Because of this need and since writing grants for water tanks seemed to be a practical, manageable undertaking for us to do while still keeping up with our teaching, we started writing applications. We really had no clue about where to even start in this process, and we were really blessed by the help and guidance from a couple Australian volunteers in town who had done some similar grant writing before.
A very long story short, we submitted our first application to New Zealand Aid a few months ago. And throughout the whole process, we did our best to consult with and involve the people. As is true in all the developing world, the challenge of creating sustainable development and giving the people ownership of these efforts is very difficult to accomplish in a place that has grown so accustom and dependent on foreign aid. This was truly our first small taste of this unsolvable puzzle, and it was certainly an interesting thing to be a part of. There were some frustrations and hurdles, and it required a whole lot of patience and persistence on our part, but it did pay off in the end. And in the end, we just hope that it's doing more good than harm.
The grant stipulated that the organization would provide the money for a 5000 liter plastic water tank. These are more expensive, but according to the people (and as evidenced by the many dilapidated tanks on the island), the plastic tanks far outlast the cheaper concrete or fiberglass tanks, which usually only have a 10-20 year life. The grant also said that the village would be responsible for providing the transportation of the tank, labor, and supplies for installing the tank (piping, concrete foundation, etc.). They specified that the tank should be in a communal area, so that a large number of people would have access to it. We discussed it at the "fono" (village meeting), and the people decided that the tank would be put at the school.
The payment for the tank was processed, so a few weeks ago, the day finally arrived to actually go and get the tank. After dealing with a few more challenges regarding whose boat would go, we set off. Since up until that point, everything regarding the tank just involved writing and discussion, we had finally arrived at the biggest mystery of all in my mind: how in the world are they going to use one of their tiny boats to transport a massive plastic water tank across the ocean? But, it had been done before, so we just let the Tongans take the reins.
In retrospect, it was a very simple process of actually getting it done. Our principal and I tracked down a truck that belonged to one of his buddies, and drove about ten minutes to pick up the tank from the water tank company. From there, we loaded it on the truck and took it down to the wharf, where, in quite a feat of can-do spirit, a team of men somehow managed to tie it securely to the boat. Needless to say, we did not do much to help. The pictures speak for themselves: