Zambia 2017 – Wednesday 30th August

Partial Masaiti – BEng Electronic and Electrical Engineering

& Simon Withers – BEng Aerospace Engineering

Today we woke up relatively late as we arrived in the early hours of the morning. The journey was long and arduous; 41 hours of travelling is never fun and the aeroplane’s dodgy headphones didn’t help either. But don’t worry; it all got better when we arrived at the Mutende Children’s Village.

THE TEAM IN LUSAKA AIRPORT

The main project to complete was rebuilding the disused play structure. The children haven’t been allowed to play on the structure for some time because of its current state of disrepair; it was literally a death trap with rotten wood and exposed rusty nails. We were excited to start work, at the prospect of meeting the children and actually getting to connect with the locals.

THE ORIGINAL PLAY STRUCTURE, WHICH NEEDED KNOCKING DOWN AND REBUILDING

 

Despite having a lot of work to do we were delighted to spend some of our time with the children. They’re really friendly and genuinely want to get know us. They’re very inquisitive about our lives back home and they are at times disbelieving. They enjoyed playing with our phones and just being around us.

Construction-wise, the first thing on the agenda was to dismantle the components, trying to salvage all reusable materials as we go to reduce expense. We were left with a dilemma: to leave the existing pillars for use as a starting point or removing the wooden pillars and replacing them with new, more durable beams. There were pros and cons with both of options. Keeping the existing beams would save us time, money and effort; replacing them would increase the life span of the play structure. After much deliberation and debating we finally decided to replace the existing wood.

To do this we need to dig out the existing beams, but that’s tomorrow’s job. Today we started digging holes for the foundations of a swing for the children. This was really hard work with the ground being so hard but it’s meant we have bonded well as a team and are now ready to work together for the next couple of weeks.

We have had a really good and productive first day and are really looking forward to getting even more stuck in tomorrow.

Zambia 2017 – Thursday 31st August

Rachel Johnson – MEng Mechanical Engineering (with a Year in Industry)

Day two at the Mutende Children’s Village meant our first early start, cracking on with work as soon as the sun rose at around 6 am. Daylight hours here are 6 am to 6 pm- it’s quite a challenge to adjust to this but so far we’re managing!

First we had to dig out eight posts from the previous playground structure as they were unsafe for the children to use. These were difficult to dig out because some of them had huge concrete foundations that needed to be dug around before removal. Some of the team worked on this whilst others went to get more materials, and after a good few hours of work we had removed them all and started adjusting the holes to the correct dimensions. Izzy and I worked together on this and we hope to be remembered for the impressive holes we dug!

THE DIGGING BEGINS

 

After all the holes were dug out we stopped for lunch which was desperately needed. We used this time to re-energize and discuss the jobs for the afternoon. Lunch consists of everyone attempting to fit as many different fillings into bread rolls as possible; resulting in incredible combinations of cheese, peanut butter, cucumber, marmite, ham, and crisps!

The afternoon work is much harder as it’s so much hotter than in the morning. The timber was termite treated, a shop run was done, and games were played with the children! Today has been a hard day of work but has been really rewarding – it’s nice to see the playground shaping up and I can’t wait to see it completed!

REMOVING THE PREVIOUS WOODEN STRUCTURE

Zambia 2017 – Friday 1st September

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.

ONE OF THE CHILDREN FROM MUTENDE

 

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.

THE NEW STRUCTURE IS SHAPING UP

 

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.

THE CONCRETE WAS LEFT OVERNIGHT TO CURE

 

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!

EVERYONE WORKING HARD TO DIG OUT THE ORIGINAL WOODEN PLAY STRUCTURE

 

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.

Zambia 2017 – Saturday 2nd September

Hannah Bowen – BEng Aerospace Engineering

Today we began to assemble the structure, having sourced the wood needed. The wood we required for the upright arrived as untreated tree trunks, and it took us half a day to remove the bark from them. However, progress was made well, and all of the structural uprights for the climbing frame and the swing were erected and cemented in place by the end of the day.

While some team members were erecting the uprights, others began working on the other parts that needed to be made. A ladder was made using the old uprights that we had taken down the day before, and was painted. We also started to prepare the offcuts from the uprights for use on a swing bridge. A lot of wood had to be cut for the floor panels and the castle walls, and these then had to be sanded down to ensure that the children do not get splinters whilst playing on  the structure, before being painted to protect the wood. The fact that the wood does not come prepared to the same sort of standard as in the UK is quite a time consuming challenge, as the beams are often not straight, still have bark on them, or vary in width along their length. This has to be taken into consideration for all of the designs.

Whilst we are working, the children love to sit alongside our cordoned area and talk to us or watch what we are doing. They are excited by everything that’s going on, often breaching the boundaries we’ve defined, and it’s not infrequent to find them running around with one of our tape measures! I was also worried that I wouldn’t get enough time to take as many pictures as I’d have liked, but I needn’t have been concerned as the children are constantly pestering us for our phones and cameras to take pictures and videos themselves- I think I’m more excited to see those pictures than any others!

GROUP SELFIE WITH THE CHILDREN

 

The work is enjoyable, and it’s rewarding to know how excited the children are to have their new play area. We’ve tried to keep our plans relatively secretive from the children, but they try to ask us all to tell them what we’re building in the hope that someone will give them a clue. After lunch, we often spend a little bit of time playing with the children before we get back to work, and I think that this may be my favourite time of the day. I’ve taught them to play ‘Duck, duck, goose’ and ‘What’s the time, Mr Wolf?’, and in return they’ve sang some lovely songs and showed us some pretty impressive magic tricks.

THE TEAM HARD AT WORK!

 

With so many components of the structure having been prepared separately today, I’m excited for tomorrow as a lot of the structure will be assembled and we’ll start to see the climbing frame slowly materialise.

Zambia 2017 – Sunday 3rd September

Izzi Marsh – BEng Mechanical Engineering (with a Year in Industry)

Day 5 and our last day in the Mutende children’s Village. Another early start, getting up at 5am to start work by first light. Today was our last day to finish the playground and there was also a church service that a few of us wanted to go to so we needed to get a good few hours of work in before the 9am service.

The first jobs for the group are to finish all the painting, put up the castle walls and attach the two swings to our main frame- ideally before 9am. We achieved all this plus managed to cut out the table legs and tops to go under the main structure.
A few of us then went to the church service which was a real eye opener to the difference in culture between Zambian and British Christian Church services. There was a 20 minute session of intense and vocal prayer before singing and dancing for another 40 minutes.

The Reverend invited us up to the front to welcome us and thank us for the work we have been doing which was lovely. There was also a guest speaker, which meant the service went on for much longer than expected – it was lunch time when we got back to the Children’s Village. A few people had stayed behind to continue working so the project had come along really well in the time we’d been out; the bridge had been put up and the wood for the climbing structure had been attached.

THE CHILDREN ENJOYING THE PLAY STRUCTURE

 

After lunch we finished the climbing wall, attached the tables and the ladder and touched up scuffed paint on the castle walls. We finished the project and cleared away by 5pm which meant there was still an hour left of daylight. It was great to see the kids finally play in the playground- they were all so excited and energetic! We brought out icecream for us and the kids and took them to big mountain; a big hill close to the orphanage which we all slid down on empty plastic bottles creating trains with the kids. We climbed to the top, where you could see the whole of Chingola in the sunset. It was a great way to the week and the kids absolutely loved it!

MAGNIFICENT VIEWS AT THE “BIG MOUNTAIN”

 

Kay Tor – PhD Chemical Engineering

Today is our last day in Mutende, me and Joe have volunteered to start early, beginning our day at 05:20, trying our best to complete the work on time and to the best of our ability. As an appetiser to the day, Joe treated us to an involuntary leap of faith from one of the platforms; I will definitely remember that one!

Later that morning, the majority of the team accompanied the children to Church, where they received a warm welcome and appreciation for the work that we are doing for the orphanage. I’m sure I speak for the masses when I say we appreciated our stay as much as they did ours.

Meanwhile, a team stayed behind to continue the work on the play structure; it is at this time that we finally noticed the mistake that one of one of our Civil Engineers made. We attached the bridge that he helped design and immediately saw that it was far too long, reaching almost to the floor! A plentiful of selfies later, we took our turns on the ‘hammock’, before shortening it for the kids.

THE INITIAL BRIDGE WAS TOO LONG

 

After a quick lunch and reunion with the Church-goers, we began the final leg of the build, looking promising for an early finish. At 17:30, we observed our finished masterpiece, tidied up the area, and officially opened the playground to the children. A group of 40 kids swamped the castle, putting our construction to the test. It stood well!! It was an emotional finish and the reactions on the kids’ faces were priceless.

TEAM PHOTO ON THE FINISHED PLAY STRUCTURE

 

We then thought it would be a great idea to treat the children with some ice creams. That was a mammoth task, the continuous quick turnaround of cones for refills were terrifying. I have never, in my entire life, been attacked by ice creams!

We finished off the day by taking the children to the ‘Big Mountain’, which is just a stone’s throw away. Even then, the kids rarely get the opportunity to visit. As we arrived, the kids showed off the rock slope they had polished into a slide and gave us flattened scrap plastics to use as seats for a speedy ride down the slope.

Just before sunset, we took the kids to the top of the mountain. The view was magnificent!

Zambia 2017 – Tuesday 5th Septmeber

Kay Tor – PhD Chemical Engineering

Our stay at Mutende Children’s Village came to an end yesterday as we began our early morning journey to Siavonga; the second phase of our trip.

We hit the road at daybreak, and after what seemed like a forever journey, we arrived at the hotel just before midnight and everyone was excited for a good nights sleep. We woke up this morning just before sunrise, and were spoilt by the view outside our rooms!

BEAUTIFUL VIEWS OUTSIDE OF OUR ROOMS

 

An early morning exploration with a little bit of patience gave us some much welcomed surprises. We spotted a crocodile preying on a bird, before sighting a hippo nearby getting ready for a swim. We waited quietly and patiently for the hippo to enter the water; it was shy, but made it eventually. Check out this photo!! You can’t see it but there is a crocodile eyeing the coastline in the water towards the right of this shot.

HIPPO RELAXING BY THE LAKE

 

We lazed around for the morning, taking a much needed break after a long week. After a quick spot of lunch, we went to the main market of Siavonga to buy some material for the projects and food supplies for the week. The town was bustling with locals; filled with stalls selling a variety of items from basic amenities to fresh fruit and veg.

MARKET IN SIAVONGA

 

Later in the evening, as I went to clear out our dinner plates, the barman pointed out to me a pair of hippos; the mummy hippo had brought along its little baby for an evening graze by the river, just meters from where I stood! Our first day in Siavonga has been eventful, and we have been very lucky to have spotted these wonderful creatures in one day, an event that many regulars have mentioned as rare.

 

Simone Meroni – PhD Materials Engineering

Finally, the first day in Siavonga!

After having met the local authorities, we can start our activity in this Southern part of Zambia. We split the group in two teams: One in Siavonga Primary School for surveying and the other in the hospital, mainly to fix wheelchairs.

WHEELCHAIR IN DESPERATE NEED OF FIXING

 

I followed the surveying group to the school to help with the equipment setup. When the guys started with the measurements, I went to give a hand in the hospital. The hospital is close the school, you just need to cross the local market. I walked to the hospital while plenty of smiling and friendly people were surrounding me.

Once I arrived at the hospital, I saw part of the team working on the oxygen line. I started to help with that. The line was leaking and this is an enormous problem. In fact, part of the gas that is contained in the cylinder was wasted and, mostly important, oxygen is a comburent and it can ignite a fire. Fixing the line took quite a lot because once we repaired a leak, we found another one or even two.

After the oxygen line, part of the team went to the surgery theatre to fix some equipment. The surgery table doesn’t work properly and, even after our effort, still shows the same problem. Even the Engineers of Swansea University can have limits! Whilst some of our group were working inside the theatre, others were working with the wheelchairs and other equipment. For example, we fixed 5 machines for the vacuum.

