Two down, 58 more to go

It’s hot here. And when I say hot, I mean reeeeally hot. Like sweat dripping off your face and arms and legs when you’re sitting hot. In the shade. But, fortunately, that’s done little to dissuade our team of masons from the daunting task ahead! To build 60 latrines in just one month, in over 100 degree heat. In fact, since the funds have arrived, they’ve been rather eager to get it all going. 

It all started with my early morning wake up call. The one that I didn’t call down to the front desk to request.

“Breejeet! Breejeet!” The anxious voice accompanied anxious rapping on my sheet-metal courtyard door.

Of course, it being hot season, I was sprawled out and sweating in my culturally inappropriate tank top and shorts on my cot outside, just a few feet from my early-bird visitor. I had just sleepy stuffed my earplugs in after the 5:30 a.m. mosque call for a few more minutes of shut-eye. But believe me – this was audible through those spongey orange sanity-savers.

“Breejeet! Get up! Tomorrow has come!” Boureima, my primary action-planner for the project, called to me through the door. A hundred and 90 sacks of cement, plus various other awkwardly and/or large pieces of equipment, were packed in a truck and on their way to the village. And we didn’t have a place to put it all!

Well, we did. But several bumps down the road later, it turned out we didn’t. So I quickly threw my pillow inside and threw some clothes on my sweaty body and went out to face the tomorrow (and sacks of cement) that had come!

First on our list was to go talk to the old man in Bogodogo, another family courtyard about 100 yards away. He had the keys to the “banque de cereale,” or the building where grains are stored. Luckily for us, there’s an extra room on the side with a separate door and lock, that’s filled (still to this day) with dust and dirt and destroyed machinery. But hey, details, details. Luckily for us again, this important old man agreed to let us store the material there. So we dragged him from his lounging mat on the floor to go open the door for us, and we arrived just as the truck began kicking up the dust of our village floor.

As you might imagine, a truck coming to the village, much less one full of fancy new materials for the village’s new latrines, amounted to quite the spectacle. One by one the kids started to wander over, and heads started to turn from the women pumping water nearby. Excitement was building. Change was on it’s way!

And since that morning, change really has been happening before our eyes. The team of masons has met almost every day to learn more about their jobs, plan our work, and practice teaching each family about hygiene and the importance of latrines in disease prevention. (I’ll spare you the other inevitable bumps on the road details.) And just this past Saturday we broke ground on our first latrine for the proud soon-to-be-latrine-owner Ali Sawadogo.

We did the first two latrines together (and when I say “we” I mean they did the work and I attempted to find a slice of shade to shelter me while watching and supervising) to make sure we were all on the same page, and then on Sunday, the team spread out and began to tackle the other 58. In a week, once the cement from those first two latrines has had time to set, we’ll regroup to put all the elements together and finish our very first latrines! Not to worry, pictures will follow. But for now, here’s a few from our first week on the job!

The men unloaded the cement by carrying the 50 lb. sacks on their heads

Boureima, the early bird, posing with our new materials

Four of our masons practicing their teaching skills with their new visual aids

Hard at work on our first latrine cover!

Mixing cement is no easy feat

My co-supervisor on site

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10 Responses to Two down, 58 more to go

  1. Hannah McGraw-Dzik says:

    Dear Breeedget,

    You are a STORYTELLER. Gads, I felt like I was right there. The pictures are always great another way of being connected with you. I cannot imagine that kind of heat. Hearing about the laborers of this project seems to fit this quote by Meridel Le Sueur,
    “Human history is work history. The heroes of the people are work heros”.
    2 down 58 to go???until your return to the states.

    Loving all in gratefulness,

    Hannah

  2. Oh my gosh, I love this post B!! You are such a fantastic writer and it sounds like things are going so well! I can’t wait to see what they look like when finished. And I’m glad the heat isn’t stopping you, though I hope you all are drinking plenty of water :) Send my salutations to the village and tell them I miss them and of course I miss you tons!!! Keep up the amazing work :)

  3. Theresa says:

    Hey Hammer! What a project you have going there!!!!!! It looks like a lot of peope and supplies are inolved in doing this work…and you are coordinating all of this!!!! You and your co-supervisor (who is really cute by the way) It looks bizarre and amazing all at the same time. It will be so cool when you acutally start getting some of the latrines finsihed. You are doing very improtant work!!! Keep at it!!! Try to stay cool…Kaela saids it is heating up now where she is too! Love you, miss you, stay safe and healthy……Love, aunt T.

  4. katie roby says:

    Very cool story B! Hannah is right – you ARE a storyteller :)
    It is great to get an update on the project – and the pics are fabulous, too! Hope those men keep working hard for ya ;) And I sure hope the weather gets cooler soon. I can’t imagine doing manual labor all day in that heat!
    Keep up the amazing work – change IS happening…because of YOU!!
    xoxoxo

  5. fmroby says:

    So exciting to read, Bridget!!

    My 2 favorite lines: “Breejeet. Get up. Tomorrow has come!” (You know I love that one), and “Change was on it’s way!”
    Thanks for the fabulous update and pics, kudos to all of you on an awesome beginning.

    Love to our “Lady of the Latrines”! :)

  6. fmroby says:

    HI Bridget! Thanks for the news … it is really fun to hear how so many villagers are getting involved and working hard. When I was in Guatemala, I mixed cement with a shovel and it is a tough job! But I think digging those huge, deep holes in that hard ground would be tougher yet!
    I love the photos and I am looking forward to seeing more. Love, Dad

  7. Well done beautful lady, well done :)

  8. Eileen Degnan says:

    Bridget, Great to hear from you and it’s so cool this is really happening now. I’ve been doing some African drum ensemble music with my 5th graders and we’ve talked about how it comes from traditional village life as opposed to city life. So, for some odd reason, this made me think of you, and the DVD Maura and Fran made from their visit so I’ve shown them some of the DVD. It’s always interesting to see what they react to the most-they thought all the kids trying to get in the picture was very funny, and they really liked the animals running all over. I told them about the latrine project and what people have been doing before this-no bathroom or designated place to take care of business and they just stared at me like I must be kidding. So, not only are you raising awareness about hygiene and health in Berkina Faso, but you are also educating some of tomorrow’s leaders about living conditions in other countries not as fortunate as the US. We pray for successful completion of your project before rainy season, and your continued good health and safety. You are a “mover and a shaker” Bridget. Eileen and Mike

  9. Amanda Rudie says:

    Gosh I cannot imagine mixing cement in over 100 degree heat! It’s great that so many people are helping with the project- so awesome. I always love seeing your pictures, can’t wait to see a picture of a finished latrine! Keep up the awesome work Snap, Miss you so much!!!!!!

  10. rana says:

    HI Bridget! Thanks for the news … it is really fun to hear how so many villagers are getting involved and working hard. When I was in Guatemala, I mixed cement with a shovel and it is a tough job! But I think digging those huge, deep holes in that hard ground would be tougher yet!
    I love the photos and I am looking forward to seeing more. Love, Dad xtreme fuel treatment

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