Sanitation in Sainji 2014

During the second phase of implementing the communal wastewater treatment system for the community of Sainji, we were reminded that this is an ambitious project and it will take much longer than anticipated to complete. Even though this project is taking much longer than planned, we are confident that this project will be completed.

First Day Funsies:
Our first day in Sainji was dedicated to letting the team members familiarize themselves with the community and seeing the work done from last year’s implementation. Creating a bond with the community and knowing who you are impacting is really important. We also spent the first day doing material inventory to see where we can start and how much more material is needed. Right after the first day, we tackled phase 2 at a speed of lightning.

Community Meeting Success:
We held a community meeting the third night (something we couldn’t do last trip). As we waited for community members to show up in the community courtyard, we were nervous because only the children were gathered around (rumor went around that we were providing chai and biscuits for the meeting). As we were about to start, more adults started showing up. Kunwar (our NGO) began the meeting by introducing the team and summarizing what Cal Poly EWB India has done during our past trips. He also explained very well what the current project is. This confirmed the strong partnership we have with our NGO, the Gharwal Organization for the Upliftment of the Needy. We then began discussing with the community about what we planned on doing during this trip and explained that another trip will be required before the completion of this project. Everyone was hoping that the project would be completed this year, but we hope we were able to convey how much is still needed for the completion of this project. A couple members asked some technical questions about the design of the tank, our formwork design, and the pipeline. We were very happy to receive and answer these questions. Another important point that we were able to convey was why each of us were standing there in Sainji doing something for strangers across the other side of the globe.

As we were preparing for the community meeting the day before, our faculty mentor, Dr. Jansen, asked us all “Why are you here? Why are you doing what you are doing?” He expressed that we should explain what inspires and motivates us to be there in Sainji, helping people who are basically strangers to us. He said if he was a member of Sainji, he would be skeptical why these strangers were so willing to help the community out. We each know why we chose to be in Sainji, but the community may not fully understand why we are doing this for them and may be skeptical of our motives. I was really glad our faculty advisor brought up this point. We spend so much time getting to know the community, their culture, their wants and needs; but we sometimes forget to let them understand us and our intentions. We are not some really rich people who have a lot of free time to just fly to another country to do manual labor. We are there helping them because each of us love helping others through finding solutions with all the resources we have available. After conveying this to the community, the community members applauded. We then received more applauses as we explained how we want them all to really own this system.

Cake Pan + Cake Baking (in engineering/cm terms -> Formwork +Concrete Pouring)
We then started designing and building the formwork for our 17 cubic yards of concrete walls for the 32ftx8ftx8ft sedimentation tank. We designed a unique reusable formwork that was two feet high. The plan was to pour the 8ft wall in four lifts of 2 ft. After sawing 2×4 studs by hand, we all practiced the skill of hammering pieces of wood flush to each other. Hammering is a lot harder than it seems. There were numerous times where one of the boys in the village would hammer better than I did. We heard “not perfect” a lot from Vikesh (one of our main helper). There was always so much pressure when the older men in the village watched me try to hammer a nail straight. They would take over my hammer and easily fix the crooked nails I drove in. I learnt a lot watching them. After working non-stop for over a week, we were finally ready for our first concrete pour. As the community members rallied to the site to help with the first pour, they expressed their worries about our formwork design. We explained that there shouldn’t be an issue. The concrete mixing and pouring started off a little rough because there were more teenagers/kids out helping than adults. We all couldn’t keep up with the speed of the pans flying left to right. But as more adults arrive, the pour went faster. Towards the end of the pour, part of the formwork started bulging out. The community’s worry came true. The men insisted on taking part of the formwork apart, scoop out the concrete, nail the formwork together again, and continue pouring concrete. We were nervous about this plan, but we ended up letting the community members take charge. We ended the first long pour day with the sunset and some rain.

We improved our formwork design by creating a copy of snap-ties using all thread wires, bolts, nuts, and pvc pipes. Without a holiday, we jumped right into our second pour. Again, the community members expressed their concerns about our formwork sitting on top of 2 ft of concrete without any bracings. We were a lot more confident in this design and explained how this formwork would not fail. By the end of the pour, everyone was amazed by the success of formwork. It required a few fixes for every pour, but we were able to successfully pour the 8ft wall by the end of the trip.

Manual Labor:
During these four concrete pour days, we had numerous help from not just Sainji, but from the closer communities as well. It was amazing that children from other villages, teachers/volunteers at the school, and older men in the villages came out to contribute manual labor without any pay. During every concrete pour day, it was my understanding that we would pay every adult who took time away from their busy lives to mix and pour concrete. However on the last day, I was pleasantly surprised when Kunwar wrote down the list of laborers for us. There was only a handful of names. I mentioned a few names that I thought Kunwar might have forgotten, but he told me these people just came out to volunteer. This moved me. Tending the fields, cows, and goats are extremely important for this community, but they instead came out to volunteer their time and manpower. This was probably a result of the community meeting. Kunwar then told me that everyone was impress with the team’s hard work during this trip. Neighboring communities saw the walls of the tank get higher and higher and are already questioning Kunwar when will it be their turn to partner with us.

Although we have not yet completed this implementation, we can already see how we are impacting the community members mentality about improving their quality of life. I am very grateful to have traveled twice to such a beautiful village with such beautiful people. Each community member that I have come into contact with have touched my life in many ways.