If you have viewed my website in the past, you have seen that we partner with CWE to do building projects around the world, we have built churches, schools, medical clinics, and more but this Aquaponics project is a first for us.
This short video will give a brief explanation of aquaponics and CWE's goal for it.
We were to fly out of New York Friday evening. Jeff had called a few weeks earlier and asked if we'd like to go to New York a day early and do some sightseeing so we did. Kathy and I along with our daughter Krista and her husband Josh met Jeff in Tampa then flew to New York. There we met up with Travis from Minnesota and Aaron from Indiana. I had booked rooms for us at an old hotel in Manhattan, across the street from Madison Square Garden. The subway took us right to our hotel, we were glad since the temperature outside was 16 degrees. The hotel was not as elegant as this lobby photo makes it out to be, but it was fine.
Being hungry, we immediately asked for the nearest place to eat. Pizza was just around the corner.
The place was small, but It has been my experience that this is the way New Yorkers do it.
Early the next morning we had some breakfast near the hotel then hopped the subway down to lower Manhattan to begin our day as tourists.
We stopped at the Staten Island Ferry, from there we were able to see the Statue of Liberty and the Brooklyn Bridge.
We stumbled upon Wall street and I wanted to see the Stock Exchange so we off we went.
After darting into a Starbucks for a warm up inside and out, we came across the Stock Exchange building.
We were standing in front of a building with a statue of George Washington so we entered to find that we were at Federal Hall. This was the place where our first President took the oath of office.
We went on to see the sight of the World Trade Center the boarded another subway. Kathy snapped this photo of her and Krista. Do they look cold?
I had always wanted to see Grand Central Station so that became our next destination. 140 years after it was built and it's still used for the same purpose for which it was created.
Grand Central in the foreground, the Chrysler building in the background.
We then walked to the Empire State Building and took the elevator to the observation deck. I had been to the Sears Tower in Chicago which is much taller, but this was a more enjoyable experience due to the fact that you actually get to to outside, not just look out a window. The really tall building you see in the background is the Freedom Tower, the new World Trade Center.
Kathy and I posing on top of the City.
Enough about New York, let's get on to Africa.
After a day of sightseeing in the below freezing weather of New York City, these Floridians were ready to get to Africa and some warmth.
We made it back to the airport in time to meet up with the rest of the team from around the country, 15 of us in all. We flew all night to Accra Ghana then boarded a small chartered bus that would take us and all our things to Togo. It was a long bumpy ride but it didn't seem to keep Krista from being able to sleep.
We arrived late to the blind center, spent the night then headed up to mountain to a church service with some local people. These are the children, they had just finished Sunday School up the hill and brought their benches with them to join us for the regular service.
During church, this little girl just walked up to Krista and sat in her lap.
After services we snapped a few photos, kids love to be in photos.
Monday morning we began work on the project. It was to consist of 9 raceways for the vegetables and 6 fish tanks (I think). Aaron and I built the leads for all the tanks while Dewey and David built all the long walls. The first few courses always seem to be the hardest to lay because of all the bending over. The 9 raceways were only 3 courses high so right about the time you could stand up and work, you were done and had to move on to the next one. That made for an achy back by the end of the day.
Josh drilled a lot of holes. First he drilled holes every 4 feet for the rebar in the walls, then he drilled all the holes for the poles that would later support the canopy.
All the walls were filled completely solid with concrete since they would be holding back the pressure of a lot of water.
I don't know why I'm smiling so much here, probably just saying "cheese".
While were were working on the project, Kathy and Krista went around the blind center and met some of the kids. These girls are feeling Kathy's hair. The ones doing the touching describe to the others what it feels like.
Taking a water break.
While most of us were up at the project site, Kathy and Krista were working hard to feed all of us. It was a big job for two people.
By Wednesday evening, all 9 raceways were up and the fish tanks were underway. The Togolese stucco crew had already completed stuccoing the first tank so we decided to try filling it to see if it leaked. In this photo, Josh is waiting for the water that wasn't coming.
Each time we would flip the breaker to turn on the pump, it would trip. We checked with an ohm meter and discovered that one of the circuits was shorting to ground underground so Jeff, Travis, Josh and I pulled up 172' of pipe and a pump out of the ground. We found the problem to be in poorly spliced wires underground (the water table was only 20' below ground, so the bad splice was under 150' of water). We properly remade the splices, reinstalled the pump then tried again.
