Today was a pleasantly long day in Maniang. Although at the start of the day it looked like we may have to delay our departure by around an hour or an hour and half, thanks to a bright idea by Nita, we ended up changing our plans and only having to delay about a half an hour.
When we rolled into Gonny’s yard, as expected, we were immediately fed. Mercifully, we had all eaten a light breakfast in preparation and the meal he served was also relatively light, so nobody started the day overstuffed.
Once we made it across the river into the village center, we got straight to work with the villagers on some of our more critical project items. First, we got to work laying out two frames for two sides of our tank stand so that we could mark where all the welds needed to go. Today was an extremely important day for welding and there were a lot of welds to get through! Thankfully, ATCDI’s Ronald is an experienced welder and managed to get an incredible amount of work done with only himself, one generator, and one welder! By the end of the day, we were a little less than halfway through all of our welding.
Our other big project for the day was mixing and pouring the concrete for the bases of each water tap. After the concrete was delivered yesterday, we weren’t really sure how the mixing would go. We had ordered 54 bags of pre-mixed concrete and received 55 bags of non-pre-mixed concrete . . . Alrighty then! The materials for the batch were in each bag, but the cement had not yet been mixed in. Thankfully, Gonny owns his own concrete mixer and graciously allowed the villagers to use it to help speed the work along. He’s also very experienced with concrete, so we let him take the reins and deferred to his good judgement. The results were beautiful. All four tap bases were poured by early afternoon (and the names of village children and PUC team members were scratched into the wet concrete shortly thereafter).
Today was also day two of the Women in Business workshop taking place in Maniang this week. Although we’ve been working to avoid causing a distraction while they are in session, it’s been delightful to meet women from all over the region who have come to Maniang for the workshop. There are approximately 500 women in attendance, only 60-70 of whom are from Maniang. Furthermore, it’s been an incredible opportunity to learn more about micro-credit banking and the goals of the workshop itself. Trainers have traveled in from Port Moresby (PNG’s capital city) and are here to teach these women about micro loans, etc, to help rural women start their own businesses. In the vein of India’s Grameen Bank, this system is designed specifically with these women in mind and builds accountability to repay the loan into their families and communities. Speaking to some of the villagers we learned that these kinds of loans are often used to start agricultural businesses such as raising pigs or farming.
We also had the opportunity today to meet more of Gonny’s family including a cousin, Jonathan, a councilor from another village who was visiting his family in Maniang, as well as his aunt, Gabby, who teaches at the primary school down the road. Gabby was generous enough to allow us a chance to visit the school on Thursday during their lunch time. The children there range in age from 9-14 and there are around 350 students. We are thrilled to have a chance to meet them (some of whom we will have seen in the village already). We also have plans to bring a few treats along with us, so look our for Thursday’s blog post to hear all about it!