Early Days in the Heart of Africa

Jim in the CAR circa 1970

Jim Hocking grew up in the Central African Republic.

 

His missionary parents fostered in him a deep love for the country and its people. He spoke a local Central African language, Sango, before he spoke English. After a childhood in Central Africa, Jim sought to follow in his parent’s footsteps, attending Grace College and seminary in Indiana with the intent to return to the mission field. Once he’d finished school, Jim immediately returned to CAR in 1977, this time with his wife, Faye.

A Young Couple Returns

 

The Hockings began their work in training leaders for youth ministry, then followed that program up with a literacy campaign that launched 200 schools across the CAR and provided bilingual literature in both French and Sango. Over the next 20 years the Hockings devoted their careers and lives to CAR, raising their four children there.

Jim with his three oldest kids in 1987, visiting Lambi Falls in the CAR.

This life was never easy, but by 2002 the country faced increasing political turmoil and violence. Then, in 2003, the CAR experienced a violent coup, and the mission evacuated all of its American staff and the mission organization Jim worked with chose to put their work on hold. He had to come back to the U.S. even while his heart remained with the people and the country where he’d grown up.

For Jim, abandoning the people of CAR was not an option.

 

He had seen too much over the years — people’s basic physical needs were unmet, AIDS was ravaging the region, and the realities of poverty and war were creating hopelessness. Jim wanted to help address these needs and build something with the people of CAR that would be sustainable and could withstand political upheaval.

Little did he know that just a few months later, a good friend would offer to sell his well-drilling business to Jim if Jim would run it as a non-profit. This offer seemingly came out of the blue, and Jim protested that he didn’t know the first thing about drilling wells, let alone how to start a nonprofit.

But he knew how desperately Central Africans needed clean water.

 

For most of the 4.7 million people who live in the Central African Republic, collecting water means an hour-long walk hauling heavy 44-pound jugs of water from streams, rivers and seep holes — water that isn’t even sanitary. After visiting several villages in the CAR to assess their water retrieval methods, Jim was ready to act.

“My attitude had changed by seeing the struggle these villages were having with healthcare issues. Kids were dying really young and it was tragic. I realized ‘This is what God’s asking me to do, and I needed to figure out how.’”

Founding Water for Good

That act of obedience was the beginning of what Jim would eventually call “Water for Good.” There are many challenges to getting fresh water to remote villages in the CAR. Getting a well drilled is only the first step. Jim saw that many other clean water initiatives overlooked the fact that the well pumps would inevitably break and the village would be right back where it started: without safe drinking water. He knew that sustainability was key to the success of any well, and that locals could not depend on Westerners for well maintenance — that model was financially unsustainable.

From the beginning, Jim founded Water for Good to become a nonprofit that not only drills wells, but does so relying on all local staff that provide regular well maintenance. The local staff build relationships with communities, and work with them to start projects that will prosper and empower the community long-term. When people have power over their well and begin to assert that same power in their life choices, it’s transformative for a community.

Jim started with an idea that through clean water, Central Africans could change their country. And they are.

 

Local Central African have drilled more than 680 new wells and are maintaining 1,000 water pumps in the CAR. Over half a million people are drinking water from these wells every day. People are staying healthy, they’re able to generate more income, and they’re making a difference in their communities —for good.


  1. Solomon Hailemichael says:

    Dear Sir/Madam,

    I am impressed by your result through hard work and faith!

    There is high demand for clean water in western part of Ethiopia, where I grow up. I live in US but I realize that need every I visited that area. Please advise how can i help these community in need of clean water.

    Sincerely,
    Solomon Hailemichael.

  2. I’m amazed at what you are accomplishing, but have wondered how you decide who gets a well. Is the water table shallow or deep and what does maintenance entail, valves, seals, hardware, pulling the well?

    • Becky Inman says:

      To determine where we put new wells, we start with a baseline study of the entire region we’re considering. For the next few years, we’re focused on the Mambéré-Kadéï region, focusing on maximizing pump density in that region. It took about a year to complete the study, but from that we knew where every single person in the region lived, and what the water needs were of each village or neighborhood. We try to provide a well for every community with more than around 100 people, but it’s a somewhat flexible number, depending on the density of the population, and a few other factors. Once the population is over 250 people, we try to provide a second well. Over 500 = 3 wells, etc. We are also starting to do larger solar powered electric pumps with tanked systems, that can serve a larger number of people. Then we send in a team to work with the community, and help get them prepared for the well. They’ll need to be trained not just on sanitation and hygiene principles, but also on how to collect money for the water, so that they can pay for the long-term maintenance of the well.

      The water table varies, since we work in a large area (it takes 6 hours to drive across our focus region, and the entire country is the size of Texas). The area we’re working in this year will be mostly wells in the 100-150ft depths, with a smaller number in the deeper 200-300ft range.

      Maintenance can be as simple as replacing the seals at the top of a foot pump, putting a new chain or new bearings on an India pump, or replacing a pedal. More complicated maintenance involves pulling the whole pump out, maybe a change of depth setting for the pump, replacing the lower bladder on the Vergnet pump if it’s worn out or has ruptured, replacing pipe, changing broken valves, or putting a new cylinder in. There are hundreds of parts, ranging from $3 to a couple hundred $, so it totally depends on whether it’s just routine preventative maintenance, or if we’re fixing a more expensive failed part.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *