Zambia 2016 – Day 9

Carys Worsley, College of Engineering Staff

The team crawled out of bed bleary eyed this morning after an ill-advised late night on Saturday: one day of lie-in and everyone forgot the horror of a 5.30 am wake-up.  Work began as usual at 6am with one team preparing the structure for putting on the roof and the other polishing, scrubbing, priming and painting the dreaded steel roof sheets. I have never polished so much metal in my life and hope never to do so again! One more round of painting tomorrow and the roof is all ready to put up and all we will need to complete are the finishing touches to the building.

Hard at work after a day off

Hard at work after a day off

We worked well past sundown in order to get to this point, although this is slightly misleading as sundown is invariably at 6pm. Still, we retired with the weary pride of those who have toiled from dawn ‘til dusk.

Posts are being sanded and painted

Posts are being sanded and painted

In preparation for a day of painting I adopted full “DIY Dad” attire, complete with dodgy hat, combats, stained boots and the obligatory paint splats (added to throughout the day). I painted my way through the day looking happily ridiculous until it was announced that we needed to go to the village to gather essential supplies for lunch (bread rolls). It must be said that bread rolls lose their charm after a week of eating them at least once a day, no matter the quality of the bread rolls.

After lunch it was decided that an adventure to the supermarket was required to collect ingredients for dinner and breakfast tomorrow, and to have a break from working in the hot sun. I exited the shop clutching what seemed an obscene luxury: hair conditioner. Never have I put so much deliberation into choosing a hair product. The novelty of this treat was slightly ruined by the ice cold shower that followed after work was finished, but I am now the proud owner of silky soft locks that no longer smell of paint fumes. I thought cement was the hardest thing to get out of your hair but alas it seems I was wrong: paint takes the biscuit.

The team sanding away

The team sanding away

Tomorrow is the last official day of the build. This is strange to me: it seems we only just arrived and the prospect of finishing the project carries with it a slightly disturbing finality. Hopefully this will allow us some time to run some science-based workshops with the children, which everyone is really looking forward to. It will also be lovely to relax with the team: friends who I feel I have known far longer than a mere week.


Zambia 2016 – Day 8

Sunday, a new chapter in the build after our half-day off, we rose at 6am to blast out a few hours work before some of us went to church.

Early start

Early start

At the service the experience was immense with a plain canvas of a building with vibrant fabrics decorating the backing of the alter. We were welcomed and blessed in to the ceremony, enjoying and soaking up the spiritual singing of the whole room.

The Church

The Church

On return to Mutende Children’s Village we got straight back to work on the most tedious part of the build where hours of work are not visible from our photo timeline. Small set backs for everyone was a common occurrence today, which did bring down the morale with added fatigue but no one slacked or gave up. After yesterdays evening group down time where we found out everyone’s challenges and pinnacle points so far. We each seem to fully appreciate how different everyone is and there is a fluidity that has formed in the group which got us to this point and will keep us going after a tough day. The strength and resilience of the group are making this trip and experience even more precious and outstanding.

A bit of dinner!

A bit of dinner!


Zambia 2016 – Day 7

Free day.

I woke up at 8:30 AM today. If I were back home the only thing on my mind would be the question of who the hell thought 9 AM lectures were a good idea. Instead, I got up, checked my phone and panicked about how late it was, forgetting that it was our day off.

I jumped out of bed, unraveling myself from the gift that is my mosquito net and went to the bathroom to brush my teeth. The first thing I saw was Tofazzal on the floor washing his clothes in a bucket full of water accompanied by two girls helping him; Temwani and Dominica. These girls who had already cleaned the dorm, washed their clothes, swept the front porch had now offered to help one of us with our clothes out of the kindness of their own hearts.

These children are truly good. Not trying to be cliché here but you can really see it in their smiles. The people of Chingola are the same; they’re thankful for what we do at the orphanage. It makes me happy to see it. In a selfish way I can say that this is a unique and fulfilling experience for me but I honestly believe that our time here is worthwhile and the work we do goes a long way.

Going back to the work we do, we finally have all the posts down! All that’s left now is the roof. After all the hard work and dedication we’ve put in these past few days we’re about 1/5th of the way through!

20% of the way through

20% of the way through

What started off as an ambitious project is now becoming a reality.


