When Mona Kita, Scott Fletcher and Byron Alexander flew out of Charlotte/Douglas International Airport on Jan. 7, the plan was to meet up with Methodist minister Judith Banya in Sierra Leone, then venture deep into the country to the village of Baiwalla.
The initial plans, however - to scout the opportunities of building a girls' dormitory about five miles from the village - were soon abandoned, as the team realized there were needs that called for more attention.
"It was more intense than we expected," Kita said in a presentation to the congregation of Huntersville United Methodist Church, which helped fund the trip.
"There is a dire need for good water," she said.
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What the team found were several dilapidated wells in the village. Villagers used buckets, which were lying on the ground, to dip into the wells for water - an instant source of contamination.
The village has no running water, no plumbing and no sanitation sewer.
Fletcher said the villagers had never heard of contaminants in water; they figured as long as it was clear, it was OK to use, he said. The fetid water conditions have caused pinkeye, ring worm, cholera, typhoid and parasites in some villagers.
Th water supply was worse than the team expected.
The villagers are in dire need of good water. To that end, the team explained to the village chiefs the basics of keeping the well opening covered, the bucket out of the muck and the livestock away from the water source.
They also taught them how to disinfect water and how to perform routine maintenance on pumps.
So while the team's initial plans were sidelined due to more pressing considerations, a link between the people of Huntersville, and the people of Baiwalla, Sierra Leone, has been established.