Scott Lyons I am on a mission trip to Ghana with Ghanaian Mothers’ Hope and my job is to replace dangerously cracked plastic beams of a playground set. My teammate, Bruce Neumann and I are using a heavy, dense wood for the replacement. We are also painting St. Paul’s preschool in Akramaman. Bruce painted it in 2007 but the wear and tear along with the African sun has taken it’s toll. Day 1 Challenge: All screws on the jungle gym require a square drive crew driver. No square screw driver available. No Ace Hardware, no Walmart! Solution: make your own square driver by filing a screw driver to fit the hole.
Day 2 Challenge: Buying paint and painting supplies. There are paint stores in a not too far village. Paint, check, paint brushes, check, rollers, check, roller pans—ahh, not in Ghana. Solution: A cardboard box with a plastic bag. We are having our friend, Carpe—the carpenter, make us two roller pans out of wood. Another carpenter cut down 2 pieces of bamboo to make us extension poles.
Day 3 Challenge: Keeping the children off the playground equipment while it is being repaired. Solution: Constantly telling the children to get down.
Another huge challenge was finding paint to match the color of the school. We were not successful so we improvised. Then we realized we needed to get the bosses approval—there are 3 bosses-Debi, Mercia and Francesca (the new Head Mistress). They have yet to agree on the color—colour—British spelling.
At the end of our 2012 mission trip, the playground at Akramaman was nearly restored. When preparing for GM Hope’s summer, 2013 mission trip, Debi reminded me that there would be a little work needed to complete the repair to the slide unit, but it turned out to be a major deal. When Scott and I looked at it, of the two posts we put in two years ago, one had cracked just like the original with the BAD mix of plastic, and the other one was split top to bottom. The cross braces under the deck were broken and the number roller supports had cracked away. While we where there Monday the cracked one broke off at deck level so we remove it. Of course the screws were 1/8″ square drive, with no tools locally available. We were able to fabricate a driver to take some of it apart.We had the village carpenter order wood for this year’s repair project and it arrived late Monday.
While waiting for the wood, we filled cracks in the the school walls in preparation for painting it. When we went paint shopping, they did not have a gray colour paint, so we were instructed to get something cream and some blue to tint it some. In the bucket it looked bright yellow; and when we mixed the blue in it was a terrible shade of green! Luckily, it dried to a much more mellow-yellow with a twinge of green, so we said lets not waste it and painted the Library porch with it. The colour turned out very nice. The debate as to what colour to paint the exterior walls was opened. Someone said blue with white tint, another said the yellow with green, another suggestion was white with blue tint, the last heard was just the plain yellow. The jury is still out.
Tuesday the carpenter cut the wood to sizes we needed, and Scott and I planned how to begin fixing the slide. On Wednesday, we figured we would lower the slide platform and remove the cross pieces, and install new wood braces, and then do the posts on Thursday. The wood, being green, required prefitting and predrilling all the screw and lag holes with a hand (not powered) drill. All went well during this process, even chasing children off the slide unit while we were working on it. Tomorrow, we start on the posts. We have arranged a pick axe to dig out the out old concrete, a bag of cement to be delivered, sand, course and fine aggregate and sand for new concrete bases.
The children love the playground so it is worth the time and trouble to maintain it. The frustration is due to having bought a brand name with a life time guarantee, and having the product fail not once, but twice within a few short years.