conditions some of these people live in, yet most

everywhere we go we are greeted with their lovely smile and “ armakuru? “ to which we reply “ ne meza “, which means we are fine. Americans could learn a lesson from these people, but we won’t. Or at least, the ones who have never been here will not.
Peacewater is Larry and Carolyns baby 100%. He is probably the closest thing to a saint I have known.
The remains of the stadium.
I could write for hours, but I am toast. The Kibuye stadium is being torn down; the walls are gone and only a portion of the stands remain. It is best that the horrible place be replaced as it is; with a hospital. A thousand or so feet from the stadium where some 10,000 were executed over the course of two days is yet another Catholic church where yet another congregation was butchered.  There are gutted structures of churches that we see pretty frequently. I don’t care to imagine the horrors that those walls witnessed. In Rwanda the Tutsis were about 10% of the population but here in Kibuye they were about 20%. The beautiful lake that my room overlooks still has ( according to Larry ) the bones of unknown thousands that were killed and tossed into the water.
Today we started the gutter installation on our first location. It went well enough. We went to the lumber yard and got our wood. The men here make about 2000 francs per day if they are lucky, or about $3.00 u.s.
They are in a mixture of rags, dirty clothes and failing coveralls with flip flops or leather dress shoes. Some have rubber rain-type boots and I can only imagine what their feet must feel like after wearing them all day. The electrical panel is open, sawdust is a foot thick on the ground in places and the machines are at least as old as I am. I guess that tarp covered workshop is home to four different businesses. They make attractive furniture that will be  exported to the Congo twenty five miles across the lake. I negotiated a price for eighty feet of hardwood 1” x 6” and eight pieces of rafter material, cut to our specs, planed smooth and delivered for the equal of $37.00 U.S. dollars.
A curious group watched us work all day. We had to break to get one of our “ ladders “ welded. It was hard dirty work. The pastor showed up and despite what we were expecting he was grateful for what we were doing, however we were doing it. At first he had said, “ I have a metal roof, I want metal gutters and two tanks, and gutters on both sides of the building. Larry, the consummate negotiator and diplomat fixed that and we asked the pastor enough questions that he felt like we were respecting his church and opinions, then he left.
We finished the day at the Bethany Hotel sipping coffee and chatting with our various families via skype and now I am in the dining room awaiting the dreaded Sombasa diner. Sombasa are little sardine sized fish that you eat whole with the head tail guts and all. The sunset was spectacular and once again electrical storms light the sky over the Congo. ( ps, the sombasa were great. They are deep fried and tasted like sweet French fries )

I sit in a restaurant in downtown kibuye with the workers that are helping that are helping us install the rain harvest system on the first church. The food is served buffet style and there was some excitement when we pulled up as our driver knocked over a motorcycle trying to park. The owner ran up to the window and I had a brief moment of terror, not knowing if I was about witness a battle or what. This is my first time away from the team and on my own. I got sent with the crew to get them lunch and buy some more water.  Our friend Jados looks over my shoulder as I type watching every word. This is such a strange experience. Aside from one Chinese person I am the only non-African around. Jados is on staff at Saddleback as the in-country staff person, but I guess he only gets paid when there is a clean water team in Rwanda, so he is very happy to see us.
The first location completed with the foundation for the rain tank, the fascia board and rain gutters installed. First Assembly Of God Church, Kibuye, Rwanda
It was a long day.
We got the first system pretty much done. We went into town to purchase another ladder today. The ladders we have to use are the most ridiculous thing you could imagine. The picture of the ladder to the left is part of the good ladder of the two we had. :)

When you purchase a ladder in Kibuye that means going to the local welder and having one made. They close their eyes when the arc lights and the transformer is a open spool of wire. To get the right voltage the wrap, or unwrap a few strands of wire.

The second site is going to be more difficult, just because of the kids mobbing us. They are mostly the abandoned children of the local prostitutes. Filthy, and often in rags they gather to watch us work. Yet always, that easy smile and joyful greeting for us. There is a lot of alcoholism here. Many stores sell beer and hard stuff. The poor drunks drink homemade banana beer. I am now showered and waiting for diner in the common eating room. There is not much to do in the room beside sleep.

Today we started work at our second location. It is going to be easier, although it is in the direct sun all day. We called it a half day as we are all exhausted. We will go this afternoon into the countryside to visit the site where Immacule hid in the bathroom for three months with eight other women as the genocide raged around them. I am really looking forward to getting out away from the city of 30,000 where we are staying and into the remote areas.
My body clock is finally adjusting to the time difference, which is about nine hours. I have been skipping the morning walks that Larry, Pete and Joel take every morning as I am the one doing the bulk of the installation as I am the only one with previous experience, but I guess they saw otters in Lake Kivu which is about a half mile from where we are staying. The sunsets over the lake are spectacular every night without fail. The Catholic girls’ school below us finishes their day with a song every night a nine o’clock and it is a sweet sound that makes you instantly feel relaxed. I am kind of surprised that there are Catholic churches anymore to be honest. Jasque, our interpreter was raised in that faith but after the war, as Rwandans call the genocide, he will not attend a Catholic church anymore. He says they cannot be Christians as some of the priests were participating in the murders. To me, that some of the worst areas of mass killings were inside the Catholic churches defies understanding. It is easy from a distance to say that all Catholics suck but the Sister that runs the hotel where we are staying is a sweet and caring woman. They are not charging us to do our laundry as they know we are volunteers working in the community. Lunch is now being served.