Zambia 2016 – Day 6

6 o’clock and everyone was on the building site, ready for action after the usual breakfast and cup of fresh coffee. 2 more posts to go so we start making concrete; 3 rounds of calculated ratio of cement, sand and gravel for one batch. From the experience and practice we had from yesterday, the team of students were able to mix the perfect consistency- not too stiff or too watery. With the team working efficiently,the last posts were done before lunch and the base of the building is nearly finished.

Ash offered me and Becca a tutorial on how to use the angle grinder. It was scary at first, holding a machine with sharp rotating disk that can easily hurt you if not used carefully. But we got hang of the technique pretty quickly and were able to help prepare bits of scrap metals  for recycling. After the deafening noise and sparks of heat, the shiny metal peaking through was definitely a satisfying view.

The angle grinder in action

The angle grinder in action

Everyday we are learning new skills. It’s been hard-work but never a boring moment.


Zambia 2016 – Day 5

At 5.30am I woke up to a sharp knock on the door. It was the first chilly morning and I couldn’t move. Struggling to keep my eyes open and maintain the perfect position to ease the ache in my muscles I finally managed to prise myself out of bed.

First I slathered a thick layer of deep heat on for my aching muscles, then a bit of after sun for my mistake the previous day when I didn’t apply enough sunscreen. A layer of sunscreen and finally a light spray of insect repellent to stop the tiny flying devils. I made my way to breakfast passing the first post of the structure which was put up the previous day.

Fast forward to now, we have 5 posts up and we’re making cement and putting up posts like a well oiled machine. Every day we get closer to our goal and closer as a team. It feels so satisfying to see every post go up and everyone working together. Hopefully tomorrow we’ll be finished putting the posts up!


The posts are up


Zambia 2016 – Day 3

We all rose around 6am as the early bird catches the worm (also we need all the sunlight we can get). Everyone collaborated with such unity it was amazing to see and to be a part of. In the morning, half the team prepared the holes for the posts whilst the other team prepared C-bars (posts), which is all part of the frame of the building.

In the break I went to check my results, as I had many deferrals it was an emotional moment, as I did really well despite many difficulties throughout the year; I burst into tears of happiness and all the team were wonderful and it felt like family as I shared my story with them and they comforted me.

Megan and Tofazzal also did really well with their summer exams. It was a joyous moment for all. Additionally it was Ashley’s birthday. In the afternoon we initiated the cement mixing and got our first post up, it was a momentous moment for the whole team.

The first post going up

The first post going up

After the hard work Becca and me did a yoga session where the kids joined in, I instructed them and counted with them. I absolutely love the kids; it is going to be an emotional time when I have to leave. We all then refreshed ourselves, then it was treat time as it was Ben’s final day.

Dr Ben Evans playing football with the kids

Dr Ben Evans playing football with the kids

All the girls got their dresses on and a bit of make up to remind us what it’s like to feel good. As I came out the children gasped at my transformation from grubby to girly. The children were drawing; I drew pictures for some of the children and left them a message to read.

We then drove to Protea Hotel, whilst Mike, Matt, Pete and Ben ran there. Had a lovely dip in the outdoor pool and then I finally got to wash my hair!! We all had a lovely dinner; there were many interesting conversations I got to learn a lot about my team. We also met Ronald’s girlfriend (Ronald works at the children’s village and has been helping us a great deal) who was also called Ashley.

Speaking of Ashley I got a system in place so everyone could get their desserts and called the lady over as I wanted to organise a surprise and put some candles in the dessert and have it come out first as it there was no cake. Had to improvise with tea lights. As the days progress it feels like more of a family instead of colleagues.

Minal Patel.

Zambia 2016 – Day 2

So day 2, every one is up for 6.30 in the morning; a feat incredible for a bunch of students. However, it was one of the many shows of enthusiasm for the project that the entire team has for the project.

Early in the morning, the majority got a good start on ensuring the level of the foundations were equal. The holes were deep enough such that we were able to enact a giant game of ‘wack a mole’… but without the hammer! Shortly after, I was part of a small cut-away group that went into town in search for timber. We came back securing half of the required amount, but had also organised the delivery of the required concrete, sand and gravel in order to make the required concrete.

