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Misuuni – Construction Update

Rainwater Harvesting Improvements at Miumbuni Primary School, Machakos County, Kenya

Construction has been going very well with incredible community support at every step.  At the time of this writing, the EWB-NY Civil Team has already completed their work and the Mechanical Team is wrapping up their part.  Here, the EWB-NY collaboration with Plumbers Without Borders pays off as the piping and gutters get professional attention.  

Prior to the EWB-NY team arrival on August 4, parents cleared the site in preparation for construction. The EWB-NY Civil Team, consisting of Eric Lehan (Civil Engineer) and Kohinoor Mahi (Environmental Engineer), experienced a great deal of fanfare with much of the 800-student population showing up for a greeting ceremony – even though school is not in session for the month of August.  A barraza followed in which community leaders, speaking in Swahili, Kamba, and English, presented the objectives of the project and enlisted enthusiastic support from the Community.  One agenda item was to politely keep bystanders at a safe distance while the dirt flies.

The first order of EWB-NY business was to inspect the rainwater system installed at the Misuuni Primary School last year for any lessons learned.  Though it was working quite well, some adjustments to the first flush system were needed in addition to the roofing over the water tanks which was already identified as an objective for this implementation trip.  These are all nearly complete at the time of this writing. 

Parents and school staff work to clear the site before the EWB-NY team arrival

Construction on water tanks started in earnest on Monday, August 5 with a local crew of two skilled construction foremen and seven laborers.  Labor costs were $10 per day for the skilled foremen and $8 per day for laborers.  While we are shocked at the low wages people make in rural Kenya, this is akin to Davis-Bacon wages for them.  A local welder and cement mixer were hired as well. By Saturday, August 10, all three concrete pads were placed, providing a secure foundation for six new 10,000-liter water tanks (two tanks per pad).  The hard work put in by the crew and the entire team put us ahead of a rather ambitious construction schedule.

The Mechanical Team consisting of Teja Jonnalagadda (Mechanical Engineer) and Jeff Morgan, (Master Plumber), arrived on site Sunday, August 11 and set immediately to work updating their materials list.  With a quick trip 70 kilometers back to Nairobi, they were able to purchase nearly all the plumbing and gutters and have them on site Wednesday, August 14.

We cannot fail to mention the amazing support of the Misuuni Development Self Help Group (MDSHG), who handled endless logistical issues and hosted the EWB-NY teams.  Mr. Nixon Kioko, a Kenyan Mechanical Engineer (graduate of the University of Nairobi) and Misuuni resident, assisted the Mechanical Team greatly with his inside knowledge and technical skill.

Nixon had to travel from a job site in Kampala, Uganda some 7 hours by bus to Nairobi where he was to continue on to Misuuni by car.  Unfortunately, the public bus he was riding in broke down before reaching the Kenyan border.  This left all the passengers and Nixon stranded for several hours in rural Uganda waiting for a replacement bus which never arrived.  After a while, Nixon was able to evaluate the mechanical problem with the bus and fix it.  The bus and passengers continued on the journey to Nairobi.  Nixon received a free ticket from the bus company and several offers of marriage along the way.  We can’t loose with support like this and with the support of everyone who believed in this project.

Asante Sana

Unexpected Assistants

A bridge is being proposed, designed, and built by EWB-NY to connect four villages in Guatemala to the neighboring city. This proposed bridge is needed because the villagers do not have a safe way to cross the valley by car or motorcycle. The lack of access puts the educational, medical, and economic benefits of the closest city out of reach for most of the locals. In August of 2019, a team of 10 professionals from New York travelled to the Chimaltenango to complete the first assessment trip of the project. One of the primary goals of this assessment trip was to perform a topographical survey of the river valley surrounding the proposed bridge location. This is was a large undertaking, due to both the large area to cover and the steep terrain surrounding the site.

Surveying this location involved walking up the valley slopes alongside the river that runs through the bridge location. Despite the challenging terrain, our team managed to gather hundreds of data points in order to have an accurate three dimensional map of the area surrounding the river. Our team of professionals had many tasks, including mapping the community, measuring the stability of the bridge site soil, and performing a topographical survey of the valley. For the 3-4 team members that we were able to allocate to topographical surveying for the week, this was quite a challenge, and we needed all the help we could get. So, when we noticed that two boys from the nearby village had been following us around the site observing our surveying methods, we asked if they wanted to help. They eagerly agreed, and took the end of the tape measure to the survey points we had marked out. They completely understood our surveying method just from watching and were able to scramble up slopes with ease, even in areas that were difficult for our team members to reach. With the added help from the boys, our rate of surveying increased drastically, and we were able to collect all the necessary data ahead of schedule.

The top picture shows one of our newfound helpers, whose work was interrupted for a photo op. He was in the middle of measuring one of the many data points they helped us collect throughout our surveying of the bridge site.