Community Plumbing Challenge 2017: Team Prepares for Upgrades to Indonesian School

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Editor’s Note: Randy Lorge is one of the coaches for the Community Plumbing Challenge team, which is currently in Indonesia doing a project for a school in a small village. It’s the third year for the program that aims to bring together plumbers and engineers from around the world to help regions that still lack basic sanitation and access to clean drinking water. Lorge will be blogging each day during the team’s time in Indonesia, detailing the work that they are doing.

After 22 hours of total flight time, I arrived in Jakarta, Indonesia, at about midnight Monday, ready to catch some shut eye before going to the school in Cicau Village the next morning to begin the process of renovating its existing restrooms.

The school currently has four toilets for 300 students and 12 staff with a very limited amount of hand-washing stations. The plans call for adding four new toilets and two hand-wash stations with three sets of faucets each. We’ll be upgrading the water distribution system which is fed by gravity from an elevated tank and also adding a septic tank and drainfield. There will also be some structural upgrades which I’ll know more about when I see the project.

I’m a third-generation plumber. I had an interesting conversation with my dad before I left. Of course he gave me the typical Dad speech of “be careful” and “watch your back,” but we had another conversation that gave me an opportunity to talk to him about thoughts that I think many people tend to have. I explained to him that while I’m in Indonesia that I’m going to be giving a presentation on the new standard that the country uses as a guideline for plumbing installations, much like what we use for plumbing codes in the United States today. My dad said, “Do you really think it’s going to change anything? Are the people there really going to appreciate your work? They have been doing so much with so little, how are you going to change things that have been part of their culture for so many years?”

My response to him was this: Think back 100 years ago. What kind of plumbing codes did we have back then? How did people react when the codes surfaced for the first time? I think there were those who favored them, and those who saw no need for them — you know, the ones who thought “Really, do you think it’s going to change anything?” Those who were not really appreciative of the thought and work put into developing codes to protect people. The ones who were doing so much with so little for so long, why change?

We have to start somewhere. Our plumbing systems didn’t change overnight into the advanced systems we have today. It took time and patience and a never-ending desire to continue to protect the health and safety of the public and the waters of the state.

It doesn’t happen often, but there was a moment of silence on the other end of the phone. Then my dad said, “You’re right.” I think I made my point to the man who I have the utmost respect for. 


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