Thursday, January 12, 2012

Carrying on

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Thanks for your offers to help pay for some of the projects we are discovering on site here in Tanzania.  We had a budget to cover the main agreements that we made, but we have found several other worthy projects that would benefit from your support.  Here’s how to make a donation if you would like to get involved:

Click on this link:

From there, click on “Direct my Gift to a Specific Area” then select “Other.”  Type “Tanzania Project” into the box under “other” and your gift will be directed into our budget. 

Many thanks for your support, whether financial or otherwise.

Now on to our blog:

Morning arrived a little too early today but it turned out that everyone had gotten a pretty good night’s sleep so we awoke pretty happy anyway.  We actually noticed that there are still dozens of roosters out there making their rooster sounds but we don’t even hear them anymore until after we have awakened.  Our ability to sleep through the night might be challenged tonight, though, as we heard faint sounds of the mongoose in the daylight this evening.  We’ll let you know . . .

(Special note: It is important to say on behalf of Kyle that the animal in question is NOT a mongoose.  He saw it on the night of the big noises and is convinced that whatever it is, it is not a mongoose.  He is no doubt correct but for simplicity’s sake, we are going to continue our mongoose jokes for the rest of our trip – and beyond.)

Today brought two big milestones: 1) we cleared out all of the available materials for the fence (for now) and can’t make any further progress on it until Saturday and 2) we got absolute clarity on our third major project, which is the installation of a water purification system in an area with contaminated water.  Additionally, we made a bit more progress on the nearby schoolhouse and now have it prepped for painting tomorrow (probably all day). 

On the fence project, we thought we had a pretty short job ahead of us, as we had set 27 posts yesterday and only had 23 more available to set today.  Thus, we believed that our newly-acquired skills in post-setting would pay off and help us complete the smaller post pile even more quickly than the larger one from yesterday.  Not true.  For whatever reason, the holes to be filled on these 23 posts were much more daunting than the ones from yesterday, meaning that we spent quite a bit of time retrieving loose rocks from the creekbeds and roadsides to fill each hole while attempting to reduce the amount of concrete to be used.  Carrying around huge buckets and bags of loose stones is an exhausting way to spend the day. 

In addition, today’s posts were inconveniently located away from the dirt road in the thickest stands of trees and brush.  We don’t mind crawling back in there to get to where the posts need to be, but we DO mind trying to get buckets, buckets, and more buckets of concrete into there (not to mention bags of filler rocks and the heavy posts themselves).  We got it done. 

A small subset of us (Shawny, Scott and Trevor) missed the pole-setting today and went to check out a new site in a nearby town called Himo.  There we found a small Catholic school that was established to help address extreme poverty in the region.  The school began as a nursery for underresourced local children but then transitioned into a primary school and is now on the way to incorporating secondary instruction too.  Though it was only established in 2007, it already enrolls more than 550 students. 

All schools (including government ones) bear costs here and private schools are generally considered preferable to public ones.  This school (which has a very long name that includes a reference to Saint Mary) offers education at the same cost as government schools.   The costs include materials, lunch and water for all students.  At present, the school’s water source is a pipe from a tank that captures water coming downstream from near the area where we are building our fence (a different source than the one we are protecting).  Though the original underground spring water would be safe to drink, there are many opportunities for the water to become contaminated before reaching this part of Himo. 

Thus, the current practice is to have a staff member spend all day tending water by boiling it in huge pots (producing 50 gallons a day for the use of more than 500 students), transferring it to a dispensing container and rationing it for student consumption.  The water is boiled through the use of firewood, which unavoidably contributes to continued deforestation of the Kilimanjaro region.  The firewood, of course, requires splitting, which means a second staffer is occupied by keeping the firewood ready for the person to boil the water.  Like many issues here, all of these facets are intertwined in ways that make a complicated situation even more complicated in its interconnection to other problems. 

Thus, this site is an ideal place to receive the solar-powered water purifier that we have carried with us from the U.S.  Donated by Karl and Mary Beutner, the filter will provide as much as 500 gallons a day of pure water for the use of the students and their families.  There are a few extra components that we need to complete the system, including a 2000-liter tank to serve as the input for the filter and steel frames to hold the solar panel and the tank itself.  (We usually build these frames out of wood but pervasive termites here would destroy those frames in less than a year.) 

So to clarify, we are continuing the construction of the fence that will protect an important water source here in Marangu, for the benefit of 30,000 people (including five schools).  We are also working to restore a nearby school so that it can be put into use again.  Finally, we will install a water system in the Catholic school mentioned above to free up their resources and labor in ways other than managing water.  Not bad for a three-week stay . . .

 A book about Indiana (Shawny's home state) at the school in Himo.

Classroom name at the Himo school

The cups for the water at the Himo school

The faucet where the school gets all of its water.
 A broad view of the school

A local boy chillin' in a wheelbarrow

A truck ton of corn

Adorable kid who hangs out with us at the worksite

Alec holding a post to be set.

Zoe and the kids

Josh and Darcy taking a break on a hard day of work

Dennis snapping a photo of some kids during a break

Local boy watching us work

Praying Mantis

Home-made wheelbarrow that we use to move rocks and sand


  1. The school sounds like a great place to put the purification system. Keep up the good work and good luck with the steel frame for the solar panel, that should be fun to put together.

    -Chris K