City kirk improves well-being of thousands in Africa
Published on 14 March, 2017
A well drilling team from an Edinburgh congregation has given life-saving access to clean water for thousands of Burkino Faso villagers.
Seven men from Holy Trinity Church in Wester Hailes partnered with a Northern Irish mission organisation - Friends in Action (FIA) - to install six clean water wells in two weeks.
Their efforts mean villagers, many of whom were used to a long walk to collect polluted water, can use their time on activities those in Western Europe take for granted, such as going to school or work.
“This changes everything,” said Ian Stirrat (62), a retired electrical engineer from South Queensferry who was part of the drilling team.
“There is now a well in the back yard. Children can have more time in school and spend less time fetching water."
Mr Stirrat, a lifelong member of the Kirk, discovered the project one year ago.
He presented the idea of forming a team to the 200-strong congregation in the south west of the capital.
Over £20000 was raised through an online donations page and community events.
A squad made up of people who work in social care, local government and the NHS flew out to the world’s 5th poorest country with Ian.
When they landed they teamed up with two drilling specialists working for the project.
Drilling holes ranging from 95 to 185 feet deep, Ian said the team “exceeded expectations” by establishing the six wells instead of a projected two.
He said the team of drillers slept on camp beds under the stars every night surrounded by a mosquito net during the operation.
He added: "As we slept outside every night, we could never really sleep past 6.15am because that's when the sun would come up.
"We would wake to the noise of donkeys and cockerels, just loads of animals."
Depending on geological conditions, drilling each well took anything from one to three days.
But Mr Stirrat said that he was “amazed” at how quickly the life giving supply of clean water brought “immediate effects” to the communities.
He added: "The way the local people celebrated having clean water was spectacular. They were shouting with excitement and dancing around.
"It was extremely challenging working in such hot temperatures, some days we would be working in heat of up to 40C but it was worth it to see the looks on their faces when we had finished."
Signs of improvement
Three million people in Burkina Faso lack access to safe water.
But thanks to the work of aid agencies like FIA and the work of people like Ian and his team, more and more people are now gaining access.
Life expectancy in the areas of the country where FIA operate has increased in the last 15 years from 34 to 54.
Mr Stirrat said he got into a routine of visiting the gym and training before he flew out to Africa to ensure he was fit enough to carry out the work.
He said he hoped other congregations would enrol in the well drilling programme.
“It really is easy to do this,” he said. “It’s just a case of getting a team together and working with the Mission team to make it happen."
“The FIA mission organisation is a well-oiled machine.
“It’s been a terrific thing to be part of.”