WORKING ON FIXING THE HOSPITAL EQUIPMENT

 

I think today was a great day. We met so many local people, including patients of the hospital and Nurses. We saw an example of a local hospital and how it is organised but, overall, we helped people with the resources that we had. I think they appreciated our effort.

Zambia 2017 – Wednesday 6th September

Rachel Johnson – MEng Mechanical Engineering (with a Year in Industry)

Today is the second day in Siavonga (in the South of Zambia) so the jobs began! In the morning the Surveying group headed off to help a local we met at the hotel to check if their land had been marked out correctly. A group headed to the local hospital to collect broken wheelchairs and start fixing them and figure out any extra materials we might need! My group headed to find a man called Musuka to discuss the plans for the irrigation system that’s planned to be built for a women’s organisation. Unfortunately, due to a land dispute, we can’t build the irrigation system but this won’t stop us getting busy with other jobs that can be done whilst we’re here!

We arranged a meeting at 2pm with Musuka and some staff members at the local primary school to discuss what and where needs to be surveyed for a new classroom for children with special needs. This meeting worked out nicely as we all managed to get onto the same page about the schools’ needs for the new classroom and what we can potentially offer them.

CURRENT CLASSROOM USED TO TEACH DISABLED CHILDREN IN

 

I’m really enjoying Siavonga, it’s a lot more humid than Mutende and there’s loads more insects flying around so we’re all caking ourselves in deet! It’s a lot less built up than Chingola, it’s pretty much all market stalls and very few actual shops. At our hotel we also saw a crocodile as well as a hippo with its baby which was so incredible but also kind of scary. Tomorrow my team are going to head to the hospital to see if they have any odd jobs we can try and get sorted for them which will be awesome because I haven’t seen the hospital yet!

 

Kay Tor – PhD Chemical Engineering

Today we got ready for an early start. A small group left for the Siavonga District Hospital to scout out their wheelchair needs. The hospital experience was definitely far from what we have in the UK, a service we take for granted every day! The group brought back some wheelchairs this afternoon to carry out some repair work along with a wishlist from the hospital for other equipment they’d like us to fix.

SIAVONGA HOSPITAL

 

Meanwhile, the surveying group left to help a pair of locals survey their land to check the accuracy of the professional survey they had carried out years before. The irrigation group set off at the same time to track down our contacts for the projects. After what seemed like a lifetime picking up breadcrumbs, we found the person we have been trying to contact and arranged for an afternoon meeting with the representatives from the Siavonga Primary School and members of the local education authorities.

SIAVONGA PRIMARY SCHOOL

 

The whole team rendezvous for the afternoon meeting at the school where we were presented with plans for an expansion to accommodate children with learning difficulties and disabilities. This is the first school to provide such service, however, their current facilities is much undersized for the number of students they take. It was a heartfelt moment to have been shown the lack of facilities the students currently have.

Zambia 2017 – Friday 8th September

Jack Horgan – BEng Civil Engineering

Our last day in Siavonga has been a busy one. I’ve been part of the Surveying Team that comprises of four Civil Engineering students: Haytham, Joe, Ben and myself, as well as PhD student Kay. Our task has been to survey an existing school site, including buildings and features such as trees, as well as complete a topographical survey in a proposed build area for a new classroom specifically designed for children with disabilities. We completed the majority of work yesterday, which was topped with a fantastic traditional meal cooked by the staff at the school, so we only needed a few hours to gather the final points necessary to create a local map of the area.

USING THE EQUIPMENT ON THE PROPOSED SITE AREA, TOPOGRAPHICAL SURVEY

 

As soon as we collected and packed away our equipment, we headed to one of the existing classrooms for to teach the children some lessons planned by the rest of our team. The first lesson was about Bloodhound SSC, which the children loved – especially due to the fact that they got to build and test their own miniature race cars! After a while, some cable ties and a few questionable designs from the Swansea staff and students, we took the cars outside and raced them one-by-one. The children crowded round and were shouting and clapping happily, particularly when their car was the one being tested on the track.

