PALAI, Sri Lanka (ABP) — By restoring the water supply to a boys' orphanage in Sri Lanka — a project that took just three hours and about $30 — the orphanage now can house more boys, many of whom lost their parents in the South Asia tsunami one year ago.
Scott Hunter, a Cooperative Baptist Fellowship missionary, helped drill the well in Palai, along with several Sri Lankan men he helped train. When they left the site, functionality and even joy had been restored. The drilling system, called the Waller Baptist Well method, was developed by a Baptist missionary in Bolivia.
“The boys were pumping water, splashing each other, taking baths and washing clothes,” Hunter said. “They haven't had that much water before.”
Much of the Fellowship's tsunami relief effort in Sri Lanka is focused in the southeast corner of the country, where a partnership among Baptists has launched a 77-home village for squatter families. These families used to live within 100 meters of the Indian Ocean, but government officials have made that land a buffer zone as a precautionary measure against any future tsunamis.
With no land on which to build, the squatter families were homeless. But through the Baptist partnership, 120 squatter families had the option of living in the new village, Udutherai. The partnership between the Fellowship, Baptist World Aid and other Baptist organizations from Sri Lanka, Great Britain and Australia bought land — enough for 77 lots, which will accommodate the 74 families who signed up for a house.
“Everybody got a house who wanted one,” Hunter said.
Construction has begun for nearly 50 houses, with completion on many of the houses expected by March, Hunter said. The village, which was once powered by solar and wind devices because of lack of electricity, has its own water tower and filtration system.
“The village is going to get running drinking water, and there are almost no places [in Sri Lanka] where you can open the tap and clean water comes out,” Hunter said.
Also in the plans for the village is a community center, which will serve as a training center for residents who want to develop marketable skills, Hunter said.
With the village on its way to completion, Hunter has turned his attention to developing technologies that will give Sri Lankans access to clean water. Some of the Fellowship's Asian Response funds were designated for water purification projects, and Hunter is using those funds to drill wells and develop water systems along the northeast coastline, which is controlled by the Tamil, a rebel group that has been involved in civil war for decades. Much of the area has no power, which means alternative energy sources must be used to run water pumps.
“If you're going to clean the water, you need to move the water around, and the only way to do that is a pump. It's being pumped through solar power,” Hunter said.
Many villages had only surface wells, which exposes the water to pollutants. Hunter has installed several underground tube wells, which in some areas will pump water to a tower, where water is filtered before it is accessed by residents. As a short-term solution, the government and other organizations delivered water by trucks to some villages. But the Fellowship is aiming to create permanent, local water sources.
“We're trying to give them back their own water,” Hunter said. “Water was a very precious commodity, and now we've given them quantities of clean water.”
In January, the Fellowship will begin partnering with other organizations to drill hundreds of wells, bringing water to thousands more Sri Lankans.