Helping Out in Africa

Stacy & Witbeck - Helping Out in Africa
March 28, 2013

In February 2013, a team comprised of SWI and TriMet employees and subcontractors working on the PMLR East Segment Project in Portland, Oregon travelled to the village of Homabenase in Ghana, West Africa to build a much-needed irrigation project. In an area plagued by extremely poor economic and sanitary conditions, the Homabenase irrigation project will help to transform life in the village by providing a critical source of water for agricultural use.

Life in Homabenase is a challenge to say the least. The 2,000 or so villagers struggle to exist on subsistence farming and very little else. This new irrigation system allows families to become more self-sufficient by giving them the ability to grow much of their own food. In addition to irrigating plots for each family to grow food items, the system also delivers water to a community garden. Equally as important, the system provides a source of clean drinking water for the village. 

Gary Hopkins (lead inspector for TriMet) led a team that included Paul Pletcher (SWI Safety Manager), Joe Armstrong (SWI Segment  Superintendent), Dimitry Mishchuk (husband of SWI's Inna Mishchuk), Jason Anderson (TriMet inspector), and Mike Logan (from SWI subcontractor McDonald Excavating). The team's work, which was completed over the course of two weeks, included drilling a well and building and installing a water tower and tank and the drip piping for the system. The new system currently supplies water to approximately two acres of farmland (with the capacity to expand to eight acres in the future).

During their stay in Africa, the team also had the opportunity to visit schools and neighboring villages, where they performed first-aid and distributed food, school supplies, candy, toys, and soccer balls to the children.

The Homabenase irrigation project was a true charitable endeavor. Each team member paid their own way ($2,500 each) for the trip. The group also raised approximately $20,000 through fundraising efforts among their co-workers, as well as through churches and businesses. These funds covered the entire cost of the project, including the shipment of the water tower and other materials to Africa via cargo ship.