The following blog entry was written by Ted Koenig, current Peace Corps Volunteer in Analasatrana, and collaborator extraordinaire for the work that Julia, Christi, and all of our supporters at Atsika are trying to carry on in northwest Madagascar.
Construction of the EPP in Analasatrana is, as one might expect, anything but mundane. With the arrival of more funds in July, the community eagerly looked to complete its work before the start of school. And, as a related note, no one knew exactly when the start of school would be. Still reeling from the strikes of the 2011-2012 school year much of what the new year would be remained in flux. But work must carry on.
Finding a mason and carpenter for the doors and windows were the first task of the leadership team (the secretary and treasurer of the parent’s association or FRAM and the local schools supervisor). Made to specifications and of quality lumber and hinges, the doors and windows were constructed in Ambilobe and sent to site for installation.
The pastor of the FJF (protestant church) in Ampotsehy was selected to complete construction from start to finish. Here, to everyone’s surprise. Is where trouble reeled its ugly head. Somehow, and no one knows exactly how, the doors and windows did not fit their frames at the school. A problem, to be sure, but nothing creativity could not solve. With skill and patience Pastor added extra brick and support to make the too big frames fit the too small doors and windows. On to the next task: the walls.
Deciding to complete the interior walls before the floor, Pastor leapt into action. At his disposal was an immense mound of sand on the school’s front steps. Gathered by community members in one of two work days the sand, we all thought, was clean and abundant. Again, trouble fought its way in. Work on the interior walls required a fine grain sand. Only with a smooth finish could paint be properly applied. Gathered from the banks of the Mahavavy river our sand was too coarse. Not a disaster, just a misstep, and the purchase of a sifting screen allowed work to continue.
And on to the floors. Other than cement, the primary ingredient in a solid floor is rock. If the rock is about the size of golf balls, no bigger, it will provide the floor with the resiliency to survive the heavy traffic and wear of time. As you may be suspecting, our pile of rocks were much too large. “No problem”, says the parents association, who then organized teams to break the big rocks (occasionally boulders) into the proper size. Several weeks later, through lots of sweat and a fair amount of bickering, the rocks were ready and the floor of the first classroom was set in place.
Which brings us to the present. Currently work is taking place on the floor and patio of the second classroom. Additional sand is being gathered and we expect the interior to be complete before that mysterious day in the future when class resumes.
None of the above would have been possible without the work of two key leaders: the treasurer of the parent’s association and the local schools supervisor. Rolling up their sleeves (both literally and proverbially) they have each struggled to see the work through to completion. As an interested and perhaps slightly meddlesome observer, my role has been to provide suggestions, motivation, and most frequently a listening ear. When trouble arose and tensions mounted I listen to the gripes (some earned, some not) and refocus on attention on the work ahead. With time, and their and your continued support, I am confident the school will each full completion.
To support the Analasatrana Community School Project, please visit our official site at Atsika, the non-profit we created to manage this and other community development initiatives in northwest Madagascar.