Community Plumbing Challenge 2017: Day 6

Community Plumbing Challenge 2017: Day 6

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.

Today was one of the days I was especially looking forward to. My good friend, colleague, and teammate, Greg Tink from Australia, and I had been asked by the organizers of the Community Plumbing Challenge to give a presentation. Greg is the manager of facility operations at the Plumbing Industry Climate Action Centre (PICAC), where plumbing apprentices are trained.

Our presentation was to the school children and their teachers about general plumbing and the upgrades that the team is currently installing at the school. It was a very unique presentation to say the least and the first time I’ve ever had to work with an interpreter due to language differences.

We started by giving the students and teachers our views of plumbing and the importance of it. To be honest, it was awkward for me at first. I’ve been teaching plumbing apprentices for almost 19 years and I’ve seen that “deer in the headlights” look enough to know that this was going to be a tough crowd to get our point across to. But as time unraveled, speaking through the interpreter became a little easier.

Greg and I tag-teamed back and forth with the presentation. Greg started with where the water is supplied from and how it enters the property from the very “unreliable” city source to the new, elevated storage tanks and then to the plumbing fixtures. While he did that, I drew the system up on a whiteboard. I then “tagged in” and took the drainage side of things, explaining how the wastewater flows from the fixtures to the septic tank and then to the drainfield.

The next stage of our presentation was to take a field trip around the site and show the group everything that we had just lectured on. It was a great experience for not only the kids but also for the two us. There was a point when the kids — at least the ones paying attention; kids are kids no matter where you go in the world — were “getting it” and it was very rewarding to see.

After the field trip we did a brief summary and some Q&A with the teachers and kids. We quizzed the kids about what we had shown them. There were many laughs and giggles which I will never forget.

At the end of the presentation, I did a “show of hands” poll to the children on how many of them would like to be plumbers when they grow up. I don’t know what I was expecting, but of the 20 young children, only two raised their hands.

It made me realize that plumbing and plumbers, as important as they are, are looked down on as a lesser occupation in all cultures. Yet, without it, we would all perish.


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