Prainha is a one road village, that is one tarmac road, which was laid down about 30 years ago. Previously there was only a clay track into the village which was often swamped and made impassable by sand from the moving dunes, this is still occasionally a problem for the village today.
Our house is built away from the tarmac road along what’s known as a corridor, a sand track with houses dotted along it, from the tarmac road to the dunes. As the sand is soft, it is impossible for a car (other than a four-wheel drive) to go over, so everything for house construction, bricks, cement, tiles, timber, furniture etc and now, any heavy shopping, has to be brought in by mule and cart or wheel barrow. Walking over the soft, often hot, sand to the tarmac road 400 meters away is one way of keeping fit, but something most people would prefer not to have to do as it’s bloody hard work.
When my husband Neu was diagnosed with kidney failure in 2009, we began to investigate the possibility of a clay road being made to our house. One was being laid down in another area of the village but, as so often happens here, that road was promised and building began just before an election, stopping immediately after and before the road had actually got anywhere. It seemed there was little hope of us getting a road at all.
In 2012 Neu began home peritoneal dialysis, the necessary material would be delivered each month directly to our house. Unfortunately it was impossible for the lorry to reach us and as the delivery consists of approximately 30 boxes, each weighing 25 kilo-, no one was going to be carrying them the 400 meters from the road.
A friend who’s house is by the tarmac road, offered to take the delivery for us each month and another friend offered to transport the boxes by mule and cart to our house, a lot of effort all round.
The social assistance advisor at the dialysis clinic wrote a letter to our council requesting a road for us and we went from pillar to post within the council departments, trying to get to the right person but, apart from sympathetic looks, we got nowhere.
For the next two years, we and our neighbours continued pushing for a road but each avenue we tried came to a dead-end.
Earlier this year, one of our neighbours, who has a handicapped child, was advised by someone in the council that we should make a short film to show the council our difficulties, so I put together a video but that didn’t get us anywhere either.
In the lead up to the election this year (2014) another neighbour approached a local councilor who is the owner of a clay pit, the councilor said he would donate the clay, but we would have to lay the road by hand. It would be a lot of work but as it looked like the only option we agreed and the work began at the end of August this year.
The men laid about 50 meters of road (being such a macho society, women are not expected to be involved in road building) but then the clay ran out. We were assured more clay would be delivered soon but it was obviously going to take some time before the road would reach us.
Prainha and the surrounding area was made a Reserve in 2009 and it is managed by a partnership of a residents council and the governmental body ICMBio*, there are strict rules on building work in the village and this includes roads. One of the officers from ICMBio called a halt to the road building work but told me that he had seen the video (I’m not sure how he came to see it) and that as the council is obliged to give us proper roads and as there was planned road building for other areas in the village, he had requested that we get a road, which should be laid first as our needs and those of our neighbours gave us priority. Smiles all round.
At the end of September the tractor used in road building arrived and work began. Within a few days it had reached our neighbours, where much to our surprise, the work came to a halt, 50 meters from our house, 100 meters from the last house in the line.
I spoke to the manager of works who was checking the road, he said his orders where to stop there but, once we’d explained about Neu’s dialysis delivery, he promised to return and finish the road. This was a 4 days before the election and I feared that if we didn’t see them in the next few days, we would never see them again.
The election came and went and there was no sign of the road builders coming back to us. I got in touch with the officer from ICMBio, he was non the wiser and not at all happy that his request to the council had not been complied with, he assured me that he would be in touch with them, urged me to be patient and said he hoped the road would be completed, we certainly hoped so too.
All the road building machinery left the village to work in another community along the coast from us, many people in the village said that was it, they would never come back to us. I spoke to everyone I could think of, including the officer from ICMBio, who finally suggested we go together to see the Mayor on the following Tuesday morning, though I didn’t think he looked that hopeful.
Tuesday morning we got a taxi to the town and drove to the officer’s house but it was all shut up, no sign of him and no answer when we rang. After a couple of hours of hanging about we managed to speak to him, he said he was unable to go with us to see the Mayor but suggested we go to the civil engineering department and register our request for the road with them, frankly we knew that wouldn’t get us anywhere, been there done that kind of thing.
Feeling more than a little fed up over our wasted journey, we went into a small shop to buy a drink of water and bumped into a friend of ours, he’s a guy with links to various people in the Council and when we explained why we were in the town, he said he happened to be meeting the Deputy leader of the council the next day and that he is the man responsible for all road building work. I gave our friend a letter I had written which included a map and explained about Neu’s dialysis delivery, our friend offered to deliver this letter to the Deputy, along with a delivery note which stated the weight of the dialysis material to prove the truth of our situation as in the letter.
At 11 the next morning a group of men from the council arrived, they checked the distance of the road that needed laying and assured me that work would begin the next day. Our friend had done the trick, more smiles all round. Our smiles began to fade when Friday arrived and there was still no sign of the road builders.
On the Monday morning my sister-in-law went into town and by chance met our friend who asked if the road had been done, he said that he’d handed my letter over and explained that Neu would be receiving a delivery on the Friday, the Vice president had promised the road would be done before then. Our friend was not happy to hear that it had not been and promptly went off to the council to find out why.
On Tuesday morning lorry loads of clay began to arrive (no doubt thanks to our friend bending someone’s ear) followed by the tractor and over the next two days the road was finished off. Now at long last we have a road going past our house, it peters out just after my mother in law’s house where the old track met the sand dunes, so it’s a road to no where but one which makes all the difference to us.
The nice tractor driver gave us some clay to lay a path from our gate to our house, so now when we get the dialysis delivery it can be taken straight from the lorry to our door, no more heavy lifting for us, which is good as on the last delivery I had to bring in all 30 boxes by myself, it nearly killed me.
We have to water the bit in front of our houses to help keep the dust down and stop the clay from drying out and blowing away but it is a small effort compared to the benefit of the road. We have all been testing it out, my friend is now able to take her daughter for a ride in her wheelchair, children are zooming up and down on their bikes, toddlers toddling, even my mother in law has been for a walk and going visiting or to the local shops is no longer the daunting prospect it was. There is lots of laughter and smiles all round, amazing how a few lorry loads of clay has made such a difference.