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I feel privileged that this time I've been able to share some of my accumulated knowledge in a place where it can benefit a whole community
In October 2013, Troy Everett, head teacher of Building and Construction, Civil Engineering, Surveying and Mapping at TAFE Illawarra, volunteered to help with the construction of new toilets in a remote village in one of the world's poorest countries. What he encountered there left him "changed forever". Following are excerpts from his journal.
The extreme rain had come at the worst time possible. The concrete rings were a mess. Some of the guys were worried they wouldn't maintain their watertightness.
While the pump was going, we went over the other site and did some bamboo work and dug some drainage trenches. I also dug a slab for a brick water tank they wanted me to build. I soon had a swathe of people watching me work. Even though the materials were probably the worst I had ever used, I felt comfortable utilising the skills I was most experienced in.
After work we rode the motorbikes down to the river and we had at throw of the boomerang and watched some kids play soccer.
The river was much higher and it was eerie as a beautiful sunset turned the sky all shades of pink. In the background was the sound of women making a strange wailing sound as they prayed in their small shrines to the Hindu gods.
I'm over the rice! We've had it with every single meal. Kind of feel obligated to eat it as the lady of the house has gone to the effort of preparing it. Food has definitely been plentiful while here and the hospitality very generous.
The bricks I laid yesterday looked good and I soon continued in the very humid conditions. Before long I had half the village standing around me and I enjoyed teaching a few of them some bricklaying skills.
The main bricklayer in the village, Moosni, was avoiding me. He's the sort of guy who thinks he knows everything, so I've tried to build a rapport where we can share ideas and techniques both ways. We did have a little block laying competition, which was fun and I think I may have surprised him as I tackled the tasks in a totally different way to him. Both pieces of our work came up well.
That night a few of us went into Dinjapur on two motorbikes. The ride there was absolutely gorgeous, roaring through many small villages with a full moon over the rice paddies.
I saw they had some beers there called 'Hunter'. We grabbed one each and went down an alleyway. The beers were quite good so we bought a couple more for our last night here. It was a really dodgy business behind these prison-like bars over a counter.
On the way home we stumbled across something amazing – wild discos taking place in some massive fields. One had a mosh pit and another had an area where they made their motorbikes dance with wheelies and burn-outs. It was quite an experience, especially in the mosh pit where we got mobbed.
The last day brings mixed emotions. I am looking forward to getting home and catching up with loved ones (and eating some Aussie food). But a part of me also wants to stay and see the project through to the end.
I was really pleased that we were able to get a lot of good work done in the last few days here. I've learnt a lot and hopefully shared a bit too. I also made some lifelong friends who I'm looking forward to catching up with again some day.
I've loved learning about the Bangladeshi way of life and the all-important agriculture. Nothing is wasted. Everything has a use. Everyone has clearly-defined roles, but underlying all this there is a great sense of happiness. I can also sense the locals' appreciation of us coming here. They understand that we're giving our time and efforts to try and help and learn off each other. They know we're choosing to be away from our loved ones and all the privileges we'd usually enjoy.
I've been lucky in my involvement with WorldSkills. I've laid bricks with the best in Korea, Switzerland, Finland, Canada, London, Germany, Denmark, Japan, Ireland, France and Brazil. But I feel privileged that this time I've been able to share some of my accumulated knowledge in a place where it can benefit a whole community.