A Day in the Life of a WaSH Biogas Volunteer

My name is Sam Watson and I am working with the Biogas Team on the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WaSH) Project.

After hearing about CDI through a lecturer in my university department, I joined CDI because I saw the WaSH Project as an opportunity to implement skills from my Chemical Engineering degree whilst making a difference in communities facing poverty and poor health.

I work closely with two other volunteers on the Biogas Team named Amon and Micheala.

7:20am. The alarm goes off. I usually hate early starts, but not today because I’m going to ‘site’.  The place commonly referred to by CDI volunteers as ‘site’ is the location of the WaSH Project’s latest brainchild – the biodigester. This device is effectively a huge rubber bag lying in a long, deep trench.  Sewage from one of the WaSH Project’s simplified sewerage networks flows into this bag and is turned into biogas which can be burned for cooking or heating.

7:50am. The heavy rain has stopped just in time for me to go to the canteen. I get to breakfast nice and early but the canteen hasn’t started serving food… This is only a minor inconvenience to what I’m anticipating will be a significant day.

Figure 1

Breakfast table accompaniment

8:45am. I am catching a bus to the site.

The key idea behind the biogas project is a business model in which biodigester technology can be used to add value to the sewage by converting it into biogas fuel. This fuel can then be sold to members of the local community. Profits generated from biogas sales can then be used to pay back the costs of the biodigester and sewage network.

Today we hope to do an experiment which should help us to determine whether selling biogas is profitable. It involves measuring the amount of gas produced by the digester in a given time. This will allow us to estimate our operating profit.

9:45am. We stop off at the hardware store to buy two pairs of rubber gloves.

Figure 2

Amon and Micheala at the hardware store

9:50am. Only moments after leaving the hardware store, I hear someone shouting, “I love you!” I turn to see that it is us who are being addressed, by a woman leaning from a window.

10:06am. We arrive at site. We connect our measuring device to the digester but measure no gas coming out.

Figure 3

The measuring device (known as a flowmeter) with the digester in the background, to which it is connected

After over an hour of trying things, the digester has become completely deflated, showing that there is no longer any gas in the digester. The attempt was not successful, so we decide to leave.

Figure 4

The flexigester, deflated to the level of the water (i.e. it has no gas in it!)

 

11:30am. Shortly before leaving, the team discover a mysterious locked chamber next to the digester. After a long while of trying to smash the lock with a bolt, we hire some local technicians who easily break open the lock. The chamber is empty.

 

Figure 5

Amon attempts to break open the chamber by smashing the rusted padlock

 

12:45pm. A long commute and we’re back at base. Time for a quick debrief with one of my PDs before lunch.

1:00pm. At lunch, a member of the WaSH team tells us which Mean Girls characters each of us are.

2:00pm. Back to work. This afternoon is an ideal time to work on my ‘day in the life’ blog.

4:00pm. Time for an exciting meeting with the WaSH PDs about the future strategy and direction of the Biogas Project. We discussed the latest findings and calculations in relation to the biogas business model.

5:00pm. Work is over but my roommate has gone to Vingunguti with the only key to the room and won’t be back for a while. However, I can’t complain as it’s my fault.

Tonight is the Kite DSM fundraising dinner and I’m scheduled to play with a band. I go to help the other band members load the taxi with our kit.

5:30pm. People are starting to leave for the fundraising dinner (which starts at 6:00pm) but my roommate still isn’t back. Luckily, I have a great book in my bag to keep me occupied in the meantime.

6:30pm. My roommate has arrived back and we can now go into our room to start getting ready for the dinner.

7:30pm. I arrive at the dinner with my roommate and next-door neighbour in time for a speech by Kite DSM by Director David Leonce.

8:30pm. It’s time for the band to perform. The ‘Cambridge Groove Initiative’ played three songs, including the classics ‘Signed, Sealed, Delivered’ and ‘Summertime’.

Figure 6

The ‘Cambridge Groove Initiative’

 

11:30pm. I’m on my way back to the accommodation. It’s been a long day and I’m ready to go to bed.

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s