by Jessica de Koning (Master student University of Utrecht, WetsNext illUVia project)
[note: This WetsNext illUVia project is a follow-up of a Wetskills-South Africa 2016 case. One of the participants (Jessica) came up with a plan to do a feasibility study together with the case owner Berson UV, a local entrepreneur Blue Nickel and Wetskills Foundation.]
Yesterday, I officially started my internship at Blue Nickel, where Jeremy Tucker, my supervisor and main partner for the project works. The guys at the office in Centurion (near Pretoria) gave me a warm welcome. I am the only girl in the office, and (besides Jeremy) the only one who is working on a water and sanitation project like ours. The others work on process control, mostly for mines, which is what Blue Nickel is specialized in.
Yesterday, Jeremy and I discussed how we are going to proceed the following weeks. As priorities, we identified 1) further research concerning the features of the community ablution facility, e.g. possible mechanisms for water reuse and waste water treatment, and 2) contacting and meeting possible partners. Practically, this means for me that this week I am writing e-mails and reading reports and descriptions that tell about similar projects and their methods and lessons learnt. Among others, I will contact NGOs that have experience with the social side of the project: community involvement. The most joyful part is that I get to contact my dear Wetskills team mates Ayanda, René and William, who will contribute with their knowledge, connections and energy.
Jeremy already organized the first two meetings. On Friday, we will have breakfast with Blue Nickels CEO Theo Schalkwyk and on Sunday we will have a “gastronomic afternoon” with Chrisna du Plessis, architecture professor at the School for the Built Environment at the University of Pretoria and Amanda Breytenbach, head of the department of interior design at the University of Johannesburg. They have both been influential in promoting sustainability in design and planning of human settlements. Before Sunday I aim to learn as much as possible about smart techniques, methods and designs that could be useful for our project, so I can discuss them with Chrisna and Amanda. By next week I will hopefully have a wide view on existing possibilities and their advantages and disadvantages, so we can start making decisions to fill in the details of the concept. This will form the basis on which we will plan a pilot project.
That’s when the next important step comes along: Finance. We plan to apply for subsidies at the Dutch government, for which our plan needs to meet certain requirements. Paul Buijs, our former Wetskills case owner and supplier of UV-technology, can help us through the process of meeting these requirements and building a business case. This process will probably start off in the coming weeks.
Personally, I enjoy to work on this project a lot, because I am working towards something that is supposed to make a difference for the poorest. I am most looking forward to the conversations I will have with the inspiring people I will meet and have already met. Of course, I have worries that the project may not turn out as successful as I hope it will, and I know that I will have to learn a lot first. That keeps me keen and concentrated, though. Plus, I am all but on my own with the help of Jeremy and Johan being at least as enthusiastic as I am. Now, my team mates and me, spread all over the country, are planning what our working together will look like in practice, but I hope I will see them soon.
[The results will be published on the Wetskills website.]