Thursday, July 21, 2016

Celebration Dinner for the Community Plumbing Project

Friday, July 15, 2016

Celebration Dinner and Program

If you read yesterday's post about installation, you will know that things ran very late and we had to hustle to get back to the hotel and cleaned up for the closing dinner.  For me, if was one of the few times during the week when I felt an abrupt change of pace and had to acknowledge that our time was almost at an end.  I think most of us felt this on some level--partly because of some degree of exhaustion and the emotions of the day, since we were finally able to be in our community.  

I had told our team early in the week that I had not expected to fall in love with Africa.  I told them that I might reach the end of the week and not be ready to leave.  That is what happened to me.  I wanted very much to see the rest of my family and to see my home, but I also know that I have found a place that is profoundly important to me.  Doug said several times during the week that he realized he had not seen me so happy in a very long time--he says ten years.  That is something I need to figure out for myself going forward.  My summers in Alaska were very similar to this for me--those people ad that land has also lodged themselves very deeply in my heart and soul--hence the large readership of this blog from the great north that I have noted before.  This experience has been even deeper for me.  I will write more about that in upcoming posts--if only to help myself figure this out.

We had a wonderful time with old and new friends and some wonderful entertainment from the Diepsloot Arts and Culture Network.  Some of it echoed the performances from the opening ceremonies, but it all had so much more impact now, after our week on site.  

Grant Stewart was our MC for the evening.  He introduced Adrian Welke and David Donald from Healthhabitat, who summarized some of their take-aways from the week and highlighted the strengths or unigue elements of each team's design.  For Team USA, as we had hoped, they highlighted our modular design, which is intended to make it much easier to replace or provide maintenance to broken units by having the toilet mounted on a skid which can be removed easily without bringing a large truck or crane onsite.  They said that the potential of this option had been brought home to them by the two days of installations.

Grant reminded the audience of the "gift" that Paul Pholeros gave to each participant last year.  He gave each team member a small piece of pipe to remember School 125.  This year each participant--each champion, as Grant reminded us--got this plaque:

The message was unanimous--all the teams and the community were victors in this project.  The CPC has been unique throughout its short life in merging competition, collaboration, and leadership development.  This year the fruits of that were clear all week--the teams worked together and learned so much, about design, about plumbing, about workplace safety, about culture and history--and the end result was a potent beginning of a relationship with a vibrant and unusual community.

At the World Plumbing Conference in September, some preliminary data on how the eight units are performing will be shared.  In one respect, that will indicate a "winner." I am going to revisit the question I asked earlier in this blog--Who Do We Play For? after I get done writing about the trip as a whole, but I would stress that everyone contributed and everyone won in this collaborative competition.  We all learned so much and benefited in so man ways.

I have not told you a great deal about Pat and Alan, from Singapore.  For the past three years they have worked with young students, from Singapore and now from Diepsloot, to capture and document the Community Plumbing Challenge.  Pat has said on Facebook that she is not a plumber (neither am I!) but the art that she and Alan create carries the heart of this project out into the world.  Their video carries the seeds of change:

After this the whole community--old and new friends--a rainbow of people danced.  I cannot imagine a better way to end the week.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Time to Go to Our Street!


It's Installation Day on "Our Street!"

Thank you to PHCC--We Couldn't Do It
Without YOU!

Friday, July 15, 2016

Friday was our big day!  The yard looked very empty as Team India went out into the community.  We were delighted to have Chris Rowan, the Consul General, come back to spend time with us and see our installation in progress.  The team went out at about 10:30 to start the process of taking out the old unit.  You can never be quite sure what will happen at that point!

Lots of last minute adjustments

Getting everything perfect!

A unit we won't be able to salvage!

Our kids

Randy and Chris Rowan, looking at a stream that isn't supposed to be running down our street.

Chris Rowan and I went to see Team India's installation on the way over to our street.  They were in a much more congested part of Extension 1, and there had been a wild party going on.  Things were a bit quieter when we got there, but it was a very different feeling than on our quieter street.

Team India had a great visit with Chris Rowan

 On our street, we were able to unclog a pipe that had been causing water to run down the center of the street constantly.  Team South Africa came and helped with this project, while our installation went ahead.  Among the other things clogging the pipe was a full can of beans!

This makes it real
At the end of the day, he team went and visited with Amina, our friend from earlier in the week.  We gave her painting supplies and the paint so that the community could paint their unit the way they wanted.  

It was a very long and busy day.  We got back late and had to do some quick cleaning up and then rush back to the hotel to get read for the celebration dinner.

Thursday at the CPC! Installations Begin and a Special Guest Comes to Call!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Thank you to Sloan Valve, another of our Legacy Sponsors

After the excitement of our cultural adventures on Wednesday, we all got back to work on Thursday, in preparation for the first two units to go out into the community for installation. Thursday was the big day fro Team South Africa and Team Australia.  The yard was starting to feel a little bit empty by mid afternoon!

