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Blog, Mission Possible Aug 2015: The difficulties of drawing a straight line!

26th August, 2015

Our Mission Possible team of volunteers and staff are on a 10-day deployment to deliver aid and a series of programmes to communities in Tanzania.

In this blog, volunteer Emad Choudhury describes how they embarked on building a water harvesting system – and found they couldn’t draw straight lines!

Day 2 and straight into work mode. After completing a 5-kilometre water trek and CPA (Community Participatory Assessment) in heavy rain on the very first day, we’re all going into day 2 with a great sense of not only excitement but anticipation of the task in hand.

At first I honestly thought it would be easy as we’ve all studied how a water harvesting system is built and managed.  In the UK I had prepared everything and had it all in my mind in bullet points, not expecting what we encountered once in the field.

When we got to the local village dispensary, which is where we decided the system would be most effective in terms of reaching its much-needed community, all that was on site was a massive 5,000 litre empty tank.

Automatically it hit me that it has to be built ‘from scratch!’ as well as making sure two other systems were being built correctly at different sites.

We introduced ourselves to the builders who we were going to work alongside and everyone became friends really quickly. Their attitude and sense of constant happiness was so inspiring. Ironic isn’t it how people with literally nothing can be so happy and work with you in a way where it seems as they have everything.

We decided where the base for the system would be and together we measured the tank and outlined a part of the floor where the tank would permanently sit. The base was going to be 7x7ft; this would allow the tank to have just over 1 foot on each side in extra space.

The roof of the dispensary was rusty and extremely dirty so the plan for the day became to have the brick work and cementing complete for the base and the roof of the dispensary cleaned and painted.

Now began the first physical challenge, moving the huge bricks over to the area of the base. By the time I had moved my fourth brick I realised how physically demanding the day would be.

In the scorching heat I straight away felt tired but the builders, who we were now well acquainted with, had become ‘fundis’ (builders in Tanzanian)and genuinely our friends. By lunch the 3 layers of bricks had gone up and the cementing complete barring the roof of the base.

A moment that will always stay with me forever is when we were trying to outline a 7x7ft square base on the floor and simply couldn’t keep it all straight. So there’s us all standing there, one guy measuring this and one guy measuring that, but still we just can’t get a square. I know, crazy right?

I had a brainwave and measured diagonally and finally got it right. We all cheered and the banter started. Solaiman (our Tanzanian staff member and permanent translator) told us how the fundis mentioned that they’ve just learnt something from us.

I found it quiet inspiring how a bunch of people who make everything out of nothing can still have the humility to admit that they’ve learnt from people younger than them.

As tiring as it was, it was well worth it and a great feeling to see the roof and most of the base complete by the end of the day. We all drove home absolutely shattered!!

Emad Choudhury

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