Conversation with Koko


While we were working on the WaSH construction, a community member, Koko, came up to us and started working alongside us. He talked about his past experience digging in the mines near Johannesburg and was generally very helpful and pleasant to work with. This was the first time that we had interacted in depth with a community member directly instead of through the working team.

Cast of Characters

Michaella, Juan, Brittany, Megan, Koko


Wendy house during WaSH construction


As the construction was winding down, Koko came into the Wendy House where the Comm Team was talking. He started talking about how he, and the majority of the community, was not in favor of this new toilet block. He talked about how they have wanted the MPC for years, and wanted it up at the other concrete slab instead of near the Wendy House. He solemnly said that he did not fully support the project, but he appreciated that we were there helping out the community, and because of that he would protect the facility. He told us that the Municipality is lying to us and using us, and that the working team has also not been adequately expressing the community’s desires to us and the rest of the partnership.

Reflection and Learning

Koko’s insight was worrisome for us. We have not really directly discussed this project, or any of the other planned projects, with the community. All of the information is shared through the working team. In different circumstances, this would probably be okay. However, there seems to be a large disconnect between the community and the working team. It seems like the community views the team as separate from them or possibly too heavily associated with the Municipality because of the stipend they receive. Had we been under less of a time constraint to develop a tangible end product, community interaction would have been a bigger part of the work.

Koko’s spiel was disconcerting because of his largely negative attitude towards the toilet facility. While he seemed like an emotionally stable person, it is very possible that someone less logical but equally unsupportive could either interfere with the integrity of the facility or take it out on the working team. We discussed with him the fact that WPI and the Municipality were paying and maintaining most of the facility and that the WaSH will eventually be part of the MPC. This did not seem to change his mind about the facility. It can get frustrating sometimes that despite our willingness to help and provide Langrug with a tangible end product, only the bad aspects of it are highlighted to us.

Although the working team expressed urgency in implementing something (anything) in our time here, it is possible that our quick decision to implement the WaSH could backfire unless we prepare the working team to handle any negative repercussions. It is not enough to just leave a building but to make it a valued asset to the Langrug community, and this conversation with Koko supported that idea.