Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Los Bomberos


This week, week 5 of the great Dominican Republic Adventure we feature LOS BOMBEROS!  Los Bomberos means FIREMEN.

      Figure 112 Street scene of Los Alcarrizos
                                                   Figure 113 Street Scene of the street of Los Alcarrizos

We have a project in the city of Los Alcarrizos about a 30 minute drive north of Santo Domingo for a fire department.  It is actually an older project we were investigating why it wasn’t closed out.  This is what we found.

The church had installed a new well with a submersible pump which pumps into a large underground concrete storage vault.  The pump delivers approximately 5 gpm.  There are numerous areas in the city where the public water system runs dry or for whatever reason doesn’t have water.  People start to get stressed out when they don’t have water.  The fire department has been delegated the responsibility to carry water to those parts of the city which are out of water.  So they pump from the concrete vault up into a large water truck. Then they drive to the stressed area of the city and people come to get water.  They are in a constant state of pumping water from the holding tank and hauling it throughout the city.  Their solution they asked the church to help with was to purchase a larger pump so they could fill up the water truck faster.  Now you are probably thinking there are a lot better solutions and their probably are, but this was their solution and what they asked help with.
                                                               Figure 114 Bomberos water Tanker
                                                             Figure 115 Pump to fill water tanker

The church purchased a new 6 HP pump.  Problems starting to occur very soon thereafter because every time they used the new pump it broke down.  They had replaced the pump on 3 different occasions prior to our arrival.  We are trying to find out now if they are putting diesel in the pump as specified and if they are priming the pump so the pump doesn’t run dry.  Either of which would ruin a pump pretty quickly.  It is going to be a touchy problem to resolved, but it is part of what we do.

We read in the paper this week about a fire that took place in a touristy part of the island.  (a different location than Los Alcarrizos). When the owner discovered the fire at 6:30am she called the fire department.  They were kind, but they told her they couldn’t help her because the BOMBA (pump) had been broken for 5 years.  She called the neighboring town and they said their truck didn’t work either.  The newspaper article shows a picture of people in a bucket brigade taking water from the bay and throwing on the ashes of what used to be the hotel.  This is probably a typical situation.  It worries us because there is so much garbage everywhere, wires from poles hanging down, people cooking on open fires and other hazardous situations that it seems a miracle to us the city of Santo Domingo where we live doesn’t burn to the ground.  If there were a fire, we don’t think it ever would stop.  What’s worse is that every house has bars across every door and every window, including our apartment, and a person could be easily trapped in a building.

As it turned out for the fire department in Los Alcarrizos, the vendor agreed to give our money back and we are going to try a different vendor and type pump.  Hopefully, the project will be done soon and we can close it out.

Speaking of bars on doors and windows, one of the employees at the area office looked out across the street to a neighboring apartment building and a man was reaching through the opening in the bars across the window and stealing clothes.  The employee knew the family who lived there so he called them.  The neighbor pulled out his gun and shot the man who was stealing who fell from the 2nd floor to the ground.  The neighbor ran down and shot him again as he was trying to flee.  The man got away, but not unharmed.  Nothing more ever became of it.

We are making slow progress with the projects.  Mostly what we are doing is trying to figure out the status of projects that were ongoing when we got here and trying to finish them. 

Wallace is in the process of creating a legal document of agreement between Sur Futuro and the church to design and build the water system in El Cigual.  It is an interesting process to figure out how things are done in a foreign country with a different culture, but we are getting there.

We visited ASODIFIMO this week.  They provide wheelchairs to people who cannot afford to buy them.  The church has provided them with significant help over the years.  Their facility is located in a very poor run down building.  Whenever it rains the water just pours in.  They have very limited capacity to adjust or repair wheelchairs or to ever become self-sufficient, so we are not sure how much help the church will continue to provide them.  We’ll see.
                                                             Figure 116  ASODIFIMO Workshop
Thursday night Wallace woke up with a very bad ear ache.  We tried all of our remedies, but with little effect.  He spent the rest of the night in a lot of pain.  Friday morning we determined we were going to have to find some help.  Having been to several hospital that we wouldn’t wish anyone to have to go into, and knowing there are no neighborhood emergency centers, we were a little anxious.  The long short of the story is we did find an ear, nose, throat specialist only about 2 blocks from our home.  He had antiquated equipment, but he prescribed some antibiotics and painkillers.  Today Sunday, Wallace is still suffering even though we did keep our appointments in Azua, Los Alcarrizos and with the stake president in Gascue.  Wallace can barely hear and finds it very difficult to speak.

Saturday we traveled to Azua to meet with the water committee of Azua.  Actually it is just a small neighborhood of a portion of Azua.  Their problem is their homes at higher up on the hill where they cannot be serviced water from the public water system.  Everyone in the neighborhood pays for a water truck to come fill up 55 gallon drums in their yard for general cleaning and cooking and they buy bottled water at a higher price than normal.
                                                            Figure 117 Water truck delivering water

 Since the unemployment rate is so high, and money so scarce the result is people do not drink enough water and end up drinking the dirty water a lot of times particularly the little kids with resulting gastrointestinal disease.  There is a river about ¼ mile away that has surface water about 5 months out of the year, but it is down a very steep path and difficult to get.  These people formed their own neighborhood water committee to find a solution.  They have appealed to the community, the government and others to no avail.  Now they have appealed to the Church.  As we visited about the problem, it is evident the solution is not just about solving the engineering problem and the cost to get water to them, but it is a social problem.  A quasi-government organization with people who have no practical experience to collect and save funds for future repairs and replacement, hygiene training so people know how to use water safely and how to be a united community to preserve a valuable asset.

Here is a few pictures of Wallace visiting with members of the neighborhood water committee about the problem and the process to secure funds from the church.  It was a good meeting. 

Figure 118 Wallace (back turned) and Azua Water Committee

We felt good about it even though Wallace was suffering from an earache throughout the process.  Future reports will be reporting  on the Azua project.  One of our greatest needs is to find a reliable handheld GPS unit so we can collect reliable enough information to do a preliminary engineering study and cost estimate.  There may be more than one possible solution at this point.

                                                  Figure 119 Stream where we want to take water from

So that concludes another exciting week in the life of the HawsDR Adventure.  We appreciate your prayers on our behalf and hope all is well with you in the good old USofA.

We were given a copy of a picture taken when we first met the Area Presidency.  We preserve it here even though it is out of chronological sequence.  Many of you will recognize Wilford Andersen on the right.

                              Figure 120 Elder Cornish, Wallace, Edith, Elder Vinas, Elder Wilford Anderson


  1. I am amazed at the organization and love of the Church. I'm also amazed by the experiences that you are having and that other missionaries that I correspond with are having in developing countries. The work continues to move forward. Dana and I are looking forward to serving.

  2. Beware of even bottled water. We have heard stories of younger missionaries buying cheaper bottled water and getting parasites because of it.

    I have found that the handheld Garmin GPS is a pretty reliable unit. We had an address in Florida where we could have things sent to like that. Then someone magically brought them to us in Santo Domingo. Good luck on the "social" projects, as well as the technical ones!