Joe Palmer – MEng Civil Engineering
Day 4 at Mutende Children’s Village began with another 5:30am start. We needed to utilise every minute of sunlight that Zambia receives, so working dawn until dusk is a necessity.
The day started with the team digging the post holes to their final depth. Because the ground level was uneven, I completed a level survey with the dumpy level to ensure all the holes were at the same depth. I then marked up each post to cut it to suit.
Mid-morning, I took a trip to the local wood yard to purchase some final pieces of timber for the cladding of the climbing wall. The lady at the wood yard allowed us to sift through the many pieces of bowed and split pieces of timber, to find the best pieces to use on the climbing frame. We informed her that we were volunteering at Mutende Children’s Village and she gave us a free length of timber to help towards the cause – yet another lovely gesture from the very friendly local people.
As today drew to a close, the play structure is really taking shape. Finally, after digging out what felt like endless amounts of concrete blocks and bottomless holes, the new posts have now been concreted in place and left to cure overnight.
Despite the hard work under the hot African sun, the day has been broken up by entertaining the ever-energetic children at Mutende – The children have already filled my camera’s memory card with pictures and videos.
I’m very excited to see the play structure start to take shape tomorrow. It has been a very hard few days replacing all of the old rotten posts, but now we can really start to make progress.
Haytham Whitear – MEng Civil Engineering
Ring Ring Ring. The alarm bells and it’s 5:30am. There I was, a mosquito net and a travel pillow in a single sheet of bedding. Zambia wakens and the work begins with a quick breakfast. Despite being half asleep and considering hitting the snooze button, cornflakes, nutella and fresh coffee is all you need to get yourself ready for a full day of timber cutting and playground building.
We have all been working on this project in Mutende Children’s Village for 3 days now, and we have completed the concrete foundations with vertical piles which have created a rigid core for the playground. It was a long day yesterday batching all the concrete and finalising the playground design, we can’t wait to complete this for all the kids at the orphanage. Not only is it so encouraging to see the joy in their faces on a daily basis but to know that the College of Engineering is going to be leaving such a wonderful legacy here is an amazing reality that has only just hit us.
It has been essential to take regular breaks and to stay hydrated in the Zambian heat. Sun-cream has become a chore and taking anti-malaria tablets a routine but nevertheless the team has been so productive and I’ve been surprised to have made great relationships with what felt like strangers at Heathrow airport. The mornings are cool and therefore more productive so we aimed to plan our physical activities around this to avoid being drained to the ground with construction. The timber frame will be erected today, alongside the completed swing and its constituents-the deadline is drawing closer and we leave Monday morning so we better get cracking!
This evening the plan is to eat at the Protea Hotel in Chingola which will be a lovely treat for us all, I heard steak and chips is on the menu too. The first part of this project feels like a boot camp and the landscape is so different and so secluded from society that there is an almost alien appearance. This is really refreshing because for once you can reflect and analyse at your own pace, be it about the playground structure or about the orphanage. As we walk between the designated site area and the house the kids are always smiling and wanting to play. We have been constantly asked, “Can I have your phone and record a video please.” It is wonderful to witness this with their adorable innocent faces which has to be a regular highlight. Going through their creative interviews and commentaries on my phone has been so enlightening and something I’ll cherish for a very long time.
The vast difference between home and Zambia has made me so grateful for what I have; family, friends and countless opportunities. The kids here may never get to experience things I have, but, it is empowering to build this structure which will bring a huge smile on their faces for many more creative adventures and imaginative stories which will hopefully impact their lives positively. We may be without WiFi and far from home so the emotional journey has only just begun. It will be tough to be so disconnected from the world, but it makes you realise how much there is out there in the world that is yet to be explored and all the other areas where rejuvenation is so desperately needed.