Day 1 – Tuesday July 16th – by Céline
After a well-deserved post-trip sleep, slaloming between the crowing of insomniac roosters, the noise of the neighbour carpenter getting up early and the soliciting of the fishmonger in tuk-tuk during his morning rounds, we arrive around noon at the school in Mandaug to take advantage of the lunch break. One, then two, then three teachers greet us with smiles up to our ears, embarrassed to tell us that the headmistress is unfortunately not at school. Nevertheless, they meticulously prepared and counted the school materials that we had sent in a box to close Operation 500. Thanks to this well thought-out and well-run concept by Olivier from the association, we will be able to offer a notebook to each pupil, individual erasers and pens, and several boxes of coloured pencils per class. We are moved to find these objects recently seen on the other side of the Earth. Sightings punctuate the windows, and shy “hello!” are thrown in our direction through the walls. I recognize well there the country where I grew up, where the joy is communicative and everything is an excuse to smile.
A storm is forecast for the next day, so we decide to make the distribution on the spot. Everything is laid out on tables outside and many students participate in the organization of this small event by carrying the supplies, chairs, and the sound system (a gift from the association useful on a daily basis ! :)) which, we will discover very quickly, will be used in particular to make us dance… Indeed, we are greeted with a “welcome” dance on a music that we will hum for days afterwards. After the dance of the pupils and teachers, it is our turn to follow their choreography under their amused glances. The audience applauds, laughs, laughs a little, and the emotion is intense for me, who has lived the life of a schoolboy never found elsewhere. After a thank-you speech by Ma’am Lolita, a primary school teacher, the cast can begin. All the students are asked to line up in the small courtyard and Ma’am Lolita animates the distribution by calling each class to come forward to receive their material. Everything goes rather quietly considering the number of students present (about 450!) and the stock is quickly sold out. The students are delighted and the happiness is widely shared.
We then take advantage of our presence to visit the school, see it and survey it – at last. Through its barred windows, we observe the classroom that we have been talking about for months, the one we would like to repair, polish, be reborn, see it regain its original purpose. And that is indeed the priority that we give ourselves, because the balance sheet is a real challenge for us DIYers (even if we have, fortunately, a carpenter in our crew): the ceiling, the framework and the roof have to be partly redone because they are completely rotted by termites and water, several wooden sections have to be changed and repainted, dozens of desks are in poor condition, the walls have to be washed and repainted, the floor has cement holes to be filled, the sink has to be made functional again, the windows have to be repaired and repainted, the tables have to be repaired and then sanded down for a fresh coat of paint, the small storage room has to be emptied and cleaned. .. In short, there is enough work for a group of 11 highly motivated people for 10 days!
This classroom hosts the “Industrial Arts” course led by Sir Jessie: introduction to carpentry, joinery, gardening, DIY; a course that can only take place outdoors (and therefore now very limited) since an earthquake weakened the roof causing water damage. With the lack of budget, this space has gradually turned into a huge storage room for a wide variety of things. A real waste of space in a school where the classrooms are already overcrowded. So this will be our flagship project, and we’re all excited to give this space a new lease of life. The meeting to take stock of the premises and start work is scheduled for the next morning, at the time of the flag-raising ritual, 07:45.