Volunteer Families work in Kenya July 26, 2018

mount Kilimanjaro under clouds

Posted in on July 26, 2018

Day 1: Smiles, big eyes and waves

As the whole team drove into the Aguthi Primary School yard in Nyeri, Central, Kenya; all of the 400+ elementary students came to the classroom windows and doors with smiles, big eyes and waves to invite us to their school and community.  We were about to embark on an experience that would change the lives the students, the community and the volunteers.  The staff, students and parents all greeted us with big smiles and handshakes.

Today our team was starting to construct a water collection system to supply water for washing dishes, hands and little faces, and water a new garden to help feed the children.  The first task was to excavate by hand a hole to be filled in with solid stones in a cylinder shape to hold a giant water drum.  This little hole was 10 feet in diameter and 4 feet deep!  All day the team took turns using picks, shovels and wheelbarrows to remove the earth.  We removed about half of earth needed to complete this task on our first day.

Douglas Hickey, DWC Kenya July 2018 Team Leader

Day 2: Down to Earth

Late this morning, we finished digging the hole from the hard earth to place a base for the water tank.  This little hole was 10 feet in diameter and 3 feet deep!  Next was placing a layer of concrete on the bottom of the hole.  All the concrete for our project as mixed by hand on site.  Once the concrete started to dry, two layers of stone blocks were carefully placed in a circular shape and firmed up with concrete.

From this hole a 50 foot trench was dug to hold a supply line to water the garden and student washing station.

Douglas Hickey, DWC Kenya July 2018 Team Leader

Day 3: Thanks for Tanks

Today we added two more layers on stone blocks and concrete to solidify the wall of the water base.  Next came filling the hole with boulders from a nearby rock pile.  Slowly we filled the cylinder base to the top to prepare for the next step.  The team started the exciting task of digging post holes around the garden area to construct a fence to keep out unwanted hungry animals.  Our skilled gutter shaper showed up today and team members helped him construct gutters from hand.  Our highlight of the day was having the water tank unloaded from the mini pickup by the students, community members and teachers.

Douglas Hickey, DWC Kenya July 2018 Team Leader

Day 4: Many Hands Make Light Work

Today we were able to spread out the team and work on multiple tasks at once.  More fence posts were slowing dug from the hard dirt by hand.  The process here was spearing the ground with a large crowbar tool, pulling back to loosen the soil.  Then metal cups were used to scoop out the loose dirt from the holes.  The holes were a foot in diameter and 2 feet deep.  Another task was back filling in around the water base with previously excavated soil.  Other team members helped to place a finished smooth concrete layer on the water base.  Other parts of the project started today was placing facia boards up on the front of the main building and cutting the boards in prep for the other two sides of the second building.  All of the boards had 45 degree cuts put in both ends by a hand saw.  The remaining gutters were completed by hand today to prepare for installation tomorrow.  All down sprouts and 90 degree corners were bent, hammered and moulded into shape by hand and tool.

Douglas Hickey, DWC Kenya July 2018 Team Leader

Day 5: Special Deliveries and Poems

The completion of smooth concrete around the water base was done in the morning.  The trench was cleaned out of debris.  All of the facia was finished being installed on the two sides of the second building.  The installation started for the gutters on the main building was mostly done today.  More lovely post holes were dug today so the entire garden had post holes all the way around. We dug out the base for the water washing station and filled it in with concrete.  The water tank was placed in its final position on top of the base.  Two lovely kitchen tables that were hand made by a community member were delivered today on the back of a motorcycle!  To wrap up the day, students presented a thank you song and recited a poem!

Douglas Hickey, DWC Kenya July 2018 Team Leader

Day 6: Projects inching toward completion

We said goodbye to some of our team today as they were heading out for a safari. There is no doubt this DWC trip has been amazing—not only have we been able to work on a wonderful and worthwhile project, but we’ve also been given the opportunity to take part in some once in a life time adventures!

It was gratifying to see project inch toward completion. The last of the gutters were put up today and the plumbing of the pipes began. We had to remove the tank from its base allowing the plumber some room to work. After lighting a small fire to heat his tools, the plumber did some plastic welding that perfectly connected the pipes together. It was fascinating to watch someone complete such a perfect job with such simple tools.

To our amazement he then climbed right inside tank and completed the connection on the inside! Then it was time to reposition the tank!

After this was complete he welded a coupling to connect the tank to the pipes leading from the original but smaller tank as well as to the garden irrigation set up and the hand wash station.

After we finished for the day, we headed out to the Trout Tree for dinner—an amazing restaurant built literally in a tree! A local stream feeds the trout pools and so the trout are very fresh! Thank you John for driving us and for joining us for a delicious dinner!

