Sunday, July 31, 2011

What Ann learned from the Custodian Project

Ann Amir is a beautiful girl who loves fashion and makeup and hair. She is a Copt with African roots in the Sudan.  Her words on this project are some of the most touching and poignant I have heard. Clearly, her soul is as beautiful as her face.

Ann Amir is in the back row, third from the left, with her hand to her chin.

The whole project aimed at experiencing the life of the custodians, and how they do their work every day. Actually, I thought of it more than that. I really liked to do their job for one day, or rather for couple of hour. I found that they are doing so much work even more than any other person who works in a higher level of jobs. Furthermore, they were not born to be custodians. I meet one of them who used to work in a law firm, but she moved to be a custodian for a higher salary. Perhaps not all of them have the same situation, but still, if they found another job with a good salary, they would be anything else other than custodians. 

Ann tries to clean the whiteboard in a classroom. It is not as easy as it looks.

Ann and Carrie seem to be enjoying their grueling assignment.
After doing this project, I feel like I want to apply it with everyone I meet every day. I would like to apply it with my doorman and see how my neighbors are dealing with him. I would like to apply it with the public bus or taxi driver and check how he thinks and how people act towards him. I would like to apply it with the office boy at my work. I guess if I could do this, I will show people surrounding them that these taxi drivers, doorman, or office boy, are people whom have their own feelings. Also, may be, I will be able to deliver a message that anyone of us might be in their shoes if we have the same situation as they do. 

Ann is third from the right front row.

Ann is third from the left, front row.
 Thank you Ann, for your heartfelt and thoughtful reflections. WMB

Friday, July 8, 2011

Thank you letter by the head of the worker's syndicate at AUC

Dear Dr
This is to thank you  and take our hats up out of respect to you for being humble and cooperative fulfilling the custodians project in your leadership course Summer 11. It is a remarkable  experience for us to see a faculty member  at a high level of knowledge and competence to carry out and participate in cleaning works and wear the uniform. Moreover, what you have done has a great impact to draw the AUC administration attention about the importance of our work to operate all university facilities to serve AUC community
Finally , we consider what you have done to us as a badge of honor

What Rabab learned from the custodian project

Rabab is a true revolutionary. She has a passionate spirit, and encouraged me to do this project, because she wanted to do something practical in our leadership class.

Rabab is wearing the pink hijab. Here she is with classmates before work.

In response to a team leader's letter she wrote

أعزائى حسام و فاطمة
شكرا لكم على سعة صدركم معانا و حبكم لعملكم كان واضح و حسستونا اننا جزء منكم
عايزين نقولكم ان عملك رائع و مهم و من غيركم لا يمكن نستحمل اننا نيجى الجامعة و لا نشوفها
ربنا يوفقكم و يقويكم
Rabab listens as she is trained by the custodians.
Training is never very fun, under the best of conditions.
Dears Hosam and Fatma
Thanks for your patience, and  loyal efforts.
You make us feel that we are part of your group.
Your guidance was  the secret of our success at that wonderful day
You both have great sense of leadership. Without your great efforts, it could be unbearable to come to the university
Wish you the best. Keep up this great spirit. Rabab. 

Hend, Shahad, Dr. B and Rabab get ready to clean some toilets!

It was a great experience. I learned that it is not enough to just feel sympathy about someone unless you put yourself into his/her situation. That is exactly what happened to me when i work as a custodian for less than 2 hrs.

Rabab cleans counters.

Their tolerance and patience to fulfill the tasks , as well as their efforts with us to teach the mechanism of work make me think that they themselves are the real leaders
Dear great and devoted custodians, in brief, our life without you is unbearable.

Rabab agreed with Dr. B that the gloves were inadequate.
Rabab interviews Mr. Mostafa about work conditions. 

Rabab socializes with custodians and students after the project.

What Bernardete learned from the custodian project

Dear all,
I think that the project meant so much for everyone. The most important thing was the initiative to do something; that is, to take action and get some teachings from this. Before we implement the project, I had some idea about how hard the custodians’ work was, because I usually clean my house.

Bernardete with classmates. She is second to left. 
I had idea that their job was difficult to do and somehow painful; however, I did not imagine how painful it was. Those people, most of them, have many tasks to do outside university such as take care of children, housework, and being spouses that require much of them, so I guess that because of the kind of work that are doing as cleaners, in the end of the day they fell physical and spiritually so stressed.

Amira, Amira, Shahad and Bernardete get ready to work. 

I respect their work, and this is one thing that I learned; respect and consideration. I never use so dangerous chemicals when I clean my house, but they do. Then, besides the use of some powerful chemicals to clean, I learned that the protection is very important to avoid any harm.

whistle while you work
I notice that the custodians are educated people, and to do this job they got training. I confirm what I just knew that the difference among custodians, students, and staff is only the division of labor, or “specialization”.

Bernardete mops the floor like a professional.

Then, there is nothing about superiority or inferiority. They work is valuable, and I learned that all parties that I mention here, they are parts of a puzzle which make the machine run university.  

Bernardete with custodians and students in the right front row.

