Engineering Ministries International project trips bring together so many people – the project leader, the volunteers, the interns – and that’s just the project team. Then there’s the client ministry, the local design professionals, project managers and the like. And even the people who are the ultimate benificiaries of the design (in this case, the students at the university).
I love hearing the different perspectives they share on the project. Kevin shared his perspective in the previous blog post. Here’s a couple more:
The Client’s Perspective: The Benson Idahosa University News wrote all about the University’s “consultative meeting with a team of engineers from both the local and international community.”
The Intern Perspective – in Photos: Kevin’s intern, Mailys, is an accomplished photographer, and put together this blog post of Nigeria in Photos.
You can also check out the #eMiC10060 Project Profile, which also includes a collection of photos and links to these types of ministry reports.
For those of us from the West who aren’t better informed, when we think of Nigeria we think of the place where all the email scams come from. Where corruption is rife. And where Boko Haram is wreaking havoc.
But maybe there is more to this country than what the headlines pump out. Maybe Nigeria is on the brink of something amazing.
Nigeria has millions of highly motivated, well-educated young people who are forging ahead to create a country to be proud of. In my dozens of trips to Africa I have rarely witnessed a society that is so intentionally giving its young people the tools to making a lasting impact on society.
I spent 10 days here in Nigeria working as a volunteer engineer for a university to help them plan infrastructure for a new satellite campus. The locally educated engineers I am working with have amazing technical capabilities. They are providing at least as good a job as consultants I work with in Canada. In many ways they surpass what we expect out of our western engineers.
This private well-respected university that I am visiting started up 10 years ago, currently has 3000 full time students, and has demand for many times this amount. They have bought new land and are planning for 10,000 more students within a couple years. This school is having an incredible impact on society by providing quality education to Nigeria’s next leaders in an educational environment that exudes integrity, demands hard work, goes out of its way to hire quality professors, and knows the importance of each individual being an entrepreneur.
And there are thousands more schools like it in the country. Nigerians have been starved for higher education and millions, yes millions, are taking up the journey to MBAs, law degrees, engineering degrees, and medical degrees.
The graduates don’t all find relevant work and many leave the country for better lives elsewhere, but there is an exciting future for a country like this. Young people don’t have to follow in the footsteps of their leaders. They don’t have to say that this is just the way it is in Nigeria. No, they can be the catalyst of change. They can be the shining examples of integrity, hard work, family values and entrepreneurship.
And entrepreneurs are everywhere. Large multinationals are investing like crazy. Innovation is on every street corner. And young people are taking advantage of this entrepreneurial attitude to better their own lives and the communities around them.
They often look to the west as models of how to succeed personally, as a country, and as a society. But the west isn’t necessarily a good role model on so many different levels. Nigerians are challenging themselves to look within their own traditions and draw out the greatness of their various cultures.
Kevin’s team presentated the plan that they had developed to the University leadership on Friday afternoon . . . here’s what he had to say:
I think our team did a great job on the presentation. We worked very hard through the week to get some good recommendations. And then it was presented in a clear manner that was appropriate for the high level administrative audience. We had maybe 15 others from the university administration at the presentation. They were very appreciative for the expertise that our team brought.
The technical people fully understood our recommendations and supported them. But the higher ups appeared to want us to perform a miracle and give them an American university without them having to make any hard decisions. Hopefully the technical people can drive this project so it doesn’t get bogged down in politics. But that is the challenge with any large institution.
I had my hour long run this morning so I am feeling good and ready to go. Our Indian volunteer, Berlin, joined me for a couple laps in his flip flops. Last weekend one of the other volunteers, Ailene, joined me for the full 25 laps to make 10k. We stayed in the compound for our runs, so it wasn’t quite as interesting as hitting the streets but it was still fun surprising the geckos and squirrels on every lap. It has been a long time since I have sweated so much before 7:30. This humidity and heat even so early in the morning is incredible.
And then . . . time to start the long journey home. The team were heading back to Lagos for their debriefing and a bit of R&R:
We made it to Lagos after a few spurts and starts. The flight was 2 hours late and was almost cancelled due to the thunder showers. 10 more minutes of circling and the incoming airplane would have just gone back and not picked us up.
