Three years ago when we built our children’s center in Poipet, we hired a contractor to build us three water tanks. Though he promised he would “guarantee” the water towers forever, I noticed problems immediately. The steel beams were too thin and the foundations too weak. Two of the water tank towers have already broken in only three years. Of course the term “Cambodian contractor” is a joke of a term. There is no such thing. Just guys making money doing a shotty job; the competition also does a shotty job, so there is not many options, especially in Poipet! The best option, usually, is just do it yourself.
The water tower we needed to fix was a difficult one. The foundations were sinking on one side, while strong on another side. It maybe be a tourist attraction for the leaning tower of Piza, but for a water tank in Poipet, the lean was only a disaster waiting to happen. After debating for weeks about a solution, we decided the only solution was to dig up the old foundations, move the tower to a new site and pour solid new foundations. We thought it might take 3 days. . . it took nearly a month.
We had to dig up the old footings, then prepare a new site next to it for new, more solid footings.
Then we had to move the whole tower which is very heavy. . . I would say a gazillion pounds or so. . . so it was heavy. The average age of worker was 11 so we needed everyone to help!
On the day of our concrete pouring, I arranged for two companies to deliver us concrete. Neither one did. That is typical business in Cambodia. Then it rained. So, I felt God saying we needed to just do it “old school”. So we did. All day long we pour 7.5 tons of concrete.
After nearly a month, we finished the new foundation and water tower. The only thing left to do is re-attach the water supply and take a shower.
I tried to have many teachable moments with our children at the center and these are some of the things I hope they learn:
1. Do it right the first time.
2. Once a poor foundation is laid, it is extremely difficult to fix.
3. Build for excellence and strength.
4. When you have a business, don’t lie, cheat or make promises you have no intention of keeping.
5. Finish college so you don’t have to do this for a living.