Fiji Workcamp 2011 Report

In January of 2011, 26 Australians ventured to the village of Vuake, on a small island in Fiji, to complete three very challenging projects. The first project was the construction of a toilet block, including four showers, four toilets and four sinks. This toilet block was intended to service the children of Nasomolevu Catholic School and was to be built adjacent to an existing dormitory where some students stay during the school term. This project, however, depended on the success of the second project: the establishment of a water catchment facility. This project involved laying almost 1km of pipe between a water tank which sat on the hill behind the school, to several other water tanks, eventually leading to the new toilet block. Importantly, this would be the first running water in the village. At the same time as construction of the toilet block and the water catchment took place, the group undertook the repair and repainting of another very run down dormitory.

The project had to be completed by the 27th January when the group would depart the village, allowing only 15 working days. Initially, progress was slowed by difficult weather and plenty of mud. Establishing the foundations of the toilet block was more of a task than anticipated. However, perhaps what proved more challenging was working in the local conditions, where hardware materials were difficult to obtain, and the right tools were not always at hand. After almost one week of work little more than the pillars holding up the building was in place.

In the meantime, a trail was being cut down the mountain in order to clear the way to lay the pipe. A team of workers used machetes to hack away small trees and bushes to make a trail through the bush about a metre wide and five hundred metres long. It took almost a week to finish cutting the trail and like the building, the work was tough and went slowly. In some places, the rain had left almost a foot of mud. After about a week of working in these conditions, the way was clear for the trench to be dug and the pipe to be installed.

After a challenging first week, the work advanced very quickly. The sun came out and dried the ground and a large shipment of materials arrived. This sped the project along. The frame of the toilet block and the floor was put in place within a few days. A small generator was supplied which allowed the workers to use the electrical tools they had brought along, and by the end of the second week, the roof and the walls of the toilet block were close to being finished.

The changed weather also made work up the mountain much easier. During the second week, a number of workers spent several days digging a trench almost 1km long. With only a few days to spare, the pipe was laid and the valve turned on to allow the water to flow. Within minutes water from the mountain began gushing out the end of the pipe down at the school, much to the delight of the locals.
In order to begin the plumbing work, the back wall of the toilet block had to be finished. With only three days to go the plumbing work began. The plumber began the task of installing all the piping, sinks,
toilets and showers, working overtime to get it done. The work of the final few days was carried out at a frantic pace, with the final pieces of plumbing and timber put in place on the final day of work, leaving the structure completely finished. At 3pm on the final day of work, every member of the group had their first shower in three weeks. For the few locals that used the showers, it would have been one of the few proper showers in their life.

Despite the challenges that were faced in the work, all three of the projects were completed on time. Completing such a significant project gave every member of the group a real sense of achievement. Each person felt that they had contributed to the lives of the people of Vuake in a very important way.

Have a look at the photos from the workcamp here.