As our time in Zambia comes to an end we look back on our final two weeks on site. Through the trials and tribulations of the project, the highs and the lows, we were happy to have completed the court on time for a spectacular opening. Here’s what happened in the last two weeks of ACE2Zambia 2022.
Week 5 – Plenty of work to do…
As week 5 started we were nervous and knew there was plenty of work to do. The extensive groundworks undertaken early in the project meant that the time left for laying stone, compacting the stone layers, and applying the bitumen was rapidly running out.
Due to the issues in week 4 with the compactor the laying of the stonebase had been delayed. Early in week 5 the rest of the stonebase was layed and compacted to a level we were happy with and we felt as though a major hurdle had been reached.
Another snag was immediately hit however when the concrete sub-contractor, whom we had not seen for days, appeared and let us know that he’d lost his phone… By this point the concrete works were well behind schedule and we were becoming increasingly frustrated. This, coupled with the poor quality of work in some areas necessitated a change in sub-contractor and near the end of the week we had a much more experienced team on site.
They started to work on finishing the shoulder of the court and constructing the spoon drain. It was good to get this major element of the court started before the A2Z team departed for the weekend.
One of the absolute standout memories from our time in Zambia is the Livingstone weekend. Although the 10 hour bus from Lusaka to Livingstone is an experience in itself, the weekend is one we will never forget.
Starting on the Friday with a sunset cruise down the Zambezi and continuing in to Saturday with white water rafting, we thoroughly enjoyed our time away from site and the break it afforded. On Sunday we made the short hop over the border to botswana where we experienced a water safari in the morning and a game drive in the afternoon – safe to say seeing Lions up close and personal was a sharp departure from life on site!
The opportunity to take a break from the project and catch up with the sports students, many of whom had barely seen us in recent weeks due to our time spent on site, was a welcome change of pace. We had an incredible time and only wish we could have stayed longer. Alas, week 6 and the end of the project was calling…
Week 6 – The Final Countdown
Getting back to site bright and early on Tuesday morning of week 6 after our weekend away was a shock to the system. The progress had not been as swift as we had hoped in our absence and there was plenty left to do. The upper layer of stonebase still required compaction and two layers of bitumen needed laying. In addition to this, the seating had not been started and we would have to paint the lines on to the court before the opening, meaning the bitumen had to be layed at least the day before to give it time to dry.
The site that greeted us on Tuesday presented us with an array of issues. We calculated that we just about had enough time to finish the court before the opening as long as there were no more delays. From our project experience this was unlikley so we knew that we would have to drive hard to ensure a timely completion.
We shared our concerns with the contractor and presented our ideal schedule of works, then we got to work. The first order of business was to compact the stonebase layer which was done by mid-afternoon. We also tasked the concrete contractors to finish the drainage to ensure that they could move on to the seating as soon as possible.
Good progress was made on Tuesday but we knew we still had a mountain to climb to finish on time.
Wednesday saw the first layer of bitumen go on to the court and a start to the construction of the seating area. We still had concerns about the quality of the concrete in some areas but at this point we had to deploy the concrete contractors solely on the seating to ensure at least the supports were constructed by Friday. This was a frustrating slow day on site and we knew that Thursday would be make or break.
Also started on Thursday was our painted mural that Sport In Action had commissioned from a local artist. We layed out the template and supplied the logos of our partners and sponsors and he got to work in record time. While progress on the court was at times slow, the mural came together at a lightnig pace.
Thursday rolled around and we were on site at the crack of dawn. With a layer of bitumen to add, seating to construct, and lines to paint; we settled in for a long, long day.
The day started slowly with work not really commencing until 10am, but once work started it didn’t stop. By midday the site was a hive of activity. At one point there was mural painting, bitumen laying, concrete works, band practice, a football game, emergency car repairs, and discussions with the contractor all going on at once.
It was a frantic day but good progess was made. The bitumen layer was added and compacted which meant we could start painting the lines – cutting it fine, we know!
When we left the site at nearly 7pm the line painting was not finished and we agreed with the contractor that it would be finished before the ceremony at 10am. Not an ideal solution, but we were working with what we had.
The final day. After 6 weeks of hard work, long hours, and at times literal blood, sweat, and tears we had made it. But when we arrived on site at 8am celebrations were far from our mind. The line painting was hours behind schedule and there were only two operatives with a paintbrush who needed to paint over 60m of lines. We made an executive decision to dash out to a local dealer and buy as many paintbrushes as we could.
Luckily a number of the A2Z team were accomplished artists (shoutout to Alice, Cat and Emelia) and so had no problem pitching in with the painting. As guests started to arrive for the 10am ceremony we were starting to feel the pressure. The lines were finally finished just 20 minutes before the official opening was due to start and, after a quick drink and a dust off, we took our seats as guests at the official opening.
The opening ceremony itself was a long and lively affair with a band, two productions from a local drama group, speeches from the great and good of Matero, and some excellent MC’ing from Chitanda PE teacher Mr Sam.
It was lovely to see what the opening of the court meant to the community and it was a great day for the whole team. After many pictures, hand shakes, and congratulations, we met with the headteacher of Chitanda combined school one last time before taking our last Yango from Matero back to the house in Ibex Hill.
As we write this reflection on the last two weeks it is Saturday of week 6, and we are about to wave goodbye to Zambia tomorrow. It has been a rollercoaster ride for the whole A2Z team and we will update this blog with our reflections in more detail when we have time to process our experience.
For now, all we will say is thank you to Sport In Action, JP & Mia, the staff and students that made the house a home, Chitanda combined school, and the people of Matero. We may have left Matero with a netball court, but Matero has left an indelible mark on us all. ACE2Zambia 2022.