Following the races, the children headed back to the classroom to create their own solar system and myself, Joe, Ben and Partial headed to the hospital with Ashley to lend a final helping hand with some already hugely successful trips to the hospital. One of the surgical lights needed rewiring and some new bulbs.  Whilst Joe, Ash, Ben and myself toiled with taking apart and running a cable through the whole light structure, Partial created a circuit with the bulbs and Simon worked on rewiring the plugs. After several hours spent working, we stood the light up and pugged it in. It was incredibly satisfying to be rewarded with a fully-functioning bright light. Happy but tired, we headed back to the hotel.

THE SURGICAL LIGHT IN QUESTION – TAKEN EARLIER ON IN THE DAY

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After a quick shower and some food, we met everyone else at the lakeside bonfire, which we kept well stocked all night, for some drinks and a summary of the whole trip. Everyone spoke about their favourite memories and what they had gained from the trip – it was an enjoyable way to finish off our time in Siavonga and everyone went to bed with high spirits.

Zambia 2017 – Sunday 10th September

Simon Withers – MEng Aerospace Engineering (with a Year in Industry)

Saturday 7th September was another early start- but we were all more than happy to be awake at 6am this time. We were off to Livingstone and Victoria Falls. Not much can be said about the journey, apart from the fact that I will never complain about the state of Britain’s roads again.

We arrived in Livingstone late afternoon and spent the evening relaxing by the hostel’s pool before going out for a very Zambian dinner (think crocodile and caterpillars). An early night followed ready for some adventures the next day.

We started the day on Sunday by going white water rafting in the rapids downstream of the falls. According to our guides, these rapids are some of the best in the world. Not that I could tell you. I spent most of my time with either my eyes closed, hanging onto the boat for dear life, or flailing helplessly in the water hoping I was not going to become lunch for a crocodile. Not that I should worry about that, the guides had kindly informed us that these crocodiles were vegetarian.

WHITE WATER RAFTING AT VICTORIA FALLS

 

Our second activity we had booked was a sunset cruise on the Zambezi… with a free bar. It wasn’t just about the gin and tonics though. We saw hippos and crocodiles in the water, and baboons and elephants on the riverbank. It certainly won’t be a boat trip we’ll forget anytime soon.

SUNSET CRUISE ON THE ZAMBEZI

 

After the cruise, we headed to a bar near our hostel. There was live music, the drinks were cheap and we all had a really great night. I won’t go into the details, so all I’ll say is it wasn’t quite the conventional night out you’ll experience in the UK. Due to the relaxing day we had planned the next day, we could afford the associated lie-in (hangover).

Zambia 2017 – Monday 11th Septmber

Joe Palmer – MEng Civil Engineering

Our final day in Livingstone has arrived, and it began with yet another early start. We managed to arrange a safari drive and rhino walk, and at exactly 8am this morning our guide Phillip arrived with his safari truck. After a few rules about the safari drive, we all hopped aboard and set off for an exciting morning. As we entered the Mosi au Tunya National park, we were immediately amazed with the many animals native to the park. We travelled around the whole park seeing Zebras, Giraffes, Impalas, Elephants and many more. Before lunch, we walked to see the very rare White Rhino (or Wide Mouth Rhino). These Rhino are monitored 24/7 by armed guards, so it was a real privilege to see them.

TEAM ENJOYING SAFARI DRIVE

 

 

 

RHINO WALK

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After Lunch, we travelled out of the park, and towards the Victoria Falls. What better way to top off a wonderful trip than a visit to one of the Natural Wonders of the world? We walked along the viewing trail at the falls and then met our guide who was going to take us to Angel’s Pool. At the Pool, we all got the chance to take a dip and have a look over the edge of the falls – an incredible experience which everyone loved.

AMAZING VIEWS OF VICTORIA FALLS AT SUNSET

Tomorrow we travel back to Lusaka to catch our flight back to the UK, I am not looking forward to the hours of travel but it has been undoubtedly worth it and a real once in a lifetime opportunity.