How I spend my Saturday
I have been repairing pumps for a few years now, I would like to explain how this works.
Every Saturday morning I go to a village. Either the village has contacted me, or I know the village has broken pumps.
With me I take all material needed, including the repaired head that I took from the last village. With me goes Mary Keita, a local plumber, also my translater if needed, organiser and work horse, he can repair anything with a plastic bag, a piece of wire and an elastic band. Ofcourse with the pumps we don’t work like that.
The first thing to do on arrival is to go and greet the village chief, otherwise I would be impolite. This is usually an very old man who speaks no English, so the greeting doesn’t take long.
I then go to inspect the pump in question. Usually I find very old, worn down and broken contraptions that bring tears to your eyes.
It is not always clear as to what the problem is so we start to dismantle the pump. Above ground we first take of the pump head and handle, which we will later replace with the freshly painted repaired one. The chain is removed, the usually rusty bolts removed and off comes the head.
Having done that, we start removing the so called tank, that is the part with the sprout. Again usually rusty and stuck bolts, but with some oil, patience and force we can remove these as well.
The tank is fixed to the pipes that go into the ground. There is an outer pipe, in which the water is pumped up, and an inner rod, that is connected to the handle on top and the piston down below. This rod makes that, through pumping, the water comes up.
The two pipes go down the borehole which can be anywhere between 20 and 60 meters deep. Since you cannot have a pipe of 60 meters, the pipe and rod are divided into sections of 6 meters. The outer pipes screw onto eachother, the inner rods are also connected by a system of bolts.
So we now start heaving the first pipe, with the tank on top, untill we see the first connection. This is heavy work and usually the villagers are happy to help.
We secure the pipe with special tools and unscrew first the outer pipe and then the inner rod, put them aside and start lifting again untill the next connection. And so on, it can be anywhere from 4 to 8 pies that we have to lift out of the borehole. Also here, connections are often rusted and worn down, so its sometimes painfully slow. But in the end, we can lift the last pipe with the attached pumping cylindre or motor.
If you do something wrong, the whole mess could fall into the borehole, sealing the borehole and depriving the village of water, so, we have to work carefull and slowly.
9 out of 10 times we find the problem inside the cylinder or motor. The seals are worn down, the valves are broken, sometimes its just some dirt that blocks the movement. A few times its was the balls from the bearing of the pump head that had fallen all the way down and was blocking the proper working. I ecen found a peanut shell blocking the valve one time. The kids tend to throw things into the pump.
The pump cylinder is always old, rusty and very hard to open. Remember, most have been down the borehole for 25 years. So, usually it takes a good 20 minutes just to open the cylinder. Inside is the piston with it seals and two valves.
I always replace the piston seals, even if they are not to bad. And when needed the valve seals. After checking that all works well, we close the cylinder and start lowering it in the borehole. Then slowly each pipe and rod is attached on top of the other until we are back at the tank.
By this time it’s usually around midday. Sometimes I repair two pumps, specially in villages that are far away. Then, if we are lucky, the village has prepared some food. The usuall Malien dish, rice with some sort of sauce. But this is an exception, usually i return home hungry.
After a 1000 thanks you’s from the village and the village chief, lots of ‘God wil reward you’ and so on, I go back home, only to stop at the welder to drop of the broken pump head, including new bearings and axle. He then has time to fix it so I can pick it up on monday or tuesday to start the painting.
So that’s how I spend most of my Saterday’s and I could really use your help. There are about 250 pumps to repair and i have done about 100 of them. And already repaired pumps can break again, it is still old material. I can repair a pump for about 50 euro, but I would rather place new heads and cylinders. That would cost 175 euro. A bit more, but then you have replaced all worn parts, and you can almost guarantee water for years. I myself have payed a lot, but my finance is not bottomless, so please help me. I promise and guarantee that all your money, 100% of it, goes to pump repair. No adminstation fee, no big SUV to pay, no personnel (except for Mary Keita the plumber).
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