Seabees build water systems for Zanzibar schools
September 27, 2011
ZANZIBAR, Tanzania - The U.S. Navy Seabees assigned to CJTF-Horn of Africa were tasked with the mission to travel to Zanzibar, Tanzania, and work together with the Tanzania People's Defense Forces crew of combat engineers to construct two 10,000-liter storage capacity rainwater harvesting systems at two local schools.
The Seabees are from the Naval Local Construction Battalion 5 from Port Hueneme, Calif. They are now forward deployed to Camp Lemmonier, Djibouti, and are participating in this Humanitarian and Civic Assistance project under the umbrella of Natural Fire 11.
Currently, of the two schools, only Mbuzini Primary and Secondary school has a well which can be used to retrieve drinking water, while Pale Primary and Secondary school has no water source and the restroom facilities are all but closed down. The basic construction of the project is fairly simple. By attaching gutters under the sloped roof of the school house the water is channeled into a 5,000-liter containment drum seated on a cement base.
"There is no water here, they must go far to fetch water," said Capt. Muhamed Muhamed, Liason Officer for the Military Civil Affairs Team of the TPDF. "The partnership between the Tanzanian People's Defense Forces and the U.S. Army on this project has really impressed me."
It's evident that the two teams are working well together and making progress regardless of background and cultural differences. Each member working, sweating and helping each other knows that they are moving toward a common goal.
"It's a joint effort," said EO1 Mario Perez, mission commander of the project. "We learn from the TPDF engineers team and they learn from us. Everyone here understands and respects hard work and working together. Our mission here is to show our partners how these rainwater catchment containment systems can support them during a drought or natural disaster."
After working for a few hours in the blazing sun, the crew took a short break in the shade for some much needed water. A few moments later came the sound of the recess bell and the onslaught of elementary and secondary aged students curious to see who the strangers in their school yard were. The Seabees and TPDF engineers headed to the playground behind the school with a soccer ball in hand ready to take on the local school children.
Almost flooding the playground in waves of white school uniform shirts, the students eager for a game of "football" got the best of the construction crew. After a tireless hour of running, laughing, showing-off, and good natured teasing, the children headed back to class and the crew returned to work.
Perez said that the biggest obstacle they had to overcome was the fact that, unlike the in U.S., the area does not have large home improvement stores or construction centers where crews can find anything they need.
"It's really hard to get some of the construction materials here. We wanted to use more than one vendor and distribute the wealth," Perez said.
Capt. C.L. Mushanshu looks on as his crew is hard at work, working side by side with the American team and doing a good deed for the local community. He said he is very pleased with how well the two teams have cooperated during this project.
"We have learned through cooperating with the Americans how to construct this system to harvest rainwater," Mushanshu said. "For any projects, if you need us, we are ready to get together with the Americans anytime."
The construction is well under way and the containment tanks are scheduled to arrive in the following week. The crew is slated to be working on this project for the remainder of the month after which they will return to CJTF-HOA.
"I cannot say anything more than 'thank you' because when you helped this school, you helped Tanzania," Muhamed said. "Please continue offering this type of assistance anywhere that you can."