I had a lot of fun, too.
Bernardete Gomana.

What Heba learned from the custodian project

I guess custodians' experience was so useful to me as I tried to put
myself in their places,which was very good experience to me . I tried
to learn how they are doing their job, which for me seems very hard
job to be done by one person.

Heba before the project. She is on the far right with hijab.
Heba scrubs the walls of a classroom.
The most difficult part when I asked one of the custodians to tell me how to clean the walls of the class that required from me to sit on my knees and use all my strength that I
have and press hard on the sponge  to remove the dirt that makes me
feel so tired .  I felt how hard their job is and I was really in need
to take a break although this thing does not take more than 15 mins to
do this, but I was so exhausted after I finished cleaning part of the
wall of the class not the whole class.

Heba on the left listens intently as she gets trained.
Then, I asked one of the custodians how many classes he/she cleans per day? He said almost 6 to
7 classes along with corridors and bathrooms. Omg!! I felt so tired
after I finished only cleaning part of the wall of the class what
about cleaning the whole class and other classes along with
bathrooms !! I guess I will fail to do this alone.

Heba, Carrie, Bernardete, and Nahla clean the classrooms. 

The most exciting part was when one of the staff saw me wearing their clothes,
he never asked me before about my job or even about my studies,but I
noticed how he was looking at me in a very strange look .When I met him
the other day, he talked to me in a very strange way and he started to
refuse to help me in printing some papers that I need although he was
doing this to me before he saw me wearing this clothes. Very sad to
notice that people act differently when they knew that you are in
lower position than they are. Absolutely I didn't mention to him that
I'm doing my master's degree and this was a project, I just kept silent and I
acted as if nothing happened.Well, I don't like to say that, but I think he deliberately did this to me. Really I don't know why ? Very weird attitude.

Heba with other students and custodians. She is second from right front row. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

What Shahad learned from the Custodian Project

Shahad asked to be assigned to the bathroom cleaning crew. She said 

"The custodians experience was amazing. I learned a lot from it. This experience helps me to be in other people shoes and even if they low positions their work are harder than others in the university. It helps to take of the barriers between people. Hearing from the custodians was also useful to know how they feel." 

Here are some photos of Shahad hard at work. Shahad was a meticulous and diligent cleaner.

Amira Ali, Amira Salama, Shahad AlHamdan and Dr. Bowman before cleaning commences.

Shahad tries to get used to her new gloves.
Shahad contemplates her duties.

Shahad vigorously cleans the granite counters.
 Shahad learns to clean the mirrors. Hend supervises. 

Shahad is a great cleaner, and diligently cleans the mirrors.
 Shahad scrubs out the toilets.
Shahad teaches Dr. Bowman how to scrub the counters.
 Are we having fun yet?

This is hard work!

What did I actually learn from the custodian project?

These are my comments. These are the things that I, Warigia Bowman, learned from the custodian project. I am waiting for some comments from my students, to see what they learned. But here are my thoughts.

Dr. Bowman with Leadership students before work commences.

First of all, I learned that my students can come up with great ideas on their own. The way I remember it, and I could be wrong, this project was almost entirely their idea. They started out by baking cookies for the custodians. We talked about the fact that baking cookies may not meet the community based learning guidelines, and we went from there. All I did was ask questions. So, the credit for developing this project goes to the students.

Dr. Bowman and students leave their privileged world.

Second, I learned that the work of the custodians is very difficult. I do clean the toilets at my own home, because in the US, we do not have house help. But usually, I clean the two bathrooms in my home about once a week. By contrast, the custodians have to clean seven bathrooms per shift. And that is only one person cleaning all those bathrooms. During the project, it took three of us to clean one bathroom. We had to empty the trashcans, clean the toilets, clean the counter, clean the mirror, and mop the floor. I cannot believe that one person does all of this in one day. In addition, I got the sense that the bathrooms had been pre-cleaned for us, the toilets were pretty clean already before I cleaned them.

Dr. Bowman scrubs the toilets carefully.

Dr. Bowman's glove disintegrates because the chemicals used in cleaning are so strong.
Third, I think the chemicals that the custodians are using are very strong. After I completed the project, I have had a nagging cough. We used R 1 and R3 to clean the toilets, R 7 to clean the counters, and something else to clean the mirrors. In addition, the gloves we were given were not strong enough. One of my gloves was burned through by the chemicals. After we complained, we were given stronger gloves. But I think it is important that the custodians wear good gloves, and that they are given masks as well. In general, it is my observation that Occupational Safety and Health at AUC could be improved. The custodians working conditions are not an exception to this.

Dr. Bowman tells Mostafa the manager that the custodians need better gloves.

Fourth, I was happy to have the custodians be the teachers and trainers, and for us to be the students. Actually, I learned many things about cleaning. I learned that putting the trashcan on the counter is unhygienic. I learned a new better way to clean the mirrors, I also learned how to use the water vacuum. The students in the class and the custodians are close to the same age, so it was fun to see them make friends.

Students sit laughing with the custodians. 

All in all, I enjoyed my experience, and I gained a new respect for the hard work of the AUC custodians.