Together everyone achieves more!

Together everyone achieves more!

By Rory Macnamara

With ever growing urban populations and the amount of infrastructure maintenance needed on dilapidated housing and buildings throughout South Africa’s major cities, we need artisans who can maintain and service existing infrastructure.

This ‘win-win’ collaboration could be the beginnings of a solution to this mounting problem. 38 students gained work exposure while doing crucial plumbing maintenance to uplift parts of their communities.

Plumbing Africa visited such a house in Doornfontein recently where learner plumbers were working hard to improve the water and waste systems as best they could under trying and difficult conditions. The condition of the house was appalling, but fixing the plumbing was a start to ensuring healthy access to water and correct disposal of waste.

“Students had a week in which to complete the work, so the pressure was on.”

Under the watchful eye of the Water, Amenities, Sanitation, Services upgrading programme (WASSUP) group, a Sticky Situations project operating in Diepsloot and Rabie Ridge two of our informal settlement areas, a group of learners from BluLever Education, were replacing and repairing toilets, basins, showers, and urinals. These students were selected for a two-month work readiness course, called Leadership Base Camp, which is the final selection stage for the BluLever plumbing apprenticeship. The final week of the Base Camp gives students an opportunity to gain exposure to plumbing work for the first time to help then set their expectations about what plumbing work is about. Each team of students was overseen by a qualified plumber who would guide them through the process. Students had a week in which to complete the work, so the pressure was on. The qualified plumbers each led a team, and the work began:

  • In the internal general area three wash-up troughs had the drainpipes replaced and connected to the outgoing main pipe.
  • In the women’s bathroom four showers were repaired with new showerheads and taps, five toilets and four basins were replaced.
  • In the men’s bathroom three basins, two urinals, three showers and toilets were replaced with new sanitaryware, taps and showerheads.
  • The courtyard had four wash troughs re-piped.

 DSC0926The group of learners from BluLever Education replaced and repaired toilets, basins, showers, and urinals. These students were selected for a two-month work readiness course. Each team of students was overseen by a qualified plumber who would guide them through the process. Image credit: ©Plumbing Africa | Rory Macnamara

Our visit was in the middle of the week and the two days that followed were devoted to snagging. Yes, there were installations were not perfect and needed correcting, but the experience for the learners was “invaluable, “to help understand tools,” and “appreciate the role of plumbing,” as well as “learning from our mistakes” – were some of the comments at the wrap up session that day.

The ladies that were there assured me that they are going to be better plumbers than the men!

So, who are the companies and people behind this generous community upliftment project?

An organisation called MES – Mould Empower Serve – is a Christian integrated social development organisation that has been changing the heart of the city since 1986 and has been actively working towards providing sustainable solutions to pervasive poverty in the inner cities of Johannesburg, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, and Kempton Park.
We asked Sean Kearney, managing director of the International Water Sanitation and Hygiene Foundation (IWSH) to tell us more about their involvement and reason for existing.

“From the IWSH side, we’ve helped mentor and facilitate this project planning over last couple of months and we’ve also provided funding support. Going forward we will provide further promotion of this new collaboration and, hopefully, the follow-up activities to come,” says Kearney.

“It has been exciting to see this community plumbing effort between MES and BluLever take shape; we would be excited to help develop the learning experiences of this pilot project and keep working with these partners in this way. We’ll aim to provide further support to all involved by helping bring on board additional skills and resources to achieve further impact.

Images credit: ©Plumbing Africa | Rory Macnamara

IWSH is the charitable arm of the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO) Group. It is IAPMO’s own Foundation and exists to develop and support this type of creative social, community, and corporate social responsibility (CSR)-type collaborations with plumbing industry partners around the world.

“IWSH has worked and partnered with WASSUP Diepsloot since the first South African Community Plumbing Challenge project/event back in 2016 and supported several follow-up activities in the years since then. So, we have done a lot of work together, have a good relationship, and any time a new opportunity arises as it did this week, we are keen to connect with WASSUP and incorporate their skills, their experience, and their guidance. Projects like this really help develop their capacities as an organisation too.

“IWSH, like IAPMO, is a World Plumbing Council member. We are keen to develop our partnerships with other WPC Members, particularly in different parts of Africa where community plumbing efforts such as what we’ve seen in Johannesburg this week can have such an important effect on the day-to-day lives and wellbeing of so many people. For this reason, IOPSA is a key partner for IWSH in terms of African project collaborations, and so we hope that the shared experiences of this latest initiative are another positive step in terms of IWSH-IOPSA relationship and potential for our organisations to do further work together in future,” concludes Kearney.

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