The Nkhanga Village Library
June 13, 2007
This is the first of what I hope to be periodic reports from the ground on how the Village library project is going.
Since early March 2007 when the construction of the library project took off in earnest, I had received reports by email and cell phone on the progress. I arrived in the village on June 1st and visited the site.
Since the Zambia Knowledge Bank Libraries: Nkhanga Branch construction committee did not have a bank account yet, the money Six Million Zambian Kwacha ($1500.00) was wired by Western Union. This initial amount sent in small sums as needed, was for the purpose of clearing the project site of grass, trees, and tree stumps all by hand. It was also for digging the foundation and setting it, hauling river sand by hired pick up truck and ox-carts. I learnt a lot about building lingo and what each stage entailed. It was a mammoth task task since the 42 meters long by 7 meters wide building is huge by rural village standards. I had heard and been told so much about the project site and what had been accomplished. Seeing it for the first time was an encouraging experience.
I finally walked to the site with the Builder, Mr. Mwale, on Sunday June 3rd at 5:00pm. He is a short man; may be 4 ft. 11 ins with a baby face. But from what I saw, the project was so lucky to hire a man with such remarkable building skills and experience. He knew exactly what and how to set the foundation on the sandy soil. I saw the partially raised foundation box with beautifully put together bricks. I could see the massive amount of cement he had laid at the bottom mixed with crushed stones and had apparently used tons of water. I walked all around and took numerous photographs from all angles. I stood there thinking: “This is the actual foundation of a dream”. I thank you very much for your contributions and support.
Already tremendous organizing efforts had been expended by the estimated ten active members of the Nkhanga Library building committee who are all volunteers who live in the villages in the area. The breaking of the rocks by hand using hammers to make crushed stones at the nearby hill was so demanding that some workers sustained bleeding hands. There has already been literally blood and sweat expended on the library project. I am so glad that the leadership at the site get it and understand the unique nature and historical significance of the project in the district, Zambia and probably Africa as a whole.
This could be a blue print for some of the small projects like this one which have very thin margins of error or cannot afford the costs of thick red tape. Once small amount of money were released by Western Union, within minutes the project managers and the builder were purchasing the first thirty bags of cement, brick force wire, hiring a truck to transport the supplies to the construction site.
The project so far has provided much needed temporary jobs to earn cash for an estimated twenty adults including four
women who draw water carrying it on their heads from about two hundred yards away from the Nkhanga Clinic bore hole. Two families who own ox –carts have hauled river sand and have earned some money. Young men have been crushing stones by hand using hammers. There is some hunger here as some families had a bad harvest due to bad rains and not having any fertilizer. The cash income they earn from the library project is used to buy corn so that they can feed their families. Many are grateful to have a job to earn an income. Labor problems had to be solved as we went. Some laborers quit after the first pay, others were unruly as they had never worked in a structured environment and did not know how to follow orders.