My New Home
Trip Start Nov 21, 2007
8Trip End May 20, 2008
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Last February there were major floods along the coasts of. the Zambezi River which displaced over a hundred thousand people; Oxfam launched an emergency response project to provide water and sanitation facilities to these people during the crisis. Many families were finally forced to resettle in new areas, where there are not any facilities for them. I am part of the post-emergency project, which attempts to work with these same affected people to work with them to construct proper water and sanitation facilities. My job is to drill 7 water walls, design and install a proper pump for each, form and train water committees to maintain and repair each, and then come up with a low-cost latrine design (of which villagers can complete a large part of the construction) to provide sanitation to approximately 400 families
The main reason Oxfam wanted me here so fast was to supervise the drilling component of. this project...we are entering the rainy season and this needs to be completed ASAP. This is a place with a HUGE need for water - I have never in my life seen an area where, whether you pass by the hand pump at 6 AM or 9 PM, there is a line of 15 or 20 people to get water...some women walk miles each way to fill up a 20-liter bucket and carry it back on their head to their home.
So the first big task is to accommodate a filming crew which is coming from Spain to shoot a video of. our project for a big exposition in Barcelona and also to use as a fundraising tool for Oxfam. They come to watch us repair a broken handpump, which turns out to be a much more difficult repair than we had anticipated - a tube in the well is stuck and we end tying it to the bumper of a truck to pull it out. They want to interview villagers and talk to water committee members, so we go to the small villages and the people break out their drums and other homemade instruments and start to play...they light branches on fire to rub against the skin of.
Everything here is big. Trees trunks would take 30 men to circle, giant animals, the insects are the size of rodents and they all sting or bite...it's a really wild place. Portuguese is very similar to Spanish and I am quickly picking it up.
The past week I have been sleeping in a tent in the village of Amambos, managing the drilling of the wells, which entails me yelling a lot at the incompetent drilling company while they sit in the shade and eat rice. The people in the village are great - the currently have to walk about 2 miles to get water so they are very eager to get water and help in any way that can...the people live in tiny bamboo and mud houses but give everything that they have to a visitor. The rains have started and access is difficult so we shall see if we get done before the big rains hit, and we are monitoring river levels in case there is a chance of an emergency like last year.
Christmas in Beira with some friends, and then back again Jan 2 to continue with the drilling.