Profiles: Scott shares water knowledge on Kenya trip
By Eli Francovich
It's the children in Kenya that remain in his mind.
"The children are a delight," Dennis Scott said. "They have absolutely nothing, but they are happy little kids."
Scott, a longtime Liberty Lake resident, returned in February from a three-week mission trip in Kenya. While there, Spokane County's retired director of public works helped teach locals how to hand drill for water. Scott said around 5 million Kenyan kids die every year from water-related illnesses - that, and his religious convictions, brought him to the eastern African country for the trip.
Scott's church, Word of Life in Newman Lake, sponsored 53 churches in Kenya over a period of 15 years. They also do mission work in Mexico and the Ukraine.
"[Just] the thought of kids having to spend their days hauling water, something just said that's not right," he said.
Although the primary goal of the trip was to drill wells, he said he ended up connecting to the people and culture, especially the children. Scott said the hair on the westerners' forearms fascinated the kids. Kenyans don't typically have arm hair. Additionally, as they spent more time in the sun and got darker, the children marveled at how their skin changed color - this prompted them to pull up the back of their shirts to see the whiter skin untouched by the sun.
And Scott spent plenty of time in the sun. The drilling process, developed by Water for All International, a Texas-based company, relies completely on locally available materials, saving money, but requiring more physical labor. This, he said, allows communities to implement their own drilling programs instead of relying on foreign support or money.
"The end result was that we were able to drill two holes," he said. "We also trained a team of Kenyans. They had started a third well while we were there."
In preparation for the trip, Scott said he went to Water for All International's headquarters in Paint Rock, Texas. Two other members of his church, Doug Sullivan and Tom Roberts, came with him. There they learned the process and learned how to teach others. Although there were some complications in Kenya, overall it still worked out.
"The people there are very friendly - very industrious and very creative people," Scott said.
One aspect of Kenyan culture that particularly impressed Scott was the religious dedication.
"People would walk for miles to come to church," he said. "I mean, it's a crazy different culture. We rarely see someone walk half a mile to go to church [in America]."
Church services would last for about five hours and included plenty of dancing and singing, Scott said. Perhaps the biggest thing he noticed was how content everyone seemed, especially the children.
"They get along with what they have, and the interesting part about it is it brings out creativity in them," he said.
For example, when they first started drilling, they needed a shallow hole dug. Scott and the two men he was with suggested they use a posthole digger. The Kenyans had no idea what they meant. Instead, they used machetes. Slamming the points into the earth, they broke up the hard ground and then used their hands to scoop the loose dirt out. Then they took a spring from a car and used that as a makeshift drill to go deeper.
Ultimately, Scott said the goal is to raise more money to help drill more wells. In an effort to do this, his church hired a videographer to accompany them on the trip. Right now, they're putting together DVDs to sell.
Although this isn't the first mission trip he's been on, Scott said the nature of the Kenyan people resonated with him. When the work was done at the end of the day, he said they would sit under a tree and just visit.
"I think just the experience to me is one of a blessing - of making the trip, being thankful for what we have and knowing that there is still more to be done," Scott said. "We will probably make another trip over there and follow through with more teaching."
Profiles: Dennis Scott
Birthdate: May 13, 1942
Five dream dinner guests: Jesus, Bill O'Reilly, Megyn Kelly, Charles Krauthammer, Vince Flynn
Perfect meal: Seafood fettuccini
What I'm reading: "Things That Matter," by Charles Krauthammer
Most treasured possession: Pocket watch that belonged to my father.
Favorite holiday: Christmas - We celebrate the birth of Christ and it is family time.
First job: Paperboy in La Crosse, Wis.
Worst job: Laborer on hot asphalt in South Dakota when the temperature was 100
I'm up and at em by: 6:30 a.m.
My motto: Always do your best.