Just a couple weeks ago, T.J. and I found ourselves blessed to be “on the ground” again in Bluefields, Jamaica. We were thrilled that Kim (trip #2 for her) and Justin (first-timer!) joined us too! We went for respite (AKA vacation!) but also to search out new opportunities for future work projects, swing a couple proverbial hammers on the water catchment system at the school, and continue to build relationships with our Jamaican friends.
We got in on a Friday morning, and by Wednesday were all rested up from “life” and ready to work. Wolde picked us up at about 6:45AM (sunrise in Jamaica is consistently a few minutes before 6AM!! It’s always the BIGGEST change for me, lol), and we headed up the hill to the new school. Our job was to get the guttering and PVC piping installed so when the tank arrived later in the week, it’d be ready to hook up. Once onsite, we put the homemade wooden ladder up against the wall and started screwing on the brackets for the gutter, using battery-powered Dewalt drills (nice!). These were plastic gutters, and pretty easy to just clip into the brackets once they were on the wall. We got the first 16-foot section installed, and decided it’d be a good idea to test it before going much further. Stellar idea!! A half-filled salmon-colored bucket was handed up the ladder, we tossed it’s contents high up on the roof and WHOOSH, all the water poured down the zinc roofing directly OVER the top of the gutter and onto Veda, drenching her completely. We laughed and laughed…and quickly decided we would need to add spacers behind the brackets to get the gutters at the right distance to actually CATCH the water, as the name of the project suggests. Well, you can’t plan for everything, I suppose.
About the same time as the “test”, we realized that we didn’t have all the guttering pieces and parts that were needed to completely go across the back of the school. We needed about four or five lengths of gutter and had two, and also needed longer screws since we would now be using spacers. Now, in Jamaica, there’s not necessarily a Lowe’s Home Improvement, Home Depot, or Webster Brothers (our local family-owned Ace Hardware) right around the corner. Nope. You will find yourself driving about 25 minutes in one direction (on a good day) to get to the hardware store. I know you Americans living way on up in the Appalachian mountains can relate!! But for us “city-folk” – wowzers! That’s an hour plus of downtime! What do you do with all that!? Well, for us, we made spacers out of scrap wood found around the school, and used the handful of long screws that we DID have to go ahead and mount the brackets onto, so they were ready to be installed when the rest of the supplies arrived. With the rest of the time we had, we waited. And waited. And let the crazy-busy life of living in the United States filter out of us minute by minute. It’s not everyday in our “normal” American lives that it’s OK to sit back in the middle of a job and just DO NOTHING. So that’s what we did – and we did nothing but fellowship and hang out with friends. (and in all that doing nothing, Veda’s shirt was almost dry in the heat of the Jamaican atmosphere).
Soon enough, the van arrived with the rest of the parts and pieces, plus patties and juice for a snack!! If you’ve never had a Jamaican patty, they are pretty dang good. It’s basically a pastry, sort-of like an old-fashioned fried apple pie – but filled with a meat or veggie mixture and sometimes even cheese! YUM! We ate up, and worked to finish installing the rest of the guttering. This got knocked out pretty quickly, once we had all the parts and pieces! At the same time, some of the folks from the school were moving all the stuff from the old school at the bottom of the hill and down the road, to this new school, trying to get everything in place and ready to open school in September. When we weren’t installing gutter, we were helping unload the pick-up truck and bring everything into the school. The old school was four small wooden buildings in somewhat disrepair, with no indoor plumbing. The new school is a block building, brightly painted, with tile floors, three large classrooms, vaulted ceilings, fluorescent lighting, a full kitchen, plenty of storage, a nurse’s station AND indoor plumbing with the install of this Rainwater Catchment System!
We also were able to bring with us a whole suitcase full of school supplies, generously donated by friends and family, to provide a good start to the school year for those children whose parents struggle with making ends meet.
As we are back in the US as this project continues towards completion…here are some words from Wolde Kristos, Founder and President at Bluefields Bay Fishermen’s Friendly Society, about how this project is coming together:
“We have implemented solar at the new Bluefields Basic School. This will give us basic lighting for most of the school. We still need the Jamaica Public Service (JPS), service to run other equipments, therefore we have engaged JPS for sponsorship and we have <been> given a great offer. The total cost for JPS to implement the project is JA$2.5 million (about $25,000 US) and we are only required to pay JA$633,000 (about $6,330 US). JPS will be putting in 1,300 feet of high tension wire to supply electricity to the school. We also got a water pump that uses gas from Food for the Poor. We will be using it to pump potable water over 1,000 feet to fill the tank that holds 2,000 gallons. Thanks to Building Jamaica Project, Food for the Poor, Anthropology Club at Missouri State University and RAJ TOURS. Thank you for your financial contributions because without it we could not have made this possible”
The new Bluefields Basic School (ages 3-5). Joy Baker is the principal and the teacher of the 3 year olds the first year the school was opened.
Hard at work getting the school yard ready for opening day..
An open air hallway connects the classrooms.
The three classrooms can be opened into a multi-purpose larger room.
The full-service kitchen. Note the water jugs in the sink as potable water has not yet been brought in when this was shot.
The ladder goes up!
…the first bracket is installed…
Adding guttering on the top level, too.
…and our first water test soaks Veda!!
Building brackets with spacers as we wait on more supplies
Must have precision!
The moving truck arrives and is ready to be unloaded.
The guys take a break from guttering to unload the heavy stuff. Note the van in the background…patties and supplies have arrived!!
Cutting the gutter down to size…
…and needing a helping hand to hold it in place.
Adding the last piece of guttering.
Now, glueing in the connector from the gutter to the pipe.
Up on the roof, with the pipe laid out towards where the tank will go.
The end of the pipe shoots off the building, but will be finished once the tank arrives. Note the incredible mountain view.
One of the local welders created this platform to sit the water tank on top of. To spec, 92 inches across!
A second load of stuff from the old school arrives later in the day.
Back it on up! Everyone grab something and bring it inside!
Installing solar panel on roof to run lighting.
Both tanks installed! The top is for potable water and is filled using a solar powered pump from a water supply 1,000 feet away. The bottom collects rainwater from the roof. Both use gravity for water pressure.
Done for the day…tired and sweaty! Time to go jump in the sea and cool off.
I think we can chalk this up to another “Building Jamaica” success! Thank you, readers, for your continued support and partnership in this project and others taken on by the team. If you would like to take action today – dollars are still needed to run complete power to the school; US residents can make tax-deductible donations (all $ amounts are appreciated!) by clicking on the “Donate” button on the blog and entering “Bluefields Basic School Power” in the memo line. Your donations will be sent immediately to help fund the remaining power project.
Stay tuned, as the next Building Jamaica project is just on the horizon!