'Wack a Mole'

‘Wack a Mole’

On return to the site, the students that went out previously then switched with a couple of others. This helped to make sure that everyone got to experience every side of the project. As they went out in search of metal stuts, I got to work on helping levelling the holes.

During a short break, the kids became obsessed with playing with my iPod, and taking pictures with my camera.

At the end of the day, we were able to source all of the required materials, arrange for a welder to supply us his kit, and dug the holes to the required level. I think we’re back on track!

The site

The site

My favourite part of the day was how quickly the group has come together, and the level of enthusiasm for the project from everyone involved.

I have great hopes for the future!

Haydn Ingram.

Zambia 2016 – Day 1

We departed at 1pm from the Bay campus. Destination Heathrow. The minibus was haphazardly packed to the brim. I spent most of my time worrying that a suitcase would launch into the back of my head.


Leaving The Bay Campus

After 4 hours we got to Heathrow. The logistics of transporting the tools and parts required for the trip are not to be underestimated. After a quick meeting with the rest of the team we began the unenviable task of making our way through check in.

Fortunately we all got through with no problems and then went straight to the pub for some food and some drinks.

A brief moment to relax

A brief moment to relax

The 11 hour plane journey took us to South Africa before we caught a 2 hour connecting flight to Lusaka.

The airport at Lusaka is very small and it seemed like the visa took an age to process. Everything moves very slowly here.

13 weary but excited travellers

13 weary but excited travellers

After a quick run to the supermarket we began a 9 hour car journey to Chingola where the orphanage is located. I was packed in a pickup with space supposedly for 5. With bags and snacks there definetely wasnt enough room, but we squeezed in.

The 9 hour journey to Chigola was fraught with gigantic potholes and suicidal hitchhikers. We’ll leave it at that.

We made it to the orphanage at 1am. After two days of travelling it was straight to bed.

We woke up at about 10am and had breakfast. The kids were already in school. Some of the team left to source materials, I was involved with unpacking the tools and cordoning off our work site.

With not much to do we had a game of football. The kids came back from school and joined in. It was a really nice moment being surronded with these orphans, who didnt have much material possesions but were full of hope, energy and ambition. A real perspective shift.

After all the tasks were accomplished we took the kids up a mountain they call ‘Big Mountain’ which in reality was just a very steep hill. The kids were so excited and had a great time. The view from the top was phenomenal, and the African sunset is an incredible sight.


“Big Mountain”

We came back down and ended the day with a 3 mile run with some of the team. It was exactly what was needed after two says of travelling.

Tasks for tomorrow; pick up steel, source a welder and welding machine and level the foundations ready for putting in the cement.

Tofazzal Rashid

Surverying in Siavonga

Having met James in Lusaka, I was asked to be the project manager for the surveying project. After travelling down to Siavonga, the group began work the next day. The surveying project wasn’t being worked on on the first day, so I was helping Chris with the planning of his Irrigation System. That evening I was told that I would be working with Dave and Meg the following day.

In the morning, we all went down to where the water projects were, and practised using the surveying equipment while we waited for a vehicle to take us to our site. Once we got to Siavonga Nutritional Group, we asked one of the men there, Joffrey, to show us where the two sites were so we could decide which would be more useful for us to survey. Unfortunately, they had a very busy day at SNG running workshops for the women’s groups nearby with another group of students from the university who went as part of a Discovery team. This meant we found it challenging to get enough time with the people there to find out exactly what they wanted us to do for them. With a quick phone call to James on the other site, we found out that the team who did the surveying the previous year had lost the data, and we were to do a whole site survey. It was such a big site with very uneven ground and lots of trees and rocks in the way, we didn’t know where to start! With tremendous help from Rebecca, we manage to get some time with Joffrey and the head of Discovery. It was apparent that there had been a miscommunication previously about what the other team had done, and we knew then that we would have to ask Mike for his help if he wasn’t too busy working on the pump. In the meantime we had been told that they wanted to build something very similar to the guest house up the road on the site, so we got a lift from one of the women up to the house, and took the outside measurements to see what would need to fit in. After marking out where we thought was the best place for the building to go on the new site, we decided to call it a day, as it was getting quite late and would be getting dark soon.