I spent the morning working on this blog, and the women from the Wot-if? Trust kept telling me we were going to have a surprise after lunch,  Boy did we ever!

Here is Yeats, who came for a visit with Rita, who runs the Roots and Shoots program at the center, working with children after school.  She also works with a Cheetah Education program, which is very cool.  We all got a chance to come up and pet Yeats, who was lovely and well behaved and purred loudly.  (I don't think it shows in these pictures, but Rita carries a small can of raw meat with her, which Yeats was very interested in!)  Yeats also arrived in a very cool cheetah car.

Stuart Henry and Sean with Yeats
Team Australia visits Yeats
Did you see what was in thee?

Yeats has a treat

Yeats and Rita

Team USA with a relaxed looking Yeats

The Cheetah mobile!

Doug and a small friend, who may or may not be sure about the Cheetah! 

The other treat of Thursday was that Doug, Randy and I went out to a Jazz Club called the Orbit with Nokwanda and Lucky, two of our great new friends.  Lucky is involved with the Diepsloot Arts and Culture Network and Nokwanda works with the Wot-if? Trust.  We had a chance to get out and see a great band and have great food.

It was another great day--everyone was excited about the installations and feeling very connected and happy.

Midweek Cultural Expedition

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Team USA Explores History and Culture

This year's CPC has placed emphasis upon understanding the history of South Africa that has led to the development of communities like Diepsloot and a sensitivity to the socioeconomic conditions that the residents of Diepsloot--and especially our residents of Extension 1--live with every day.

Team USA did some preliminary reading and viewing of videos, from different perspectives, to see if we could determine some of the underlying themes that recur when Diepsloot is mentioned in the press or even in casual conversation. Nothing truly prepares anyone to come here and see the community, so as I hope to pull some of my thoughts about all this together for you when we get home and I have had time to reflect.

Learning the history of a place other than one's own country can be very tough--although I would also say that many of us are woefully underexposed to the history of our own homes as well.  Visiting the Apartheid Museum on Wednesday morning was one of those times when I had to focus on what I know about South Africa and also what I don't know.  Several people asked me if Americans knew about Nelson Mandela.  I can say that yes, most Americans know of him and that he is important to South African history.  Doug told me that he knew about Mandela but came from a family that was not overly engaged in world events.  My experience was somewhat different--I did grow up with a family that talked about apartheid and about Nelson Mandela and Steve Biko, and I went on to work with college students during the 1980's, when students built and lived in shelters on college campuses to protest the situation in South Africa.  I also have spent a large part of my career working with multicultural education, which has probably given me a perspective on things somewhat different than many Americans my age.  

So, this is my background for going into the cultural expedition we took on Wednesday.  For many of our young people on the trip--even our South Africans--the events we saw happened before they were born.  The speed of the world we live in is not conducive to memory or reflection.  I think if we do not look and learn we run the terrible risk of reliving horrors, perhaps in a new way, but horrors nonetheless.  (I say that with the backdrop of the American election season framing this post--no matter what one may personally believe, there should be concerns.)

The Apartheid Museum had a similar level of impact to the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC,  for me at least.  I wish there had been a way to take picture inside--all I have is outside pictures to share with you.

After that we went to Vilakazi Street in Orlando, in the heart of Soweto, and to a traditional African ‘Chisa Nyama’ restaurant for lunch. Vilakazi Street is a popular tourist destination, and world-famous as being the former home of not one but two Nobel Peace Prize laureates: Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.  On the way to Soweto, we saw the World Cup soccer stadium and commented somewhat irreverently about how unattractive we thought it was.  It turns out that it was designed to look like a traditional kind of pottery.  I saw the traditional pottery later in the afternoon, and it does look exactly like it--but to my mind the pot looked better!

Our first stop in Soweto was the James Mpanza House, which is being restored as a heritage site.  James Mpanza is recognized as the founder of Soweto.  His grandson was in the yard, so I got to shake his hand, and our team members got to play with some of the children who were in the yard.  

Kerri and Pete

Lila and Tyler

Then we went down the block to have lunch.  I have to tell you that spicy grubs are really not bad!
Talking outside the restaurant on Vilakazi Street

View of cooling towers in Soweto

After lunch we went to the courtyard and monument in front of the Soweto Historical Museum to hear about the 1976 killing of school children who were demonstrating the implementation of Afrikaans and English as dual medium of instruction in secondary schools in a 50:50 basis. (Wickipedia) 

Then we had a chance to shop for gifts and artisan items.  It was another beautiful day to be out and meet people and to see traditional crafts.

