Udumulla village – February 2010
Report by Cavan on how we supplied mains water into the village
Following meetings with the water board and a trip to Galle (1 hour round trip) to pay our monies, we are ready to start.
We meet the manager on site who measures the distance to every house, with the last being at 275 meters. We then arrange to meet the following morning, some of the 12 villagers have the correct paperwork, however five have none. The water board manager says everyone must come back down his office the following morning where he will issue one big application. The entire village are in attendance and they are told this at the same time. Anyone who fails to do so may have to wait months, as we are not being messed around. A complete surprise, the following day every villager turns up!
Sadly, we were then informed they do not have any 3 inch pipe in stock and it will take two weeks for materials to arrive. We explain that we need to finish the whole job within two weeks and are desperate to start, so the manager agrees to do his best. Following another two visits over the next three days, there is still no pipe.The manager then recommends that we travel to Galle to see the regional manager to try to move things along. Happily, the following morning, before we depart for Galle, our water board manager calls us to his office to let us know that he has managed to find the pipe we need! It appears that they have diverted pipe meant from other projects, not strictly fair for others but marvellous for us!
A trip to the village on my own where I explain that we will start work the following morning. During this visit I notice that 3 of the children are at home and did not attend school – I am not amused. I ask why Samina and the other two are not in school and was told that following a sports day, it is common for children to miss school the next, day as they are tired. Nimal (our local taxi (tuk-tuk) driver and part-time employee of the HAT Foundation) agrees that this is true. However, I am still not happy. The children realise something is wrong and sit sullen faced on the wall. I ask Nimal to explain to the three parents how angry I am and that I blame them not the children, and that I was tired but I am still working on their project and that being tired is a pathetic excuse for not going to school, and they either make sure the children go to school or I help someone else. As usual this was carried out with the whole village listening in, however, most realised that there was something wrong and rapidly retreated.
I check with the parents which school the children attend and let them know that I will visit the principal to check their attendance records. If when I look at the records there is a lot of absence then I will stop helping. It is so important that they realise that the help they receive is in return for improving their education, in order to hopefully improve their standard of living – if they do not keep up their end of the bargain, then hard though it may be, we will stop helping.
I head back down the village still not a “happy bunny” however, stopped by a family who require water, so I take details and as this is only one extra, I say “no problem”. Then another gent opposite says he requires water. Ah well, I think, let’s do the job properly, so I promise we will do his water at same time. Turning to leave there are now two other persons with letters, one is representing ten villagers who do not have water. I decide to look briefly, and as I walk around more people turn up with letters. I had no idea but “Udumulla” village starts at the bottom of the hill and it looks like another 15 houses or so at least!
I ask Nimal to explain that I will look at installing water in their homes but as there are another 12 persons it will be done in our next batch in approx 3-6 months time. I ask everyone to meet me in the village at 1.00pm the following day and I will take their details.
The big day – the digger arrived!
The digger arrived at the village. We were expecting a big digger but half a medium size digger came instead! What does half a digger look like? Well no top cab at all, no engine cover and a plastic water butt for fuel. However, it started well and dug approx 20 metres in 45 mins, marvellous. Our delight was short lived however, the ground is now much harder and the digger is not man enough for the job. A quick recalculation and it works out that it will take 30 hours to dig – DISASTER, as we pay by the hour! At around 4pm, Nimal phones a different company with a real JCB – success, this will arrive at 8am tomorrow.
The following day Mark and I arrive at about 8.00am and the JCB arrives shortly after. Problem! It won’t fit up the narrow access path. The wheels of the digger are up the bank on one side and on the edge on the other. The driver phones his boss as he does not want to make the decision to carry on. However the boss says carry on and the JCB inches very slowly and finally success! He starts to dig and it is obvious the job will be done in no time at all.
We leave and I say to tell the other persons requiring water that we will meet at 5.00pm not 1.00pm.
We call back about 6 hours later and he has only 40 meters left – the whole job dug in about 7 hours – fantastic! We pay the man 12,600 rs about £73, however Mark insists on giving him a 1000rs tip equal to a day’s wages. “Crazy, but I am overruled”.
That evening Mark and I returned to see the other villagers who require water. Originally, I was going to ask the girls (Deb & Fiona ) to take details, but decided against this in case the meeting got heated. We arrived at 5pm and set up camp at a neighbour’s house. A very large welcome committee greeted us, however, all was conducted very peacefully and we took the names of many, all of who live in Udumulla.
Following this, I explained that there were a large amount of applications which would cost us over 1 million rs. However, we believe everyone should have the right to clean running water and we will eventually fit water into their homes, but it could take up to two years. Everyone left happy and we left for our well deserved evening meal.
