…for such a time as this

Stories about the adventure that is Peace Corps Tonga

“Excuse me; it’s raining in the library”

When I arrived at my site a year ago, I was told that the roof at my school was going to be replaced by the Ministry of Education. Whenever it rains, water leaks into our form 4 and 5 classrooms as well as our library. About half of the books in the library have been kept under tarps this year for this reason, but we only have one tarp and can’t buy more on this island. This last week, the Ministry sent a team from Kiwi Construction, a Tongan run construction company from the main island to fix both the roof on my school and the science room at John’s school. All week, they’ve been working at both sites. The tin roofing was shipped over on one of the ferries with the rest of the supplies.

Yesterday, about 2/3rds of the roof was completed when it started to rain. I was walking back from John’s house and realized what this meant. The old roof over the library had been removed the day before and was now open, allowing rain to come straight in the library. I ran upstairs to check on the books and they were being rained on. I went downstairs to ask the priests if they had the keys to the library. They did not and had to rush off to the other island for something. They told me to call the deputy principal. Recently, the deputy principal lost his phone, I could not call him. Another teacher was there, I asked her if she knew where the key was. She said they were with the librarian, who is in Tongatapu, this wasn’t going to help us.
Unlike in the States when you travel for work and get a hotel room, the crew was staying on the floor in someone’s house near John’s house. I got an idea, I went and found one of the crew and asked if they could come work on the roof. I didn’t think there was another option, no key for the room to move the books and water was pouring in. I thought my chances were slim that they would start again because it was Saturday and the rain was now coming down pretty hard.
I walked over there and pleaded my case and they decided to help! I was thrilled! While I was gathering the crew, the other teacher found a way into the library. She climbed through the windows in one of the other classrooms and jimmied the lock open on the back side of the school. When I got back to the school, she was already busy moving books off of the floor (out of puddles) and rearranging the room around the leaks.
She and I quickly moved the books that were under the steady streams of water pouring into the room while the workers gathered and put on their safety equipment. The men worked in a hurry, hoisting the new tin roofing into place and nailing it securely. The roof was completed within a half hour of me asking them to begin again. It poured rain the entire time.
Sure, it was unconventional, but it worked. I was impressed by the crew; they had safety equipment and used it. Who knew I could rouse an entire crew to work in the rain on a Saturday to save some books? Good work Tonga!


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