While we were doing all of these things, Doug went with a group from WASSUP, Healthabitat, Stick Solutions and the CPC to meet with the Johannesburg Water Council to present data in support of the dramatic  impact that projects like the CPC can have on public health.  Then they went to visit the Plumbing Academy South Africa, owned by Sam Dubazana, one of the coaches for Team South Africa.  They also had a very productive day!

I think it did everyone a great deal of good to get some larger appreciation for the cultural context of South Africa.  We were all ready to go back to work on Thursday with renewed enthusiasm.  

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Press Release for CPC, courtesy of Alison Spratley

This isn't an official Team USA post, but it is a press release from Alison Spratley, of BrandVision, the PR lead for the CPC.  I will also be posting another piece giving background for the project.

CPC Press Release by Alison Spratley

Growing local skills in collaboration with global partners ahead of World Youth Skills Day

(Johannesburg 12 July 2016) The final day of the Community Plumbing Challenge 2016 (CPC2016) in Diepsloot coincides with World Youth Skills Day on 15 July 2016. The CPC offers a platform for further training and advancement in a sector that desperately needs the skills: plumbing and sanitation.

Not only will the CPC2016 complement the efforts of government and business to grow the plumbing and sanitation sector, but it will give hope to the many unemployed youth in Diepsloot, a township just outside Johannesburg. While no concise data exists on youth unemployment in Diepsloot, it likely reflects the situation at a macro level. Researchers Morne Oosthuizen and Aalia Cassim in an article for the Brookings Institute ( explain that “…roughly 30 percent of male youth and 36 percent of female youth (in South Africa) are NEETS (not in education, employment or training), disconnected from both the labour market and opportunities that promote future employability.” 

The CPC2016, taking place between the 9th and 15th of July in Diepsloot, aims to be the starting point for youth in need of “second-chance learning programmes” (a term coined by World Bank development specialist Dr Chunlin Zhang) that would promote their future employability.  Young plumbers, coordinated by the Diepsloot Water, Amenities, Sanitation Services Upgrade Programme (WASSUP), have the opportunity to work on digital design platforms, easily accessible at a local community centre equipped with computers and tablets. Moreover, the design software -Fusion 360 by Autodesk – allows for collaborative learning. This cloud-based technology enables plumbers to coordinate their efforts with other professionals anywhere in the world, perfecting their designs through team work.

The work will be challenging: Eight defunct communal toilets have been plucked out of the ground in Diepsloot Extension 1, where four international student teams (representing Australia, India, United States and South Africa) will collaborate to develop the most effective and sustainable new upgrade solutions.  Teams will assemble and test their new designs, supporting WASSUP to reinstall and reconnect these communal toilets for local Diepsloot residents. It is hoped that these toilet prototypes will be made to scale throughout the sprawling Diepsloot.

The CPC2016 is among initiatives happening around the globe by WorldSkills Members and partners in promotion of World Youth Skills Day on 15 July 2016.

“WorldSkills is proud to join the organizations of the United Nations and other international and regional organizations, like the IAPMO and the World Plumbing Council, to raise awareness of the importance of acquiring skills as a means to achieve better socio-economic conditions for all youth,” said David Hoey, CEO of WorldSkills International. “Along with our 75 members and global partners, we are united in demonstrating on World Youth Skills Day, and everyday, how to improve the world with the power of skills.”

The United Nations, at its General Assembly in November 2014, declared 15 July as World Youth Skills Day. The UN designated day seeks to generate greater awareness of and discussion on the importance of technical, vocational education, and training and the development of other skills relevant to both local and global economies.
Follow the Facebook page for live updates of CPC 2016 taking place in Diepsloot, Johannesburg South Africa.

Background to Community Plumbing Challenge 2016 (CPC 2016)
The international Community Plumbing Challenge aims to contribute to improvements to public health in regions where communities are still threatened by a lack of basic sanitation and safe drinking water systems. Attitudes will not necessarily change because of targets, health surveys, or editorials and opinions in newspapers, which all too often preach only to the converted. Rather, it is the actions of professionals working in the areas of health and sanitation which will demonstrate to the community how best to build local services, and will educate local communities about the benefits of such an approach.

Community Plumbing Challenge 2016 combines multi-discipline teams, with a cross-section of expertise expanding on the skills pathway and career options for plumbing apprentices and professionals in South Africa, and around the world.

The CPC is organized by IAPMO (International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical
Officials) in association with the World Plumbing Council. Hosted in Diepsloot by WASSUP (Water, Amenities, Sanitation Services Upgrade Programme) and DACN (Diepsloot Arts & Culture Network), in collaboration with Healthabitat Sanitation Studio and facilitated in South Africa by Sticky Situations.

Further event partners are Autodesk Education Experiences and the Wot-If Trust.

