Update – March 24

New Backup Water Source

Shortly after the incident between Budhu and Government officials, a man from a different department came by. He wanted to make another tube well, which would serve as an alternate water source for the village in the dry season. They wanted to make it where we had already tapped into a water source for our water project, so again the villagers were angry! They said, “you have to make the hand pump in front of that house,” referring to the one they’d asked the other department to rebuild. “Then if the government makes the house, people in that house can use that hand pump.”

This government employee is actually an old school friend of Tinku’s. He wanted to become a monk like the monks who ran their school, but they suggested he work for a big company or the government instead. Then he would be like a secret agent, doing good work from the inside. So that’s what he did! And he pulled through.

Many thanks to the Purulia Mechanical Division of the Government of West Bengal. If our water source for the water project is insufficient through the dry season, villagers now have an alternative option. If needed we can draw from this source to fill the water tank instead.

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The completed new handpump! Branches surround it to protect the cement as it cures.

Learning to Use the Improvements

The new improvements here have come with some learning curves.

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Residents cleaning pots and pans by the old hand pump.

A couple weeks after installing the taps, residents were still cleaning pots and pans around one of the old hand pumps. When asked why, they said they were saving the water in the tank for the dry season when water can be scarce. This idea was very sweet, but we explained that the water from the taps and from this hand pump came from the same source. Even so, it took some time for them to change their habits!

Another day residents turned the taps to find no water coming out. This was the result of an air bubble in the system, which was remedied by pouring water into the pipe itself. Once water is added, the air bubble is displaced, and water will run normally again.

Another more comical adjustment is that once in a while, someone will forget to turn a tap off when they’re done. At a hand pump you lift and lower the handle as many times as you need to get the water you’re after. When you stop pumping, water stops flowing. Out of habit they’ll walk away when they’re done, and if they have bad hearing (as several do), they won’t hear the water spattering on the cement. Someone else always does though, and they shout a little louder so they hear. I’ve witnessed this a couple times and the perpetrators always have a big grin, feeling silly as they sprint back to turn it off.

Work Has Slowed Down Here.

One of the challenges we are facing in this project is that each time we go to improve something, we find five more things which really need to be fixed.

The initial aim of this project was simply to provide clean, running water for ageing residents with physical disabilities. PAF was able to find donors for this last fall. When we learned they didn’t have electricity either (which would be needed for the water pump, in addition to electricity making a world of difference in daily life), a local individual donated money from her pension to provide electricity to all of the main buildings with quality wire. (We haven’t afforded tubing to protect the wire yet.) When the women started talking about a TV, we thought that would be a reasonable item to raise funds for. This fundraiser raised 20,000 rupees for a television, and then 30,000+ rupees for minor building repairs and fresh paint.

The kitchen repairs are now complete. Pillars were re-plastered, one wall was rebuilt, half-walls were put in to prevent water from entering the living quarters next to the kitchen (three men live there to keep watch over their storage area and the animals), paint was added, and a light was installed.

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While repairing the kitchen we learned that the men’s quarters were in very bad shape. Many of the pillars are not structurally sound. It’s entirely possible that the roof could collapse, or lift off in severe weather later in the year. However the residents implored us to complete minor repairs of the Manasa goddess’s temple before we could work on their living quarters. A bit reluctant to spend funds on a temple where no one was living, we agreed. It didn’t cost much, and after a day we could turn back to the bigger problem at hand.

Five of the pillars at one end the men’s quarters were reasonable, one of them being wide enough to hold substantial weight. Those five were re-plastered. A crack on the end-wall was filled, and this section of the building should be able to last for some time. While the painters were here we had them paint the newly plastered parts as part of their flat rate for the project.

The pillars on the other side of the building, however, are not salvageable and need to be rebuilt. The construction workers consulted would not agree to take any of them down because they feared the roof would collapse. Without funding to replace the roof that is too risky. Most of the men would be displaced with no secondary place to live. It’s the monsoon season that will pose the biggest threat. As it is the roof has holes in it with light shining through. If we don’t fix it and it collapses, people will be injured.

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We hope that the government follows through on the work which they’ve begun at the women’s quarters, which will cut our workload in half. Repair work at the men’s quarters is now our most pressing issue. We estimate the roof replacement will cost 30,000 rupees ($440 USD), and rebuilding the pillars will cost another 30,000 rupees. It is critical that both projects are completed at the same time, so we have to find 60,000 rupees ($880 USD) before we can begin. We hope to find funding and complete this project before July, when the Monsoon arrives.

 

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