Friday, July 6, 2012

Children at Well

Today's picture shows two children drawing water from a well. The well is shared by 12 families. The picture was taken in 1939 near Oklahoma City. The photograph serves as a reminder of the desperate poverty that existed in the US less than 100 years ago.

Well, my time in Africa is growing short. The lovely Mrs. PJM is insisting that I return home to my domestic duties, so I will be leaving this coming Tuesday. This leaves very little time to wrap  up projects at the orphanage. Basically, I am trying to do all I can to give these children a fighting chance once I am gone. I can not make things good for them, but I can try and give them a chance with the well and the chicken project.

One challenge that remains. The director, Charles, I told you about yesterday. He works full time there, and receives no compensation. He and his family live on about $100 a month that his wife makes. Often, food comes off their table to supply the kids. He lives about 5 miles from the orphanage. To hire a car for the ride is $2 each way. You can hire a Pickie (small scooter) to take you for about 50 cents each way. On a meager income either of these prove exorbitant, so most of the time he walks. However, circumstances often force him to take the Pickie, and that represents a major drain on resources.

So, in spending several hours with him yesterday, we determined the best way I could further help at this time would be to help solve the transportation issue. If Charles had a Pickie, he could ride to the orphanage, and allow him to have more time actually caring for the children, and have transportation when he needs to take Children to town. Also, with a Pickie he will be able to sell eggs to cafes in town, as he will have  a mode to make deliveries. He already has made deals with several cafes to buy the eggs.

So, we went Pickie shopping yesterday. Charles' brother is a pastor for a nearby church, and his brother knows more than either of us about Pickies, so his brother Martin agreed to come help us find the right one at the right price. The picture below shows Charles' brother helping us shop for the bike.

This picture above shows the Bad Boy we ended up getting. This bike gets a whopping 175 miles per gallon. That is not a typo . . . it is 175 miles per gallon, is street legal, and has no trouble maintaining highway speeds here. Oh, and it comfortably seats a family of four. I kid you not . . . the bike is rated for four people. It is the norm here to see 3, 4, 5, and even six people riding on a  Pickie. I am not making this stuff up. I saw one with three people and a goat, and another time three people and a bicycle strapped to the back.

So, we closed the deal, and Charles and the kids now have some modern, efficient, affordable transportation. Just to give you a little more feel for Pickies, here are some pictures I snapped today around town.

Picture above was on highway leaving town. The Picky drivers charge per trip, not per passenger, so the more people you pile on the Pickie, the better the deal is. Above you see four, count them, four adults on the Pickie. It is hard to capture the really spectacular Pickie pictures as they have already zoomed by before I can get the camera out and snap the picture. Last week I saw a Pickie with two people and a coffin. The coffin was on the back seat sticking out to the left and the right. Out of respect of course I did not snap a picture of that, but admit I was genuinely wondering if there was a body in the casket or not.

Bicycles are often used to deliver farm produce. 

Bicycles are the primary Taxi system here. The fee is 10 cents per ride, wherever you want to go. Note the man on the back is conducting business on a cell phone while on the cycle-taxi. Over 97% of people here do not have electricity nor running water in home, but everyone has a cell phone.

For those seeking a more comfortable taxi experience than a bicycle or Pickie, there is the Tuk Tuk, a three wheeled somewhat enclosed vehicle. The fee for a ride in a Tuk Tuk is about a dollar each way. Note in the picture a rag is stuffed in gas tank instead of a proper gas cap, which must have been lost along the way somewhere.

Anyway, it appeared to me that the high mileage Pickie was the best way to help the children so we went with that.


  1. Those kids must be pumping water from a cistren, or at least a very shallow well. That is like the kitchen pump, not normally an outdoor pump.
    It doesn't have enough stroke to move the water from anything deep.

    Well, you have made Charles's life a lot easier. Now he has water right outside his door and can get around with ease.
    And the kids will have all the eggs they can eat and have more to sell.
    Good job PJM

  2. I'm so sorry you have to leave Africa "so soon" --- I say from my air conditioned house - refrigerator/freezer working just fine -- also stove, microwave, cellphone, TV and cell phone!

    A brain and a heart like yours are what is needed to help those people who are already trying to help themselves.

  3. I am intrigued by the kerosene pump at the station. Is the kerosene used for home use or transportation?

    1. Nate,
      Since no one has electricity in home, many people who are better off have kerosene stoves and kerosene lamps in their homes. So much so that that stations sell it from pumps. I saw a woman pull up on a pickie with 8 5 gallon jugs she filled up with kerosene.

  4. no electricity - how do they recharge the cell phones? Charging stations???

    Glad to hear you were able to help!

    1. There are charging stations all over town, where they will charge your flashlight or cell phone for a few shillings

  5. You are doing a great service to those people. How lucky they are to have you both.

  6. Our church has a sister congregation in Tanzania, and we purchased a "piki-piki" for their pastor to be able to get back and forth between his home and the various churches he serves. Apparently the name comes from the sound the engine makes.

    DADD, the well outside the house where I lived with my first husband had a pump just like that. In the winter I had to save a bucket of water at night, so I could prime it with boiling water in the morning, and then pump it several times during the day to keep the water from freezing in the pipe. If memory serves me, the well was about fifty feet deep.

  7. I'm curious as to what you saw in terms of animal powered transportation, implements. Beast of burden remain employed to a much larger extent around the globe that we generally realize, and I wonder what you saw of that.

    1. P&M,
      Rarely I see a donkey pulling a cart. More likely I see things balanced and being moved on a bicycle. I have never seen a donkey or oxen pulling a plow. The land is turned over by hand with a hoe. Backbreaking work. The parcels of land are small here, so you can not afford to feed an ox or donkey, and precious land is used for maze, not grazing.

    2. PJM, thank you. I appreciate the response, very interesting.

      It's interesting how widespread maze is in Africa. It's an introduced crop, but very widespread from what I understand.


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