Stillwater News Press

November 30, 2013

Water well project aids Congolese quality of life

By Chris Day
Stillwater NewsPress

STILLWATER, Okla. — Clean water is flowing in Congo.

A 10-member team, including Ed Long and Roger Gose of Stillwater, returned last month from a mission trip from the country in Central Africa. The Democratic Republic of Congo is the second largest country in Africa. Its economy relies on mining, but its 65 million people are poor, earning wages of approximately $675 a year.

The country also has the second highest infant mortality rate in Africa — largely because of contaminated drinking water.

Long, Gose and the other mission team members traveled to the Democratic Republic of Congo with a “drill kit” capable of drilling 50 wells up to a depth of 80 feet. The team drilled several wells, but more importantly taught the Congolese how to use the equipment, which was purchased by the Stillwater Frontier Rotary Club.

“Our project was successful beyond the wildest imagination,” Long said.

The mission team met with two Rotary Clubs — one in Lubumbashi, population approximately 2 million, and the other in Likasi, population approximately 450,000.

Congo doesn’t have an adequate supply of clean water for its people and has one of the highest infant mortality rates in Africa because of water-borne illnesses. Nearly half the children born in the country die before they reach age 6.

Water4, a nonprofit organization, developed a program that takes drills to countries in need of a clean water supply and teaches the people how to drill for water. Matt Hangen is the organization’s Africa Continental Director. He was a member of this mission team.

Hangen has drilled more than 200 wells in nine countries. Long said Hangen praised the Congolese because they picked up the drilling techniques quickly.

“That equipment we took to them will drill 50 water wells. We left them enough money to drill about 20. They can drill another 30 wells before that equipment will wear out,” Long said. “The Rotary Clubs in Lubumbashi and Likasi expressed interest in partnering with U.S. clubs and Rotary International to seek a grant to drill additional wells.”

The wells will help improve literacy in the Congo as well, Long said.

Traditionally, women walk long distances to get water from streams and rivers. They don’t have an opportunity for education. The literacy rate has been estimated at approximately 67 percent — 80 percent for males and 54 percent for females.

“We hope this will allow them to go to school because they won’t have to work all day walking and hauling water like the kids usually do,” Long said.