Joseph Vandy Sengeh (Freetown, Sierra Leone), Andrea Grimaldi (Villa Mercedes, Argentina), and Omar Mansour (Salt, Jordan), all Class of 2016, dedicated their summer to building latrines, and constructing waterproof zinc roofs on homes, the mosque, and the traditional birth attendants home in Sierra Leone.
The trio met as students at the United World College in Maastricht, the Netherlands, and developed their project as first-year students at Macalester. Their project was primarily funded by Davis Projects for Peace, established by the late philanthropist Kathryn Davis.
Following are excerpts from their blog:
Monday, May 27, 2013
Our project is based in Kpetema, a small village in Sierra Leone. We will be staying in Pujehun town, at Vandy’s mother’s guest house. Yesterday we met Vandy’s grandmother, Ngor, who is from Kpetema. His father is also helping us with the logistics of the project.
Sierra Leone is a completely new experience, the rain is hard and the food is spicy. I’m wondering how we will manage to build the toilets and put the roofs [on] under such a strong rain, but locals have an idea of how to work in these conditions and I guess we have a lot to learn from them.
Sunday, June 2, 2013
We had a speech from the town chief. He introduced some elders of the village and [talked] about the things that they had already done to see that the work goes on smoothly. Before our arrival they had dug the two holes for the toilets, brought enough sticks from the bushes, stones as well as sand and made 500 cement blocks.
We had a big meal and danced afterwards. The music group danced the length and breadth of the village.
Wednesday, June 5, 2013
Once we arrived we found the people from the town had mobilized and put down the thatch roof from the mosque, which is the first [roof] we decided to build.
It was amazing, everyone in the town was working together, even the children were helping. Removing the old thatch roofs there were bats coming out of it, and we have heard stories of how easy it is for rats to inhabit them. Some houses have small kitchens inside, and the thatch is pretty dangerous in those situations. They are not enough protection against these heavy rains.
Things are not easy, and we encounter new problems and unexpected things we have to deal with every day. But we are diligent people and we will get this project through.
Monday, June 17, 2013
The carpenters underestimated the amount of zinc they needed. So, we ended up buying 5 extra bundles and that almost killed our budget. The contractor has finally showed up and started working on the first toilet. We still have 8 days to finish both toilets if we are to stick to our original plan. I guess we have to be a little bit flexible at the moment.
We have started the soap production in the village. A woman who is originally from Kpetema but lives in the next village decided to help us. She is the expert! She will teach two women from Kpetema how to make soap and in return the two women will teach two other women. For soap production, 25% of the soap will be distributed for people in Kpetema for free and the other 75% will be sold to provide the women who produce the soap with a source of income.
We decided to fix the local well. We thought it would not be really expensive to fix it. We were wrong.
Saturday, June 22, 2013
There is a traditional birth attendants house in the village and we decided to provide a new wooden bed, a table and a mosquito net for that house.
[Because the roads are bad], we have a driver, Musa, that drives us to Kpetema. He never complains no matter how early we decide to leave or late we decide to come back to Pujehun town.
Tuesday, July 2, 2013
We had to fasten things up because it is impossible to work once the rain comes; it can rain for seven days in a row.
On Friday we distributed soap for free for every adult in the village. After that we stayed and painted the doors for the toilets. We were in a hurry because we planned a big closing ceremony. On Saturday we received Vandy’s parents, coming from Freetown especially for the ceremony. [Our local project partner] Growth Centre organized a pick-up truck to take us all to the village. We had coverage from the local radio. It was really an important event in the Pujehun district!
July 15, 2013
Thanks to the Davis Foundation for their generous grant that enabled us to conduct the project. After we received the grant, Kathryn Davis passed away, may her soul rest in peace. We will always remember her and her vision of peace.
August 7, 2013
It was good to return to Kpetema after a month. The toilets are in very good condition and each toilet has a caretaker that checks it every day.
All the women decided to come together as a group, after the end of the Ramadan period to further improve the traditional birth attendants house.
I presented a picture we took during the community event, to the chief and everyone was so happy to see himself/herself in the picture. It is going to be hung in the community center to be seen by anyone that visits Kpetema.
Joseph Vandy Sengeh ’16, Andrea Grimaldi ’16, and Omar Mansour ’16 are a part of Macalester's Davis United World College Scholars.