Lorge traveling the world to provide good plumbing

Humanitarians believe in the value of human life, and they do what they can to save/improve human lives or to alleviate suffering.

We have all heard of famous humanitarians to include Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, Princess Diana, Angelina Jolie, Oprah Winfrey and Bill Gates, to name a few.

We have local people who also fit the description of humanitarian, but their good works often go unnoticed/unrecognized, and that’s OK with them. They don’t help others for the recognition.

Such is the case with Randy Lorge, instructor of plumbing apprenticeship at Fox Valley Technical College.

Randy told me, “To have the opportunity to change lives and even save lives, by doing what I do, is one of the greatest blessings God has ever given me.”

“I was blessed to have learned the skills of plumbing from my grandpa, my dad, my uncle and the plumbers I have apprenticed under,” Randy remarked. “Safe water and sanitation are an expectation in this country. We expect water to be safe when we turn on the faucet and that wastewater will be safely disposed of, yet one-third of the world’s population still does not have access to safe plumbing.”

In 2014, Randy attended a trade conference in Chicago, where he met a group of young engineers from Milwaukee. They exchanged business cards. In December, he received a call from the young engineers’ professor. He told Randy he would be sending two young engineers to Nashik, India, to work on a school upgrade project. The mission also required apprentice plumbers. He asked Randy if he would recommend two students from the technical college.

In 2015, Randy was asked to join team USA as a coach. Three other teams from around the world, and the USA team of two students from the Milwaukee School of Engineering and two plumbing apprentices from Fox Valley Technical College headed to India. The extraordinary experience changed not only the lives of those they helped, but it also changed their own lives in a very positive way.

The project was presented as a challenge to see which team could come up with the best redesign for the inefficiencies of the plumbing in a school with approximately 400 children ages 5-13.

The school is located in a very poor area of Nashik, which has a population of 1.4 million. The handwashing room was located between the boys’ and girls’ bathrooms. This meant the kids left the restrooms and had to go into another room to wash their hands. Randy commented, “Unfortunately many of them headed straight outside without washing their hands.”

There was a trough that served as a urinal in both the boys’ and girls’ restrooms. It was flushed on occasion with a bucket of water.

Team USA, coached by Lorge, won the project design. Handwashing stations were installed in each bathroom. The remodel also included new water piping for the bathrooms and installation of new flush valves for the urinals and new water taps for the sink faucets. Ventilation was also improved.

Teams from India, Australia and Spain helped with the completion of the project. In addition to the physical project, lesson plans were put together to teach the children the importance of handwashing.

Randy said, “We worked with the kids and taught them hygiene. Hopefully as they grow into adults, they will teach the next generation. There is no better gift that one can give to another than the gift that keeps on giving.”

In 2016, Randy traveled to Diepsloot, South Africa, a densely populated township north of Johannesburg. People who live in this area are generally down on their luck and are trying to work their way out. There are rows and rows of little shacks and huts. About 350,000 people live there with no indoor plumbing and no electricity.

There are 12 sets of public toilets that are used approximately 750 times a day. Although the government provided the toilets, no follow-up maintenance was provided. Raw sewage runs through yards and down streets. Randy commented, “Our group, with the support of the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials, built permanent replacements for port-a-potty type restrooms connected to public sewer and water. More importantly, we worked with locals, and we left a blueprint and prototype of the restroom so residents could continue to upgrade their community.”

On Sunday, Randy will leave on a 22-hour flight to Jakarta, Indonesia. He will be giving two presentations while there on how to maintain plumbing systems.

IWSH is a 501(c)(3) foundation whose mission is to foster the basic human right of safe access to clean water and sanitation. If interested in making a tax-deductible gift you can do so through the link IWSH.org.

Thank you Randy Lorge for your humanitarian accomplishments!

Trivia question: What restaurant did Steve and Chris Stead co-own in 1991?

Clothesline Conversation Answer: Homestead Cafe

Lorna Marquardt is a former mayor of Shawano.