Week 3 brought about our first week of construction, we had already visited the families who wished to receive an eco-latrine last week and instructed them to have the materials ready for us. With the materials waiting on us and after meeting the master of work we set about selecting a location for the eco latrine. The house belonging to the first family was on a slight hill which meant we had to build slightly to the side to avoid heavy rain water and the path for the pony and trap. The master of work measured out the space required and members of the team took down the details for future use, this week was all about hands on learning in seeing how the eco latrine was to be constructed. Our group all worked together this week on it, the rest of the weeks will see us being split up into smaller groups.
After the master of work measured the space, we began clearing the space to make it level for the concrete base. As this was happening some members of the group where being shown how to make cement. For some of the UK volunteers this was the first time they had ever made cement, whereas some of the Nicaraguan volunteers had worked on construction sites before. Their experience and know how was invaluable and helped speed up the process. Every member of the group had a chance to work on all aspects of the construction phase, regardless of manual labour experience. The other members of the team set about digging a hole in the ground 1 metre deep, which the pipe would lead to. We quickly realised that all these elements would require teamwork, cooperation and an understanding, which given the language barrier, was difficult, but it was an obstacle we soon overcame, evident by the fact that our team had completed the day’s work first!
The next day we set about constructing the shape of the eco latrine, as we needed to wait for the base to dry, with this done we were able to measure the length of blocks required and placed them together with cement, with the master of work first showing us how this was done. After some trial and error, everyone got the hang of it and took it in turn to place the blocks and smooth the cement. The team was like a well-oiled machine working in tangent with one another, we were able to get 3 blocks high and build the steps leading up to the toilet seat, our team finished first – again!
The last days of construction saw us complete the final row of blocks, fill in the hole we dug with stones, lead the pipe to the hole and cover it completely with earth. Some team members did this while the others began smoothing the inside of the eco latrine by flinging cement at the walls, much harder than it sounds! With all this completed, we could do no more as the roof for the latrine had yet to arrive. This meant the team moving on to the next location and smoothing out the land, after a location had been constructed and another 1 metre hole dug. We will finish off the first eco latrine and continue on with the second one next week.
Written by ICS volunteer: Ryan Coney