We finished the day as usual, at the hotel Bethany where there is wireless internet and we drink coffee with hot milk. It is such a bizarre thing to get the wife and kids on skype on a video call here, half way around the world. Another oddity about Rwanda is that you can be deep in the country and there is cell service. There seems to be nowhere you can go that you cannot get a call. They don’t drop, they don’t garble. I guess that there never were land lines so they just erected cell towers everywhere. After we went to Immacules house we stopped by some of the wells that are leaking or not working. These wells were put in by another NGO and the problem is educating the locals to not let the children abuse the wells, to keep their cows away so they don’t poop where it can run into the well head and contaminate the water supply.  The NGO is called Living Water and they too are doing important work. Now there just needs to be some maintaining and repairing of the wells. There seems to be quite a lot of them. One problem I can see with groups coming in to give stuff to the people is that they have no investment, no ownership ( as Larry says ). We are hoping to change that with what we are doing by insisting that the churches we are working on provide volunteers to assist with the installation of the gutters and rainwater harvest storage tanks. That way, if the gutters get damaged, they might have some knowledge about how to fix them. By investing in at least the labor they may be more inclined to keep the children from damaging the tanks.Larry wanted the churches to pay for the foundations for the tanks which cost about $180.00 U.S. for the cut stone and concrete, but when you are at a church where people tithe with lemons and bananas, or a few pennies there is simply nothing they can do besides provide the sweat equity which is more than they are doing with the wells, where a drilling truck comes in, the crew lays a foundation the drilling happens, the well is dedicated and its “ see you later. “
I had a nice chat at the Bethany Hotel with a man from Burundi who is a nutritional specialist who has been working here since the genocide. His job is to go into the refugee camps and deal with the rampant malnutrition and getting the former Rwandans to repatriate. I guess many of the perpetrators of the genocide fled and they are in limbo in camps along the borders surrounding this country. They may face trial and prison time if they return, but the penalty might be as little as ten years, even for those who may have killed hundreds. The main goal is reconciliation. My friend from Burundi ( I couldn’t  pronounce and will not even attempt to spell his name ) says that something like the genocide could happen again if there is not continuing efforts at healing. He says that in perhaps fifty years the memory will have faded enough that it would finally be over.

We got the second rainwater harvest system installed. I felt confident enough in our Rwandan assistant that I stepped into the church ( EDIT; to be honest, I had a moment and found myself cursing at the absurdity of the ladders, having no tool bags, poor communication, so I needed a break ) for a half an hour to work on this and let them finish the installation.
We took a motorcycle taxi through downtown Kibuye ( #27 on the list of things I never imagined I would do ) and went to the Congo market. The scene probably hasn't changed much in two thousand years except now the oarsmen are required to wear life vests. Bananas and plantains are brought to the shore of Lake Kivu where they are traded for avocados and other misc. locally grown produce. I saw children with bundled firewood that were carried in balanced on their heads to be traded. On the other side of the road hundreds of pigs, goats, cattle and chickens were gathered waiting for the end of the day where they are herded onto the boats and taken back to the Congo.

The second team that is in Rwanda right now is focused exclusively on hygiene and they met us today here in Kibuye. It was nice to see them again after a week apart and we all had diner of barbecued goat, fries, pasta and passion fruit at our hotel. They want to visit the sites where we have done our work and then we will all recreate and go visit two islands. I asked the driver to stop at the site of the former Kibuye soccer stadium where about 10,000 people were massacred. The politicians and police told them to gather there so they could be protected. Then the soldiers began throwing grenades and machine gunning them. Those not killed that way were finished with machetes. It took about three days to finish the job. I guess the killers would keep regular hours; in the morning they would gather, set up road blocks and do their business. Come five o'clock or so they would clock out and go home. If they encountered potential victims after hours they would let them go. " We'll get you cockroaches tomorrow. "
Our friend Jados was a student at the catholic school right next to the stadium and stayed home during the one hundred days of carnage. Our interpreter Jasque escaped with his older sister; they were hunted like animals the whole time; moving and foraging for food at night and hiding in the forests during the day.

Tomorrow will be our last full day in Kibuye. I guess I will go out with just our interpreter deep in-country to scout churches. Woot!
Next Up: Free Time, House Visits and Hygiene Training Observations