To unsubscribe from receiving further releases on Community Plumbing Challenge 2016 please send return email with unsubscribe in subject line to


Friends and Neighbors--Community Plumbing Challenge, July 12, 2016

Tuesday, July 12, 2016 was "Thank You to MCERF Day!
 None of this would be possible without you.

Tuesday ended up being a very interesting day.  Work continued outside, and great progress was made, although, as is often the case, everyone was feeling a bit of  a rush by day's end, since the units are being installed on Thursday and Friday, and we knew that Wednesday would be taken up with our trip to Soweto.  

On the outside --

On the inside, I thought I would work on the blog, which I have been shamelessly behind with, as you will notice.  BUT--here came Mama Ellen to do traditional beading with us--so that we can look like the Wot-if Trust women!

Mama Ellen says the one in this picture has ended up looking like the Italian flag!

Out Lila, who was all Miss Professional Presentation yesterday, was quite sick today, so, as she says, she learned to bead and found ten new African mothers to take care of her!

Just as I was making progress, more excitement happened.  I got a chance to go tot the Methodist church to meet the two pastors and talk with them about some ways that we might be have my Methodist church in Pocahontas, Arkansas, partner with them.  A member of the church who is a contractor stopped by to see what is going on here, and he said he would drive me over and introduce 
me if I could walk back.  My new friend Kuhle Manqeyi said he would be glad to go, so we headed out.

We were very fortunate--Rev. Lekeka, the Minister for the Diepsloot Methodist Church and the President of the Young Men's Guild, and Rev. Nombula, the Circuit Youth Coordinator, were both at the church.  They spent a long time taking me around to see everything they are doing.  I don't have pictures because I didn't want to slow us down or be too intrusive at this point.  The church has a HIV testing a support program, with counselors on site ,and they also have a social justice support office with a lawyer on the premises.  We saw women knitting quietly in the sun, meeting with their groups, and we saw families waiting to meet with support counselors and get assistance.

We went to the church itself, which is quite a bit like the Moravian Churches in Alaska, with one very large open space that can be divided up with movable chairs so the space can be used for meetings, classes, meals, etc.  We also looked at three large buildings which used to be used as parsonages but are now closed up and need to have extensive maintenance.  If funds and assistance were available, these buildings have potential tenants lined up to lease them, but raising funds is very difficult.  

There are also at least three schools--a math and science school, a computer skills school with adult and youth programming, and a primary school and creche.  School is on vacation this week, but there were students around.  We walked across a very large field that was previously used for soccer and rugby, but it is dried out and mostly not in use.  There are very new public bathrooms which have been vandalized and can not be used.  We talked abut how hard it is to build a sense of responsibility to care when so many people have so little.  Security has to be planned anytime anything new is built. 

Then we went to what I would describe as a sewing business incubator:  .
Women were working in a large room with excellent sewing equipment, making leather bags.  Kuhle was just as surprised as I was--he said he never knew this was there!  I talked with Nic, the man in charge, and he put a bag away for me and promised he would bring it to the Father Louis Blondel Centre on Thursday.

Here is my new bag, which has just arrived:

The picture does not do it justice!  Nic brought other bags, so we are shopping again.  The women here at the FLBC said that these bags are sold in malls and the casino for tripe the price we paid, which was about $60 USD.

When we were walking back to the office I met a young white man in a truck (I mention white many because they are here, but in small numbers.)  He runs a food collection and distribution operation. The shocking part of our conversation was that he says that they feed 4000 people a day.

We agreed that the most important thing will be to email each other when I get home so that we can come up with a small project between churches, probably connected too our kids.

Kuhle and I walked back through Extension 10, which is much more settled than Extension 1, where we are working.  It has more space and more government houses, with shacks built in between. Unlike Extension 1 it has electricity.

Back at home here at the center I finally had lunch--it was after 3:00 here, and then I did a bit more beading and then we were all very tired!

Quite a day overall!

While I am writing about friends and neighbors, I can't say enough about the welcome we have gotten from the Father Louis Blondel Center and the Wot-if? Trust.  The Wot-if? Trust's "focus is on helping emerging and small enterprises to grow and become sustainable, ensuring gender equity and giving the youth hope and opportunities for the future."  The following programs are either hosted, supported or facilitated by the Trust:

Diepsloot Agricultural Forum
Diepsloot Business Chamber
Women's Empowerment Program
Business and Personal Skillls Training
Fil, Media and Technology Initiatives
The Jane Goodall Roots and Shoots Programme
Youth Leadership Development
Math and Science Programmes
Entrepreneur Development
Small Business Support Servies
Business Modeling and Coaching
Community Events
The Social Good Summit 
NPO Support
Diepsloot Connection.

A lot going on--a great place with a dedicated staff!  
You can find more about the Wot-If? Trust at https://facebook.comwotiftrust