Voila, water. In this photo, Renee and Joan (two of the missionaries over there) enjoy seeing the first of the water going into the tank.
Mark and Josh are measuring the flow of the pump using a five gallon bucket.
As the tank was being filled, some of the blind kids came over and began trying to swim in just a few inches of water. They were very excited.
Wednesday night after dinner we heard a large commotion coming from outside so I asked if anyone wanted to see what it was. We knew that Togo had a soccer game that night and thought the noise might be the celebration. Jeff, Travis, the two girls and I headed out the gate, into the darkness and down the road toward the sound of chanting, yelling, horns and drums. It's hard to imagine how dark it can be in a place with little lighting and dust obscuring the moonlight, let's just say it was really dark. We dodged several motorcycles and pedestrians on our way but soon came to the outskirts of town to find people celebrating over a soccer game. As we walked down the road we came across a small bar. Three African men came out to meet us, one was wearing a yellow CWE shirt he had been given. Another was Louis, one of the men we had hired to help at the project. The sister of one of the men came out, she spoke just a little bit of English, she said that she wants to be our friends, plural. As we walked on down the street a drunk man walked beside us. We don't really know what he was saying but I think he was telling us about one of their soccer players and how good he was. The further we walked, the more people we encountered we soon turned around and walked back to the Blind Center. It was and enjoyable experience.
Aaron and I building the fish tanks with help from Louis.
Taking a break and chatting with John.
Mike and Jeff, it must be early in the day, everyone is too clean.
Kathy and Krista pose for a photo.
Thursday, we finished the block work, filled the remaining walls with concrete then cleaned up the site.
David, Nate and Zack working on the fish tanks.
Jo and Becca finishing the concrete in the wall.
Earlier in the week a woman and a tailor had come by. Many of us bought material from the woman, then the tailor measured us and made us some African suits. Here, John and I pose with our new outfits. The only reason I had the hat made was that I had already bought the material and hated to see it go to waste. Apparently the only people that wear the hats are the Muslims.
Friday morning we took the whole crew up to the hospital, about a 30 minute drive to the north. We've done a few projects from there and two projects on the hospital property itself, a guest house and a maternity wing.
In this photo Dewey and I await our turn to give blood. Here in the states I'm seldom able to give blood because of all my traveling abroad, but in Togo they are happy to take it.
This is how we give blood in Africa.
That afternoon I put on the whole getup and posed with my African twin Agbeko.
We rode back up the mountain where we had gone to church on Sunday.
Most of the group walked up to the Castle (an old Chateau really). I had been there a few times before so Kathy and I along with a few others waited down by the road until they returned.
These women were preparing some type of food (you can see it there in the large bowls). They were weighing it and putting it in little plastic bags to be sold on the roadside.
A cute little boy waving.
When the rest of the team returned from their walk, we drove a little further across the mountain and parked along a trail.
Joan had hired a guide to take us back in the jungle to a waterfall she knew of.
My new outfit blends in well with the surroundings.
We finally came across Joan's waterfall.
Good thing for us there was already a rope tied to a limb high in a tree. I had obviously already been on the ride in this photo due to the wet shorts. Jeff is waiting to catch the rope from the previous rider to pass it up to Josh, climbing into position to take the next ride.
Our objective became to jump from the bank and swing up and land on top of the waterfall. I think 4 of us succeeded.
I can't even tell who this is, but it sure looks refreshing.
Here is an interesting little story. After getting all wet at the waterfall, I thought I would go back the trail a little way and change into some dry clothes. I figured we were in the middle of a jungle and that it couldn't get much more private than that. I stripped down, changed then walked back to the falls. About two minutes later a small group of Germans also came down the trail. They just missed me changing. I had to laugh.
We headed back to the blind center. While Kathy made dinner, a few of us took one last walk in the surrounding area.
Saturday morning we posed for a group photo then made the long trip home.
Mike, Jo, David, Dewey's hat, Aaron, Zack, Nate, John, Krista, Josh, Jeff, Kevin, Travis, Kathy and Becca.
We arrived back in Tampa 32 hours later to a little boy that was happy to see his parents and grandparents.
The below photo was taken after we left. This is the framework for the shade cloth, put up by the second team.
Click here to see the Completed Aquaponics system in action.