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Wood adds to humanitarian efforts in Africa

October 17, 2017
HOME PRINT

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Veteran harness horseman Ken Wood, of Denton, Md., who for more than a decade has been drilling wells for the poor West African nation of Ghana and since expanded to Tanzania, has added pioneering of another humanitarian effort -- bringing sight to natives.
 
With his son Ben, Wood operates Lifetime Wells Drilling Company, a highly respected well-drilling company, located on Maryland's Eastern Shore, not far from Delaware.
 
Wood is currently on his 46th trip to West Africa where he has dug and installed more than 1,850 wells which give drinking water to many thousands of native residents. Before Wood and his Lifetime Wells Drilling Company arrived, residents had to walk five or six miles to reach often contaminated water.

Prior to Wood's arrival, about 15 percent of the country's children died from contaminated drinking water. Ghana has the highest rate of disease caused by contaminated drinking water. Wood's on-going project costs $2,000 a day to keep the wells going.

Recently Wood and a nearby Easton, Md., resident, Kevin White, who founded Global Vision 2020, have teamed to provide 150 special pairs of unique prescription eyeglasses to the needy, delivered on his most recent trip to Ghana.

Wood and White met at an environmental day event showcasing what people are doing to change the world. White's innovative company has created a vision kit, which consists of his USee diagnostic tool, twin progressive lenses in a frame, worn like glasses. The wearer can dial up or down until there is a clear and comfortable image seen on a Snelling Tumbling E Eye Chart. The proper corrective glasses process can be done in less than 15 minutes. The cost of each pair of glasses is approximately $4, far lower than prescription glasses in the U.S.A.

"The USee does not diagnose astigmatism or other vision issues, but we estimate 90 percent of vision deficiencies are simple ones and can be resolved by the type of glasses Global Vision 2020 provides," reports White.

Presently, the USee system has completed clinical trials for adults at Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins University Hospital and plans are underway for children at the New England College of Optometry. The system is also being provided at other countries in Africa.

In addition, Wood has also teamed with Dave Powell of Media, Pa., another well driller, whose non-profit project Wells For Relief, along with students from Villanova University, centered on Ghana. They are using GPS to record Woods' Lifetime Drilling Company's locations in Ghana as it moves from village to village.

Wood's humanitarian effort began in 2006 when he sold a used truck-mounted drilling rig to a church group whose mission project was Ghana. Wood then traveled to Ghana to provide training in operating the drilling equipment. Ten years later, in 2016, Wood sent a brand new rig to Africa that can accommodate the country's rocky terrain.

The religious Wood, with more than 40 years experience in well drilling, felt he could help. That help has continued and heightened.

"When I consider that I can bring clean water to someone for the first time, at a cost of about $5 per person, it's a no-brainer as to how I should spend my life. God sent us to these countries," he said.

Sixty percent of Wood's humanitarian efforts have been bankrolled by Wood and his company and been aided by a number of Rotary clubs and has been recognized by AARP.

"While my bank account may no longer reflect it, I am a rich man for doing this rewarding work," smiles Wood.

Wood's humanitarian effort and financial support has been featured on the NBC Today Show with Jane Pauley. He has been honored by the U.S. Harness Writers Association with its Good Guy award and Harness Horsemen's International's prestigious Dominic Frinzi Award. Among numerous organizations honoring Wood include a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Well Drillers Association and he was named to Maryland's Senior Citizen Hall of Fame.

In addition to his humanitarian efforts and his work schedule, Wood is also a popular and highly respected Standardbred horseman who has raced for more than three decades at Middle Atlantic region harness racetracks. He has owned and formerly driven in races at Dover Downs, and at Maryland racetracks including Baltimore, Freestate (formerly Laurel Raceway) and Rosecroft, as well as in New Jersey at the Meadowlands and at Harrah's Philadelphia in Chester, Pa.

A significant portion of Wood's African work comes from earnings from his racing stable headed by world champion trotter JL Cruze and Delaware trotting stallion Anders Bluestone.

Wood has no plans to retire from supporting his West African benevolent cause, or his well drilling occupation, or from racing high quality harness horses. It keeps him young.--By Marv Bachrad/Dover Downs

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