Monday, December 13, 2010

Operation Bunk Bed - Complete!

 the sign at m. furnitures, kalingalinga - the real 
reason we picked this shop over the others 

A colleague from Seattle recently came to Zambia for work and stayed on for a project at our favorite women and orphan's center, Chikumbuso. The task? Fundraise in Seattle, bring the cash and some supplies, and get the kids some new bunk beds for their boys and girls 'dorm' rooms.  The rooms are not quite dormatories, rather they are a safe, short-term place that the kids can come to if they find themselves in a situation where they need a safe place to stay.  Maybe there is a situation they are escaping in their family (violence, substance abuse, sexual abuse, etc) or another sort of emergency.  At any rate, the rooms are sometimes just a few children but sometimes they are really packed in.  When I visited the center back in July the comment was made "Well, wouldn't bunk beds be useful?"  The reply?  "Yes."

So, the opportunity came to hook up Manny and Chikumbuso for "Operation Bunk Beds."  We figured it would be a nice neat little project -- a little fundraising, a day of shopping, a day of hauling, a day of painting, a day of sewing. Voila! Two sets of bunk beds (with mosquito nets, of course).  Needless to say, something that we thought was a reasonable task to complete in a week's time took nearly three months and we went over budget.'s done!  Yah!

Thanks for everyone who donated for this, Manny's Operation Bunk Beds, project. Sometimes making a difference really IS that easy. (More ways to help Chikumbuso in my next post.)

Here are some snaps and a long, meandering dialogue to fill you in on how the project came together:

Manny with the carpenters Gift and friend in Kalingalinga at M. Furnitures discussing modifications on their bunkbed design.  We had a plan for how they should be but the carpenters shall I put it....they had 'other plans.'  If I have learned anything it's to NEVER INNOVATE.  Or at least never try something different and expect it to work out as you intended.  Building in a mosquito net canopy to a bed/bunkbed seems like a no brainer but after 3 visits to the carpenter and two sets of sketches, what we picked up was something completely different. They were maybe too distracted with why trying to extract from me why I was teaching kids geography instead of the gospel.

To get something made of pine this is where you come -- the side of the road in the Kalingalinga compound between Jesmondine and Kabulonga along Kamloops Road.  The roads in Lusaka are named after other cites -- we have Los Angeles Blvd and Addis Ababa Rd.  and....Kamloops Road, which is a tiny north in British Columbia, Canada on the way to Whistler/Blackcomb.   There are many other pine furniture carpenters, this one is easy to remember and they had a 'floor model' that was close to what we wanted and a price that seemed reasonable.  The guys were nice and friendly and we thought they could meet quick turn-around.  (HA!) 

Other workshops in Kalingalinga make wicker furniture (raw pine from Zambia, wicker from Malawi), welded playsets (swings, slides, monkey bars), metal gates, gravel (hand-crushed), charcoal, etc. There is a new row of stalls for salaula -- a second-had market for your value village castoffs. What does not sell at the Federal Way VV store is delivered here and sold-roadside. (the clothes come from all over but I have seen a FW little league shirt or two, and lots of Sonics jerseys lately....)

If you need to purchase something (as opposed to making something) you come to Kamwala or go 'to town' to Cairo Road or Freedom Way. In Kamwala we found Manali Mfg Ltd and got four single high density foam mattresses and pillows. Unfortunately for us they had them in stock and we decided to forgo the unnecessary trip to the FOAM FACTORY! I'll dream up some excuse to go there, mark my words.

It was October when this photo of the Kamwala shopping district was taken.  The City Council was just beginning to think about drainage issues for the upcoming rainy season.  Now that we are in the thick of the rains it's an absolute mess down there.  They (hand) dug massive drainage ditches (which were promptly used to dump rubbish) are 8-10 feet deep and 10 feet side with rickety plank bridges between the roads and the shops.  It's really not charming and extremely dangerous. (Particularly if you factor in the poor drainage alongside the poor sanitation system, the annual cholera outbreaks, and the fact that many people (especially kids heading to school/work before sunrise) don't know how to swim.)

This was early in the morning -- Kamwala is typically packed with wheelbarrows and cars to the point of absolute gridlock and chaos.    On the left you can see the Julilika cycle shop -- this is where I get bike supplies - with marginal success.  The tube we got for Finn's tiny trainer bike (from Hank!) fit but has the strangest valve that we can only pump up with an attachment that we have to borrow from a friend who works on cars on the side.  It leaks so we have to borrow it most every time we use that bike.
There is a dying art in Zambia, it's the art of murals and handpainted signs.  Sadly most companies are moving to vinyl or metal signs (which are incredibly expensive, poor quality and are frequently stolen or vandalized).  In Kamwala, the handpainted signs are priceless.

On the left, my favorite fabric shops, Safiques and the House of Chitenge and on the right WIG WORLD. (along with every other shop you can imagine and even a few you cannot imagine.)

Our assistant, doing inventory. " 1. 2. 3. 4. Hey, I'm FOUR!" (not for long, pup!) I really did not think it possible to put four mattresses and four pillows and bedding in my car.  

Part Two of the project was a lot of waiting and a lot of hauling.  We waited for the carpenters to finish.  We waited for a truck to bring the beds home.  We waited for the hardware store to get some wood primer.  They only get pink primer here for some reason but there wasn't a pot to be had in all of Lusaka from what I could gather.  The wait was fortunate b/c when the hardware store finally had primer they had switched owners and the new owners were clearing out custom mis-mixed paint and we scored a pot of pretty blue paint for 80,000 that is normally priced 300,000. ($16 vs. $60, score!)   We waited for paint to dry (it's so cliche but it's the rainy season by now), we waited for a bednet to be stitched, we waited to borrow a drill (and used the most horribly made hand-drill in the meantime), we waited for extra hands to measure and re-cut all the bednet canopy wood (which was presented like an ikea-flat-pack from bizarro world). At last we waited for an opportunity and a sunny day where a big truck was available to deliver the beds.  Last week it finally came together.

Before -- a tangle of nets

After:  new mattresses, new bedding, new pillows, new (uber-fancy) net*

The second bed, in the shop, waiting to be assembled in the boys' room.

*We purchased one of these super fancy (and super pricey) nets with the idea that it will be a 'model' for the sewing studio to use for making a second net for bunk bed set #2 and....if they are inspired to make more for the shop....even better!


Kathi of Clan Church said...

This is fabulous - What a beautiful end result! And what a great project. Kudos!!

jerry john said...

I would love to stop by. But, I think it might have to wait until this summer. I did not know that Serlkay had ever expanded its size. I must say that a succesful family owned business in this day and age is a very refreshing sight! As well as this is a very refreshing site! matress reviews