The day our rain catchment tanks showed up on the island was a glorious one! The barge, carrying our five 5,300 litter tanks, came without any notification. After waiting for about five months for the barge, visiting the District Officer multiple times, seeking quotations for private barge companies, and calling many different captains, the tanks finally arrived on the island of Waya!! The sight of the tanks seemed to lift a weight off my shoulders as our work was nearing an end. I knew the finale of this never-ending project was nearing.
The next day, Maravu, my counterpart, and I woke up early to put the fittings on the tanks and fix the PCV down pipes, a task we thought would be simple. However, upon standing the tanks upright, we quickly realized that our measurements had been incorrect and two of the roofs were in fact higher than the top of the tanks. Then getting a little further into our job, we learned the taps and fittings we had purchased were the wrong size. The solution was cutting a hole in the tank about 8 inches from the top for water to enter and a visit to the hardware, which meant a trip to the mainland. After all the challenges faced up to this point, I was hardly surprised that things weren’t going smoothly. Due to this USAID project, I have learned very well how to take these obstacles in stride.
Once the correct parts had been attained and installed and the PVC down pipes had been attached, we started to think about rain, or lack thereof. We had increased the current water storage capacity by 26,500 litters right at the beginning of our dry season. What good are new shiny empty water tanks? After contacting the Ministry of Education and waiting only a several days (a surprisingly short amount of time), we got word that a barge cart of water would be servicing the Yasawa group islands and would be leaving the Lautoka wharf the very next day. At this point, I knew better than to hold my breath and was in complete shock when the barge did in fact show up about a week later! It felt too good to be true! I was simply amazed by the Ministry’s quick response- it was truly a first.
We had successfully more than doubled the current water storage capacity at Ratu Naivalu Memorial School by changing the roofing on three school buildings, installing gutters on nine buildings, fixing two existing but broken tanks, and adding five new tanks to the school compound. All the work had been done, yet one thing still remained. I had to organize a Clean Water Program in order to increase community awareness of the importance of clean water and find an opportunity to thank the community for their hard work and support.
We planned a simple program including student presentations, dramas, and songs to help us better understand the prevention of water-borne diseases and the importance of clean water, an address from the nurse, and a thank you from me to the community. At the end of the program, we held an official ribbon cutting ceremony where Maravu, my counter part, was asked to officially open the project. To thank me, the school manager gave a speech of appreciation and they prepared a nice meal to close the program. It feels incredible to have completed this long, challenging project and to see a physical change I have helped make at the school. The achievement of this water project is a step toward the elimination of our on going water shortages at Ratu Naivalu Memorial School and it is my hope it will help keep generation after generation healthy! Vinaka na wai! Thanks for the water!
So now, it is on to the next project….