Friday, May 14, 2010

First major materials delivery

From Emily, our on-site director - "On Wednesday, I had a shipment of 200 bags of cement arriving from Mwanza. It was a hectic morning arranging where the cement should be stored, purchasing a lock, and negotiating a watchman. The driver was never very clear about his arrival time, and with only about twenty minutes to spare, I called Owino and asked if he could find people to help us unload the truck. Because need is so great here, even the villagers most devoted to the health center would like to be paid something. We checked the price of unloading cement in Shirati, and found it was 300/bag. The total would then be 60,000 tsh for the truck! I hoped the Roche people wouldn’t propose such a price. When we finally arrived at the chairman’s office, our new storage location, Owino had a large group waiting. Our truck driver was in a hurry to get back to Mwanza and was pushing us to unload quickly. Owino reminded the villagers that this cement is really for them, not for me or for SHED, but for the benefit of their community. Eleven people then agreed to unload the cement as fast as they could for 2,000 tsh each (about $1.50 US). The scene that followed was inspiring. The men quickly divided themselves, and it looked as if a race had begun. Calling to one another and literally running, they were all determined to keep the cement moving into the storage building as quickly as possible. Though it needed no translation, Killian would sometimes say to me, “That man is saying, ‘We know this is for us. That is why we are willing to sacrifice ourselves.’” or “That one is saying, ‘We are so glad Owino called us so that we can help get this done.’” When the men inside the house started falling behind those unloading the truck and those running it from truck to storage building, I jumped in to help, fully expecting a “No, let me sista.” I believe it was a sign of how seriously they took the work of quickly moving the cement that they readily accepted my help. As we finished stacking, many of those we had hired came inside to count the bags for themselves, to be sure that Roche Health Center was not missing even one bag. The attitude of the villagers is not always easy to decipher as an outsider, but on this day, it couldn’t be mistaken that they view this health center as a great gift that they will gladly give of themselves to help realize. We have another shipment arriving tomorrow, and though it is a Saturday, I can’t wait to go to work."

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