On my first day on the water project I had no idea what to expect, but I wasn’t the only one to be surprised. Within minutes of walking through the gate onto the school grounds, Lolo, a volunteer from Benin, West Africa, informed Shafii, the local construction guru, that one of the large tanks, the size of a small house, was empty because of a leak. His reaction of disbelief and disappointment brought it home to me the true value of water.
|Underground water collection tank|
Therefore this week’s task for GVI’s construction team here on Wasini Island was to fix this leak. After consulting with the school Director Mr Abdul we decided to hire Mr. Roper, the fundi, which means builder in Swahili.
First of all we needed to break the top centimeter of concrete. With the help of Tina and Rich, two volunteers on the marine conservation project, we chisled away at the huge expanse of concrete with simple hammers, blisters forming. Next a tonne of cement was ferried across the channel to the island. It was important that all the cement be mixed in one fell swoop, so in one day we mixed 20 bags of 50kg cement at a 2:1 ratio with sand.
Again, thankfully Rich joined us and the extra pair of hands was much appreciated. We mixed so much cement and working in the tank was hot work, Rich and I looked like we had jumped into the sea our clothes were so wet! I genuinely have no idea how the Fundi’s men continued to work as its Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting, no eating or drinking during the day.
Once the concrete was mixed we leveled it with a trowel. It was a simple pattern, slop of cement, leveled with a trowel, another slop of cement. The pace was relentless but it was essential to finish the work in one day! Finally came the icing on the cake. The workers smoothed it off, adding a thin layer of smooth cement with their skilled hands.
So as I head home I have blisters on my hands and a smile on my face, I helped mend a huge water tank, construct guttering and put in place a hand washing area at the local school. As I’m writing this, it is my last day on the project, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the GVI staff and the good friends I have made! I’d also like to specifically thank Shaffii and Lolo - It was great to work with you guys!!!!
Tom Penford Rain Water Harvesting Volunteer Kenya