AS part of Just a Drop’s ‘20 Seconds Lifesaver Appeal‘, we are running a series of articles on our volunteer project engineers. Without their commitment and expertise, Just a Drop would not be able to carry out the life-saving work that it does.
First up is Colonel Mike Reynolds:
Former army Royal Engineer and Fellow of the Institution of Civil Engineers and Institution of Plant Engineers, Colonel Mike Reynolds has spent 47 years working around the world, spanning all seven continents, both in and out of the army – from the deserts in Mongolia and Niger to the mountainous, gorilla inhabited regions of south Uganda, the jungles of Borneo and the fjords of Patagonian Chile.
Mike developed an interest in water whilst he was serving with the Brigade of Ghurkhas in Nepal during 1980-82. There, he was planning village water supply schemes in Himalayan villages for retired Ghurkha soldiers. Now retired himself, Mike’s continuing interest in water related issues is what has led to his involvement with international water aid charity, Just a Drop.
As well as being a Trustee of the charity, Mike oversees Just a Drop’s projects in Uganda, using his technical skills to help poor people in remote and rural areas gain access to clean, safe water. Working closely with the communities and the charity’s local partners, he is always keen to ensure that the local people get involved in implementing the work.
“That way, people will take ownership and more pride in their new water source,” he explains. “…They will want to ensure that their wells, pumps and latrines are well maintained and will last well into the future.”
In the field
In March 2014, Mike flew out to Uganda to visit several communities who had benefitted from Just a Drop’s clean water projects as well as those who still desperately need help.
In Kayabwe Village, near the Ugandan equator, he met seven year old Carol Namutebi collecting water from a dirty pond, full of tadpoles. This girl, like so many, has to walk for miles several times a day to collect water that is guaranteed to make her and her family sick with diarrhoea, bilharzia, dysentery and others. Collecting water also means that she misses out on a valuable education. And on top of this, there’s the threat of rape while walking to fetch water – an issue which is horrific enough to start with even before considering the prevalence of HIV. There have also been cases of child abduction and sacrifice of young children as they have walked to fetch water at night.
In most cases, a well needs only be a few metres deep to find enough water to provide for thousands of people – and that’s were Just a Drop comes in.
Mike says, “The best thing is that the solution doesn’t have to be high-tech and invariably low tech solutions are the most appropriate and sustainable. Digging wells, providing rainwater storage jars, gathering roof rainfall and building latrines are simple solutions that can make a huge difference to the lives of the people here and indeed, save many lives, particularly children’s.
“We hope to carry out a project in Carol’s village later this year, to provide shallow hand-dug wells with hand pumps close to her home, as well as hygiene and sanitation training to improve the overall health of the villagers.
“This is something that gives me great satisfaction in my retirement and the feeling that I am truly giving back after a great upbringing, education and career.”
One of Mike’s best memories is from a trip to Niger, where Just a Drop was helping the nomadic Tuareg through the provision of wells. He says, “Bedding down at night on a rug in the Sahara desert and seeing such a spectacular display of stars so big and bright, I almost felt that I could just reach up and touch them”.
Mike is just one of a dedicated team of volunteer engineers who provide a diverse range of skills to support Just a Drop. Like him, many of them are former military servicemen with logistical and engineering experience in conducting site surveys, appointing local work-forces and overseeing the project to completion. They are not averse to travelling to far-flung destinations and have been known to travel by light aircraft, canoe, or horseback to drag equipment and building materials through jungle and other inhospitable terrain in order to reach communities desperate for clean water.
Get involved – be a #20secondslifesaver
Thanks to the dedication of Just a Drop’s project engineers and supporters, the charity has delivered over 130 projects in 31 countries, supporting approximately 1.5 million people since its beginnings in 1998. The charity’s main aim is to address the shocking statistic that a child dies every 20 seconds from a water-related disease – which means more children under five years old die from this than malaria, measles and HIV/AIDS combined.
Just a Drop is determined to continue to make a difference. And with your help it can. Please consider supporting our appeal with a donation of £5 – enough to provide a child with a clean supply of water for life.