Community Plumbing Challenge 2017: Day 2

Community Plumbing Challenge 2017: Day 2
School children where the drainfield is set to be installed.

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.


This morning, the entire Community Plumbing Challenge team (34 of us) met for introductions and a brief presentation from the program’s staff as well as staff from one of the project’s partners, Healthhabitat.

The core, or the essential basics, of what this project is about were discussed. The mission of our efforts is to improve the human condition by fostering the basic human right of safe access to clean water and sanitation. While our mission is simple, our methods are strategic and diverse. We try to strive to align our own efforts with those of government, industry and the communities where we work to ensure that the water systems are safe and sustainable.

The Community Plumbing Challenge team is a diverse group of people this year. The previous two years, team members were solely plumbers and engineers. The 2017 team is composed of plumbers, welders, engineers, sheet metal workers, masons and carpenters. The scope of this project is much more in-depth and requires the skill sets of each of those skilled trades.

Day 2 included the entire 34-member Community Plumbing Challenge team doing an initial site visit to prepare for the week of construction.


Our visit to the site exposed the team to the physical characteristics we’ll be dealing with during the course of the project. The No. 1 thing that stood out to me being from Wisconsin — where the current temps are around 30 degrees F — was the heat and humidity. It was 96 degrees F with 85 percent humidity. The team will need to work sensibly to ensure no one becomes dehydrated and ill due to the heat. I believe team safety will be a task that each of us will have to bear and be on watch for each other.

I can tell you personally that when faced with a challenge such as this where our efforts will improve the lives of others — especially children — it’s easy to forget about one’s own well-being and potentially set yourself up for dangerous circumstances like dehydration. Two years ago, I was in India for the Community Plumbing Challenge. At one point, I was pushing myself on limited sleep and worrying about the project timeline. I actually became dizzy and needed to be “forced” to sit down and allow my body to catch up. This type of work is addicting. You push yourself for the best that you can possibly do and refuse to quit until you do it right.

The day concluded with a visual inspection of the site — the specific toilet stalls that will be renovated, the trenching, septic tank, and drainfield excavation — and then a group discussion on the design and potential problems we may encounter.

We finished the day with a group supper. Tomorrow, it’ll be time to get down to the real work.



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