After dinner, because we are going to deliver the first of the Days for Girls kits tomorrow to two local schools, we sorted all the 220 kits we had brought into four different bags with all four sizes in each plus a few postpartum kits. Now, we were ready to bring a bag to each school.

Terry Lynn Stone, DWC Volunteer, Kenya, July 2018

Day 7: Sheer joy that will warm your heart forever

With Days for Girls kits safely loaded in the van we once again headed out to the project.

Now there were three more ditches to be dug out of the unforgiving clay soil! One ditch to connect the downpipe from the adjacent building’s gutters to the new tank; the second ditch will provide water to the kitchen area directly from the original tank; and the last ditch was dug so one of the pipes which was obviously leaking at the original tank could be repaired.

While the digging was taking place, the plumber was hard at work connecting the down spout ready to connect through the ditch to the tank as well as connecting pipes from both sides of the other building to the top of the tank. This ensured that water from the gutters had a short but large diameter pipe to take it right into the tank.

As we were now well versed in ditch digging, we dug one more fairly shallow ditch from the hand wash station out into the garden so no water is wasted when the children wash their hands!

The hand wash station is fully plumbed in now and the concrete work is in full swing. By the time we were finished for the day, the handwash station was just about complete needing only a final coat of concrete to finish it off.

At the end of the day we headed out to the first of two schools to deliver Days for Girls kits. We took a soccer ball as well as six tennis balls to each school. For a very long time, I will remember the shrieks of joy as the children embraced the balls and began kicking and throwing them around. If you ever decided to come to Kenya, please remember to either bring balls or better yet, purchase them here for the kids. You will likely be treated to sheer joy that will warm your heart forever.

The delivery of the DfG kits to the girls was  unbelievably moving. At each school, the teachers had identified and assembled the girls who had already started their periods or who were likely to start in the near future. As we presented the kits, the girls giggled and laughed at the thought of new panties; of pads that stay in place, which are comfortable and reusable. As they realised the value of not having to purchase pads each month—often a drain on family finances, and of not having to find somewhere to dispose of the pads, the girls got more and more excited about having a kit of their own.

On the way back to the lodge, we were all quiet; all lost in our thoughts and all so incredibly aware of how lucky we are.

Terry Lynn Stone, DWC Volunteer, Kenya, July 2018

Day 8: Saying goodbye with a gift of music

It is so difficult to believe this is our last day here at the project; tomorrow we wing our way back to Canada.

One of the wonderful things about doing a DWC project is seeing it complete. With the exception of the fence around the garden, which the parents are hoping to complete on the weekend, the whole project is done. The garden has been dug over; the sandy patch in the middle of the garden which provided much of the sand for the concrete has been carefully removed and stored for future use.

We spent the day filling all the last of the ditches back in. The one’s we had finished yesterday are hardly recognisable as the children have run backward and forward over them smoothing them until it is possible to believe the soil has never been disturbed! Now we have completed the rest of them. We had a ceremonial “turning on of the water” moving water from the original tank to the new one—what a glorious sound!

The handwash station is complete with the words, “DWC July 2018” on the top and two beautiful taps ready for turning on!

All the gutters are complete and all the water collection system fully operational.

In the early afternoon we presented the DfG kits to a class of the girls of “our” school. Once again, it was a very moving experience and one which we will all remember for a very long time.

Afterward, DWC was presented with a certificate of appreciation for the project and several classes of children combined to sing a thank you song and whish us well. As we drove away we were filled with disparate emotions: we were grateful to have been able to come to Kenya and yet sad our stay was coming to an end. Glad that we had completed our project, but sad to say goodbye to all the wonderful children, their teachers and all our fantastic helpers. To a person, we recognised how lucky we are to have such a fantastic experience.

But we still had one more thing to do—we went to our last school—a combination of private school where the school fees parents pay subsidise orphan children to attend the same school. Here we delivered the very last of our Days for Girls kits. Once again we were moved by the genuine happiness at getting a kit. It made all those days—and some nights—sewing so incredibly worthwhile.

Special thanks go to John for so willingly driving us to all the schools so we could deliver the kits.

All that was left now was to enjoy a lovely supper and get ready for the trip to Nairobi tomorrow for the flights home.

Well, that’s not quite true, because while in Nairobi, one of our team was taken to a music store and bought several musical instruments the teacher at our Primary School had said would make a big difference to the school. As we were headed out of Nairobi on our way home, the instruments: a melodeon, five harmonicas, one pitch pipe and one acoustic guitar were headed back to Noro Moru to a group of very deserving and wonderful children!

We can only hope that they get as much joy from our small donation, as we got from their amazing generosity of spirit. Thank you DWC for making this trip possible

Terry Lynn Stone, DWC Volunteer, Kenya, July 2018

Posted in on July 26, 2018