The next day we started fresh. The Discovery team had gone away for a few days so the site was much quieter. Meg was doing her water testing, so it was just myself, Dave and Mike working on the surveying. Mikes previous experience in surveying proved very useful, as he gave us lots of hints and tips for how many points to have and where they should go, and helped us see that we only needed to set up the total station in three places to reach all of those points. The most tricky part of the day was setting out the equipment, and we each took a turn doing that. Having one person on the other side of the site to the others with the prism meant a lot of shouting to each other was done and we wished we had taken the time to get the walkie-talkies working! We worked really well all morning and managed to get finished just before lunch time. All that was left to do were a few simple calculations for the levelling and to do an Auto-CAD drawing of our results. As Dave had access to the software required, he volunteered himself to draw up the results when he got home so we could relax and enjoy the rest of our time in Zambia.

Siavonga – Irrigation system design and installation

After travelling down from Lusaka to collect James from the airport, I was made PM of an irrigation project in Siavonga. I had 3 days to get the system up and running, with no prior knowledge of what the site looked like or what parts were available. The site was larger and further from the water’s edge than had been anticipated, and we ended up requiring 3 times the length of pipe that we had with us. An extra 200 metres of pipe was made available, which brought most of the fields within reach.

Day 1 was spent walking the site with Rebecca, Georgina and Margaret to prioritise which fields to irrigate given the very limited budget. A maize field near the water’s edge was the easiest to reach and would primarily be used to feed the locals. Next there was the “Big Garden” field, which would use a sprinkler system we brought out with us. This field would be used to grow higher value crops, such as Okra,  to be sold in the market. Finally, a Banana field could be reached via a water tank and garden hose. Day 1 was a bank holiday in Zambia, so I had to wait until the morning of Day 2 to go to the market to see what pipe fittings and water tanks were available.

Siavonga Water Irrigation System
Siavonga Water Irrigation System

Day 2: Jeremy, Jeffrey and I went to the market in the pickup. There was only one supplier in Siavonga of large water tanks, and the non-negotiable price was beyond our budget. That meant I had to instead link multiple smaller containers together. This significantly increased the planned workload as the number of connections increased. Joining the relatively short lengths of pipe together was a challenge as pipe connectors were not available. The solution was to use PVC pipe weld and an offcut of pipe to give an internal strap. Several tee fittings and elbows were bought to direct the water to the various fields and were bonded using the PVC pipe weld by Ronald. The only isolation valves available in Siavonga were for ½” pipes and our pipe was 40 mm diameter. I really wished I had a 3D printer with me, as I could have made some adaptors overnight at the hotel. Maybe next time. I had 150 g of epoxy putty with me and this was used by Ed and Cai to step down from the larger pipe to the valve, and back up again. All the joints were then covered in several layers of duct tape by Rebecca to protect the putty. This solution would not be viable long term, but would prove out the system until better fittings are sourced. We were visited by some local dignitaries, who were delighted to see the progress being made.

Day 3 was spent on the water silo. The barrels were first washed out with soap, then Dave, Adarsh and I painfully cut out transfer holes in the barrels. I joined the barrels using offcuts of garden hose and the last of the epoxy putty. Clay bricks were used to progressively raise the barrels off the floor to gravity feed into the final barrel, where I had installed a tap. A hole was dug in the ground by Joe and Adarsh, which would enable a bucket to be filled with water, which approximately halved the distance to get water from the lake. A garden hose could also fit onto the tap to provide limited irrigation to the Banana field, as well as Big Garden in the event the solar powered water pump was required on another site. Pressure testing of the system was not possible due to pump problems. A future trip back to Siavonga will be used to test the system and install more permanent fittings. This next trip will likely be in the local summer, so thankfully most of the heavy lifting has already been completed. It will be interesting to see how intact the system is after a few months, as herds of cows currently graze in the fields. This will inform any decisions to ask the locals to bury sections of the pipe, or construct obstacles from thorns.

Apart from the project’s engineering and management challenges, which I relished, the best part was definitely talking to the locals and seeing how happy they were for us to make a noticeable difference in such a short space of time. With some more fund raising and a couple more days on site, the irrigation system should be up and running and will make a real difference to these people’s lives.

By Chris Hannon