Former Plumbing Skillaroo paying it forward to South African communities in need

WorldSkills Australia competitors have enjoyed several overseas opportunities over the years, including humanitarian missions such as the Diepsloot Sanitation Project.

Part of the international Sanitation Studio programme, the project was assembled by Healthabitat, Sticky Situations and the Water Amenities Sanitation Services Upgrade Program (WASSUP). Its aim is to improve the community’s water and waste facilities and, in turn, improve the health of residents.

The WorldSkills Foundation supports the participation of two former WorldSkills international competitors to undertake this project every year. The pair that travelled to South Africa this year included 2013 Skillaroo Alex de Koeyer, who represented Plumbing and Heating in the 42nd WorldSkills Competition in Leipzig, Germany.

“I was pretty overwhelmed,” Alex said. “Grant Stewart was chatting with me about the opportunity one day, and he managed to put me up for it. I was given about three weeks’ notice, so I took it and ran with it!.”

The team endeavours to make the biggest impact possible with very limited funds. They reduce ongoing maintenance work for the local WASSUP team by upgrading toilets, taps and drains and monitoring the performance of current water and waste infrastructure to assess the effectiveness.

“We fixed up 26 toilet blocks and wash troughs for the community over the 10 days. It was a lot of work, but we had lunch with the local team every day and had a bit of time to see some of the countryside.”

Although his ten days in South Africa were spent working hard, he feels honoured to be able to pay it forward by sharing his knowledge with the local community. It was also important for him to be supporting WorldSkills Foundation’s humanitarian efforts. “They’ve done so much for me, and I felt it was time to give back.”

Alex would gladly jump on the opportunity to take on any other humanitarian opportunities that may present themselves in the future.

“If given the opportunity, I would definitely go back to Diepsloot again or go somewhere else.”

For more information on Sanitation Studio and the other overseas projects supported by the WorldSkills Foundation, visit the WorldSkills website.