The following day we had to go back to the water board where we needed to meet with everyone from the village to sign papers. The next day, the water board and 6 employees turn up and soon start laying the pipe which is fed along the path by all of the villagers.
Not only were their tools extremely blunt, they had a tub of glue to join the pipes together, where they had to borrow a toothbrush, as they did not have a brush to apply the solvent – most amusing!
Everyone joined in, including women, young and old and all worked very hard. It was a fantastic community event. In approx 90 mins 160 meters of pipe was laid. The pipe runs out and so we must order more and make another visit the water board to pay the bill – nothing is ever straight forward in Sri Lanka!
We arrive at water board and he says still awaiting quotations which could take a long time.
However, as usual we insist on finishing the project before we leave. Finally we managed to arrange to meet with the head man in Gallle who will give us quote to pay. Mark kindly offers to go so I can have my first dive, as so far I have been too busy. He pays 298,000.00rs about £1700 to pay for the extra pipe and the connection fee for the extra 12 houses.
A day or so passes and we have only two days left. Another meeting with water board and he confirms that we should have water into everyone’s home on the day we leave. (Good job, we leave at 10.00pm)
The final day
Final visit to the water board. However, sadly we have missed 2 persons. So once again, a trip into Galle to pay and more paperwork. Paperwork in hand we phone and it is promised that the water meters and pipes into the individual homes will be laid that afternoon.
A few more jobs to sort and then back up the village where there are meters being fitted, people working hard, backfilling and digging! The villagers have to fit their own pipe and tap. However, everyone is helping and soon a shout as the first tap is fitted.
We look up and there is a very happy person standing by his tap. He turns it on and the joy on his face is obvious, which is only matched by ours. A dream come true for so many people – it’s a fantastic moment, and one that will never be forgotten! We leave at about 2.15 as determined to have an hour off!
The villagers have asked us to call back at 4.00 pm for some sort of ceremony.
Looking back at the village it is in total chaos with people backfilling madly everywhere.
With only one tap fitted and mess everywhere it is obvious it will not be completed by 4.00pm.
4.00 pm and 2 Tuk Tuk’s arrive to take us to the village. We are stopped just before the village and greeted by a huge crowd. The children give us garlands to wear and we are stood at a huge entrance banner which is fantastic and must have taken days to make.
It is incredible and in the shape of a goal post and made from bamboo and banana leaves.
Sadly, as usual it is my name on the banner and the others mentioned as visitors. My name is spelt wrong but this makes no difference, it is a work of art and we wish we could take it home. A very emotional moment – glad of the sunglasses!
We are told to wait and then we hear jingling and 6 dancers in traditional costume arrive.
Incredible costumes, dancing and singing, we follow slowly into the village and firecrackers are let off.
As we are walking through the village many of the home-owners are standing proudly by their taps and the joy on their faces is incredible. Some turn on their taps to show us but then turn off asap, as they are on a meter- “Fantastic”! The entire road has been levelled and every single house has a tap fitted. Totally amazing, considering the chaos a few short hours ago!
Three years ago I started to look at sinking a well for this village and hit many setbacks. However, now every house has mains water fitted instead. “How incredible”.
We reach the bottom of the village and the dancers finally finish their act. How fortunate we are to be involved with such a worthwhile project. Stupidly, I take off my glasses and thank everyone, and then ask how they managed to find the dancers and was told that everyone in the village paid. I tried to say something, but it just came out as garbage and I quickly put my glasses back on, as the emotion got the better of me!
Finally, we were ushered to one of the houses, where they had provided some ‘traditional’ Sri Lankan food (much to the girls dismay as we were leaving that evening for a 24 hour journey home!) They provided coke, as they know we do not drink the water and someone stood waving away the flies for us. Finally we took lots of photos and said an emotional goodbye.
I have been fortunate enough to be able to help thousands of people through the “HAT Foundation” over the last few years. However, nothing comes close to this project.
On reflection, this was a huge undertaking which was completed in just two weeks.
Every person deserves the right to clean fresh running water and everyone involved with the “HAT Foundation” should be proud that on the 25th Feb 2010 we made the dreams of 16 family’s come true.
Oh, by the way, did I say how many houses I promised water to!
Well initially, another 65 homes, but expect that figure to grow.
This is good as we all need targets to aim for.
I think if we each sent this report to ten friends not already supporting us, we would each soon have at least five donations to fit water into homes.
Cost is just £100 with a marvellous plaque with their name on.
Just another marvellous idea from me!!
Cavan (& Mark, his able, if sometimes annoying helper!)
That’s not entirely true, Mark has been an asset to me.
Thank you Mark