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Building a school in Swaziland21st July '13

We arrived to a wind swept place which felt like the middle of nowhere. There were a few buildings but not that much sign of life.

The incredible views stretched out over the lowveld encompassing homesteads and a meandering river in the distance. It was a beautiful place and we were looking forward to immersing ourselves into the Njojone community.

As we started to unload our kit, people seemed to materialise out of nowhere to welcome us and provide a helping hand with our food for the next 10 days. We were delighted to discover there were even mattresses for us to sleep on- sheer luxury! The less luxurious side of the stay was the long drop toilet!! The stench that came from that little room was almost lethal, but after a few days most of us had learned to at least tolerate it. The trick was to hold your breath and be quick!!

We met up with Sandile, the builder who we were to work with during our stay. Luckily for us he could speak English. We made a plan for the next 10 days to ensure that we would complete the classroom.

This classroom is the first of three and will be a place for pre-school children to learn  the basics before going to primary school. These children have been identified as AIDS orphans or vulnerable children who have missed out on pre-school and need to catch up on their education. With such an important job to do we were keen to get going…

Over the following 5 days we fell into a routine; getting up at 6am- unless you were on cooking duty in which case it was even earlier! Breakfast was at 6:15am then onsite by 7am…

We split into two teams; there was a building team which assisted Sandile with mixing the cement (by hand!), moving bricks around the site, collecting water and laying bricks. The second team worked on the soup kitchen, painting the walls with bright educational murals to liven the place up. This team also helped feed the 300 children who travelled from miles around for what would most likely be their only meal of the day. It certainly puts things into perspective.

Lunch for us was at 1pm then back to work until 5pm. By the time we finished for the day there would be hundreds of children waiting to play with us, whether it was football, netball or just plain ‘it’. We were welcomed with open arms.

The day’s ended with a siSwati (Swazi) lesson, most of which we could not even remember from the day before! Much to the amusement of Nomsa. Then a wash in a bucket around the back of the house before dinner. The end of day meal was prepared by whoever was on cooking duty, meals have been rather varied! Dinner could be followed by card games and ‘Mafia’ before bed at 10:30pm.

So far we have been very productive and have built all the walls and plastered one of the inside wall. When I say plastered, none of us could actually get the plaster to stick to the walls so we had to defer to Sandile’s experience and do all the mixing instead! Next week we will finish the plastering, put the roof on and paint the wall as well as doing the floor.

Today is Sunday, we are going to the local church service which will be followed by a football match against a local team. Luckily the builders are on our team- I know I won’t be much help!

Should be an interesting day….

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