And it’s HUGE!!
So if you’re wondering where I’ve been since for the past forever I’m hear to tell you I’ve been busy to say the least.
First I guess I should explain that choo is Swahili for bathroom and you say the double “o” like you do for the single “o” in the word go. Okay continuing on with why we’re here in the first place…
Back in October/Novemberish I started playing around with the idea that I would write a grant to built a restroom. Our first idea was for the secondary school in order to open the school, but the grant was quickly denied on the grounds that this was not a long standing issue as the school had yet to even open so we could not provide any evidence as to there being a health issue in need of solving there. After this we moved on to trying to write one for the primary school. This time the initial memo was received and we moved forward with writing the grant. During the grant writing process there were many questions that I was required to answer as well as various areas where information was requested from the community i.e. structure blueprint, bank statement for proof of ability to contribute to the project, basic plan of action during duration of work, etc.
For many months I waited for what I would consider the most important part of the project and to Peace Corps the most necessary piece in order to move forward, the bank statement. It was not until April that I received the statements and I was unsure after waiting that significant amount of time whether or not it would still be possible to get the project approved. Lucky for us within the week we were approved for the project and excitedly making plans to call a meeting and begin work.
The project itself had already begun back in 2013 when they dug the well and started the building of the bathrooms directly above the well so our job for this project was essentially to finish a project that was started and left unfinished because of a lack of funding….and correct planning on the communities part (shocking).
After returning from vacation with my family funds had been deposited into my account and our first meeting was scheduled with the primary agenda to choose a contractor and set a date to purchase materials. We sat in that meeting for over 6 hours discussing different questions and concerns that came up. You would think after all that time the project would run smoothly from there on out and we would have no issues but that would just be to lucky. We began buying materials on June 4th and work began that day, by the end of the week we were already having issues with materials that were necessary to continue work that we had not purchased because they were not in the original materials list. Basically to make a very long and probably pretty predictable story shorter these sorts of issues continued on until the very last day of work, this being no exaggeration; on the last day we still had to go out and buy more materials.
The end result of this project gave us a 16 stall bathroom facility at the primary school. 8 of the stalls are designated for male students and 8 of the stalls are designated for female students. On both sides of the bathroom facility there is a designated hand washing station for each gender where the water is supplied by rain via gutters connected to the roof leading to the tanks. During the dry seasons it is our hope that students will either bring water to fill the tanks or they will continuously fill the smaller tippy tap hand washing stations that have been taught to make.
This grant was never in a million years something I considered doing during my service, to be honest I had it in my mind from the beginning that I was not ever going to do a grant based project during my service but here we are. At the end of the day I am happy to have had the opportunity to participate in a project like this. Yes, along the way there were many issues that caused me to cry and even consider the possibility of leaving but I stuck it out and am proud of myself for holding my own in a committee full of strongly opinionated Sukuma men and putting my foot down where needed while navigating the whole thing in Swahili. Not everyone can say they have had an experience like this but I can now say with confidence for one full month I was a small project manager, budget coordinator, and strong female voice on a project in a foreign country all while using the native language of that country!
The end of this project left me feeling less happy then I was at the beginning or even during implementation hence why it’s taken me a bit to write this blog because I wanted to write something happy and exciting. Earlier this week I decided I had put the blog off for too long and while I felt a little more positive I decided what was important is not that I sugar coat the story, but be honest. It is unrealistic to think that x amount of time is going to help me write a happier version of this project because time doesn’t change the facts of the story. During implementation there were numerous days where the problems never seemed to end but there were also days where we laughed and had a good time. Neither day make the story better or worst they just make the story what it is.