29th November 2013
My initial thoughts on the construction phase were of volunteers wielding power tools, constructing top-notch toilets single handed whilst the villagers look on in awe and amazement. But like with many aspects of India, the reality strayed far from the image. Looking back on it now, after construction, my view of what to expect seems very naive. After all, I’m not a trained mason and had never even heard of a mumpti or a bandalee prior to 3 weeks ago.
The reality for the average UK volunteer is mixing and passing cement, chucking bricks and fetching neru. Despite this, construction has taught me a lot, and when the opportunity did arise to muck in, I happily jumped in that leech pit and dug my heart out.
The fact is the construction phase has been about more than just building toilets. It has allowed us to really get to know the village, the beneficiaries, the masons, their families, children, neighbours and cows. Post construction has made me feel so integrated I feel like a local.
Even though we didn’t end up doing that much actual building, what has really surprised me is how appreciative the village were of us just being there trying to help. I think it has been this which has given me the biggest boost.
When you look at it, 20 toilets might not seem like much, but the knock on effects will be enormous. It is something that will benefit a family, their children, grandchildren and potentially countless other generations, not just in terms of a physical structure, but a way of living in a cleaner and safer environment with a clear understanding of the benefits. So we are not just simply building 20 toilets we are helping to change the attitudes and practices of countless people in a truly sustainable way.
Rob – IY9