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Monday, October 7, 2013

Building Joseph's Water Tank Base in the Village of Vuaki

Building Joseph's Water Tank Base in the Village of Vuaki
By Pauline Higgins

     "Water is our number one issue", Joseph said as we discussed life in his village of Vuaki, which is on the island of Matacawalevu, one of the Fijian islands in the beautiful, remote and dry Yasawa range.  Joseph's family had a water tank, but it was sitting on dirt - not good for the longevity of the tank - and it wasn't piped correctly to collect the most water from the corrugated iron roof, so GVI was building him a water tank base.

     Joseph asked that the base be built on a section of land by his son's house that was on a slope with a big rock in the middle.  This involved a little planning on the part of the GVI Community staff, Mary and Nate, plus volunteers Jim, Michael and Pauline.  The tank was measured and the frame boards, which we brought to the site on the boat that morning, were nailed together to make the correct size form for the new base.  No cutting of boards though - the excess protruded - so that they could be reused on other bases that needed to be bigger.  We started digging and measuring, digging again, pick-axing rocks, removing stones and shoveling dirt, until the hole was the correct size and depth.  A bonus!...As we dug, fat, pink, juicy earth worms were exposed, which I very quickly collected in a coconut shell and 'planted' in our newly-dug community garden!

     We had no concrete-making materials at this point, so over the next couple of days, in between other projects, we 'harvested gravel', which meant we picked up lots and lots of 'Mary's right-sized' stones from the beach and put them in sacks.  Other preparation involved the laying of plastic sheeting, placing of rocks and rebars in the hole, and of course numerous trips to the beach to collect sand.

     When the day came to actually pour concrete, we made more trips to the beach to collect the last of the sand as well as to bring up the many sacks of gravel that we had collected plus the four bags of cement allotted for this particular base.  This was definitely a team effort.  The sacks of sand, gravel and cement were heavy, the wheelbarrow wobbly with its punctured wheel, the journey from beach to house long, and the day hot and sticky!  We did get help from some of the Fijian young men from Vuaki, which was much appreciated.  Those guys are strong!

     Joseph had collected water for us in 5-gallon plastic containers.  He was a retired carpenter and aside from providing us with this help, he also came up with some valuable tools and, as it turned out, some much-needed cement right at the end.  So now all the materials were assembled and it was time to mix and pour concrete.  For about the next three hours we mixed and poured, one wheelbarrow-full at a time, until the form was filled and a water tank base emerged.  Leveling was the last step and Mary made sure that our base was smooth and level.  That's when Joseph's 'found' cement proved to be a god-send.  We had come up short just a little bit on cement.  Lunch on the family patio that day, cooked for us by Joseph's wife, was especially sweet after all the hard work we had put in and with the satisfaction of having behind us a job well done.  We had fun scratching in our names on the edge of the finished product. Jim, Michael and I wrote in our Fijian names - Timoci, Michali and Paulini.

     The following day, after our village stay, we removed the wood form, placed the tank on its new base and connected and secured the proper piping.  We also cleared up around Joseph's house and moved the excess sand and gravel a little way down to the next water base site.  Joseph was well pleased with his 'new and improved' water tank, which hopefully will soon be full of much needed water for him and his family.  And guess what?  Today, Sunday October 6th, 2013.....it rained!