Miracles Happen

Last week I received a call about a Bellevue plumber who was going to Africa to dig wells. So, I contacted Jim West and asked if we could meet to discuss his upcoming trip. We met at the Anchor and Anvil coffee shop in Ben Avon. Jim, a 65-year-old union plumber who was born and raised in Bellevue, told me that he got interested in this project through his church, Christ Church at Grove Farm. He visited Uganda in East Africa in 2002 on a mission trip and became involved in an organization called CEED (Christian East African and Equatorial Development Trust). The original idea was to start a sustainable economic entity to combat the enormous poverty in the region. They choose to plant coffee, the main export from Uganda. Giving Grounds Coffee has been a huge success and is now self-sustainable.

Jim West

Jim West with Ugandan villagers

However, what became apparent was the lack of clean water. The existing surface water was so polluted that children were sickly and dying. Something had to be done. That’s where CEED came in. At first, the group used what is called “percussion drilling” to develop boreholes by continually lifting and dropping a heavy bit into a hole. It could take months to drill to the water table which can be 200 feet below the surface. The group now uses powered rigs to do the drilling. The rigs cost about $42,000.00 to purchase and ship to Uganda. Prior to having well water, villagers had to wait until the baboons were finished using the local watering hole.  Now, clean water is available at the pump. To date, CEED has drilled over 200 wells Uganda, many in cooperation with Wells of Life, group out of California. They have also drilled wills in Zambia Recently, the crews have started to do water projects in Northern Kenya. They are repairing and improving existing facilities. New wells are planned, but additional finances are needed because the wells can be 300 to 400 feet deep. The cost to drill a well in Uganda costs about $4,500.00 but can go as high as $30,000.00 in Kenya.


Health improved by 80% with clean water

I asked Jim about the villagers in the tribal culture of Uganda. He said that the people became very involved with the construction and helped them by cooking and providing food for the crews. The villagers sign a contract to maintain the wells and agree to pay for any major repairs. Money is collected and saved by the villagers to pay for repairs when needed. Jim emphasized how cooperative and thankful the people were.


Villagers collecting water the old way

To date, Jim has been to the region 24 times. His brother, sister, brother-in-law, nephew, niece and sons (Dakotah and Cheyenne) have accompanied Jim on occasion. Jim said that he will be retiring from his union plumbing work in February. After that, he will be spending most of his time in Uganda.  

If you want more information or wish to donate to CEED, visit You can designate your donation to help Jim West.

As we parted, Jim said: “If you get water to a village, miracles happen.”