Tara Easter, International Intern

Date Published

In the bush of Kenya, certain tools and materials can be in short supply. Whether it’s out of the budget or simply doesn’t exist in the local shops, many construction workers, farmers, landscapers, and families have to make do with what they have. This is certainly the case in Mwakoma, and the innovation I have witnessed from our work crew has been incredible.

Our main building, which will serve as an office, honey processing room, dorm, community center, library, meeting hall, and educational facility, was set into place thanks to string, sticks, and a right angle tool.

Our perfect, cylindrical, cement toilets with proper seats were framed onto some plywood tied together with wire and sticks in a circle. These guys had never made a toilet like that before. Mostly, their long drop lous are topped with [scary] holes in the floor, but when we showed them a drawing of what we wanted they figured out a way!

Again and again I come to them with a problem and they come up with the most unusual solutions. Need a high tech metal saw to cut some mabati? No problem, just hammer a panga across it in a line. Wire cutters gone missing? Just smash it with a mallet!

I like to think that I’ve learned a little from them as well. The shower has been the bane of my existence the past week. Convinced that it was a small enough job that we didn’t need to pay men to do, Carley and I were determined to finish it on our own. First, we had no idea how to attach the gutters without the usual attachments and roof to nail it to. Instead, we hammered nails in to make a hole and tied them together with fence wire. Then, to protect our tarp from mold and dirt, we needed to roll it up a bit. I needed a clamp, but I knew I wouldn’t find any in Voi. Solution? Re-purposing plastic! We took the heads from water jugs and cut them in half to fit around the poles.

According to Nzumu I am Tara: fundi of the shower! I’ll take that!