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​LEP Engineer Ryan Parsons participated in a mission group that constructed a water well in the African village of Burkina Faso.
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 Mission Possible: LEP Engineer Goes Further to Provide Water for African Villages

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​LIMA, Ohio - It’s just a drink of water.

Most of us grab a bottle out of the fridge, or we simply turn on our faucet and grab a quick drink if we’re thirsty.

But Lima Engine Plant (LEP) Process Engineer Ryan Parsons has a much different perspective on that glass of water after his recent “vacation” to Burkina Faso, Africa.

Parsons, along with a group of men from Shawnee Alliance Church, recently took part in a mission’s trip that took them to the third poorest country in the world where tragically nearly 48 percent of children die before the age of 12 – many from diseases related to the country’s lack of clean water.

“There’s just rampant dehydration, diarrhea, dysentery, and all of those things associated with not having clean water,” Parsons said.

While stifling heat, dust, mud and a cot isn’t exactly an ideal vacation plan, Parsons was eager to be a part of something that would impact the villagers for years to come.

“Both of the villages we were working in had no immediate access to clean water,” he said.   “There was a mile walk to get fresh water  that’s not fresh by our standards. It is almost the equivalent of drinking out of a pond for us.”

Needless to say, the group had their work cut out for them. The work was hard, and the days were long. Parsons admitted he was overwhelmed at times by sheer exhaustion.

“It was literally the hardest physical labor I’ve ever done, and I’ve done construction and concrete work before,” he said. “That actually pales in comparison to the work we did there. There were lots of heavy pipes that needed to be moved manually, and tons of dirt that needed shoveling.”

To top it off, the group was working in stifling heat where the midday sun caused the temperature to skyrocket to 120 degrees Fahrenheit.

“If I stepped out of the shade for just a second, my skin would just turn instantly red from the heat,” Parsons said.  “We actually slept on cots under the stars in 90 degree weather and believe it or not we would get cold and have to use sleeping bags overnight.”

For the length of their stay, the group drilled holes for water wells and installed filter rock and casings around the wells, which then needed to be flushed and shocked with chlorine to keep the water bacteria-free.

“We basically did everything with the exception of installing the metal pump, because a certain company had to place those,” Parsons said.

Despite being warned ahead of time about the extreme heat and heavy workload, Parsons admitted he was still shocked by the temperature and the amount of work it took to place one well in the village.

“It was way more intense than I could have ever imagined,” he said. “I guess I went into it thinking it would be a little rough, but once we began the work, I realized very quickly how hard it was going to be.”

Despite the constant fatigue and heat, Parsons pressed on even though at times he said his feet felt like 20-pound blocks. He says he was humbled though by the work ethic of the villagers – most notably the females, who worked from sun-up to sun-down.

“It’s almost impossible to put into words the realization of how good we have it in America,” he said. “The women literally work the entire day doing laundry and getting water to cook for the family.  They would walk a mile to get the water, carry it back, boil it and filter it before they could even begin cooking.”

Parsons found that the villagers were extremely happy people, despite not having access to the very basicnecessities of life.

“For having nothing, they’re very happy people,” he said.  “Some of them don’t even have roofs over their houses, and only about half of the kids had flip-flops to wear.   The other 50 percent had no shoes.”

Although the group could not meet its goal of installing four wells, the men were able to install two wells, and that was accomplished despite unforeseen difficulties with broken drill bits and other mechanical breakdowns.

By the end of his mission, Parsons says he was both physically and emotionally exhausted, but he took immense pride in the fact that what the group did will have not only an immediate impact but a long-term impact as well.

“I began to focus on the long-term  benefit of what we did there,” he said.  It’s not like we gave them food to eat for a week. We gave them water to irrigate crops and so they would not have to walk miles and spend hours getting something as simple as water every day.”

Once he arrived back in the states Parsons says he had time to reflect on the trip, and what it meant to him to be a part of something bigger.

“I just had this feeling wash over me that I had made a difference in the world,” he said. “There’s a real emotional attachment that comes along with that. Everyone in the group spent an average of about $3,000of their own money to go on this trip. We weren’t compensated financially, but I think all of us got the best reward there is.”

Villagers stand near what was once the water supply in the village of Burkina Faso in Africa. LEP Engineer Ryan Parsons recently completed a mission’s trip where he helped dig and build water wells in two African villages.

5/10/2013 6:00 AM