The visit to the Hudad plateau in Ethiopia by Allan Kennedy’s plumbing trio was the culmination of two years’ work by not just Allan, but his partner charity 'Friends of the Hudad' and the local people. They’d already installed a pipeline and filter tank to bring clean spring water from the nearby mountaintop, but they needed expert help to put a roof on the new school and connect the water.
What stood out to Allan from his first impression of the rural community was the isolation. “It was a three hour walk from the nearest road. It was onerous, going from 2,200 metres above sea level to 3,300 metres, especially with more than 60 kilos of fittings and valves we needed to complete the job. They had been able to get the pipe, but the fittings just weren’t available, so we got all that from Reece in Australia and took it in our luggage.
“There’s no vehicle access at all. The only way locals can bring anything in is by donkey. Most things are made by hand. For example, the school desks were made at the high school and carried to the site four hours away one by one.”
Allan and his team finished the roof of the newly-built stone school, which replaces a 4 metre x 4 metre shack made of sticks. “The 46 students used to cram in there, each with a rock to sit on. It’s such an improvement.”
The water connection will make a difference to the whole community, not just the students. Constant illness from sharing a water source with animals will cease and the continuous supply of clean water will enable a new market garden, generating much needed income. “Every Saturday at 4am they load the donkeys with their produce, walk four hours to the market in the local town, sell their produce and then walk four hours home.”
For the three Victorian plumbers it’s been a humbling experience. “It makes you think about what you have and what you’re used to, compared with what other people have. We lined the students up to show them how to use a tap because they’d never seen one before.
“It’s especially important for the women because carrying water is their job in the community. When we turned the tap on for the first time they were screaming and throwing the water around and dancing. It was so good.”
Allan’s part in the Hudad platea is technically finished, but he’s considering the future of the project.
“I’d like to make sure the project is still OK in five years’ time. He’s hopeful though, Ethiopian water authorities have taken note of the simple but effective water filtration system and are looking at continuing the work and replicating the system at other remote sites.