Please pray for Kevin as he helps the team process what they experienced this week, pray for a good day of rest of them, and for safe travels as they all begin to journey home.
There wasn’t too much to report for Wednesday. Half the team went to the site to do percolation and water quality tests. Half stayed back to meet some more people and to work on the layout plan. We worked well into the evening, had some devotionals and went to bed a little later than the first few nights. Sleep has been a bit erratic but I finally had a solid long sleep. Now I need a couple more of these and I will be back to normal on the time change. This would be just in time for the flight back when I have to do it again.
That was Kevin’s email from yesterday. This morning, he actually called (thanks, Skype). It was 3 p.m. his time, and they were less than 24 hours away from thier final presentation – and the staff/student soccer match that was scheduled immediately after the presentation, so no leeway to go late 😉
The plans are coming together well, and the team feel like they are accomplishing lots. They’ve had good communication with the local engineers and maintenance team to speak into the plans. They’ve got lots to finish up, but it’s coming along (and don’t they have a luxurious-looking makeshift office? )
The biggest challenge will be communicating something as technical as water/wastewater infrastructure to those higher up on the heirarchy scale so that they understand enough to fully buy-in (which ultimately will affect whether things get built as designed). Keep praying for them as they put the finishing touches on their designs and as they present back to the ministry!
Today we got the engineers tour of the existing campus. The engineers version is always the best. You get to see what it really takes to make a compound work. The wells, tanks, pumps, generators and pipes. All the stuff they don’t want the public to see. All the ugly stuff that gets hidden but which the engineers love to analyze.
We will be using this information to inform us what type of systems work well and which need improving. What types of systems need sophisticated maintenance and what things need constant monitoring.
Please continue to pray for our communication with the ministry. Sometimes it is very formal and communication is difficult. It is easier to be candid with the maintenance and local engineers but those are not the decision makers. We need some better clearer lines of communication with the management so we can better understand the real issues.
We have finally been able to hone in on what the scope of work should be. I think it is do-able this week but it will be tight. They are expecting a lot from us.
We are being well fed and taken care of. No security issues and our hosts are very relaxed and friendly.
We were unexpectedly led to the front of the monthly 800 person staff meeting to be introduced. And of course with 2 seconds warning they made me give a speech. I should have guessed but it totally blindsided me. I hate it when that has happened but it is all too common. Maybe I should just expect it and it won’t be so bad next time. Even after all these trips I am still learning to be flexible and just go with it. God’s not done with me yet.
We had several long meetings today. We met all the university staff, went on another tour of the site and had a formal lunch. We were the only ones without black suit jackets and ties (except for the local architect. He has a T-shirt and jeans which was even less formal than us. Those architects just want to be different.) The other staff are very formal and there is proper protocol to go through on our meetings.
They have started some construction work on the new site . . . here we are on site of the new university campus with the local engineers and construction crew
And here we are capturing the vision and philosophy for the infrastructure which we are there to design:
The 3 hour church was a very lively one as expected. One of our hosts is the bishop of the church so he was the speaker. Great sermon and great music.
We were seated in the VIP section with the jazz trumpeter from the worship band right behind us. Even though I was immediately beside the air-conditioner and there were large fans everywhere I dripped sweat for every minute of the 3 hours. Good thing we had brought water with us.
This afternoon we sat around as a team sharing our testimonies and getting to know each other. With such a small team of only 6, it is easier to get to know everyone than the normal sized teams. We have a very qualified team for the project ahead.
Our hosts are determined to have us fully rested before we start so they wouldn’t let us start work yet or have any meetings. They are ensuring we had enough time for an afternoon sleep or two on both Saturday and Sunday. I am beginning to think they are expecting a whole lot out of our team this week. Maybe even a miracle or two. Tomorrow will start off with a full workday of introductions, meetings and tours before we can start any really work which probably will be no sooner than Tuesday.
Please pray for the team as they start the coming week with meetings . . . for good communication across cultures, for the necessary information to be shared properly, and maybe for those miracles . . .
(Want to see more photos? I’ll be posting the ones Kevin sends me here)