De building continues

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I’m back home in the Netherlands again, but the building is continuing. Joash is doing a great job of organizing and Joseph is doing the same with building as our contractor. The upstairs walls have been going up, as well as the kitchen and toilets building. The same goes for the doors and windows, outer wall and even the front gate. It’s really starting to look like the real thing!

The first pictures are the drawings as originally put forward. There have been a couple of changes: the toilet building has slightly different divisions, the stairs a different direction. Nothing big; just more practical in use. Continue reading

Time to go

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The building is going fine. The walls are now being done for the kitchen and toilets, as well as the outside wall. The concrete floor for upstairs is still drying, after which the walls for upstairs will go up.

Of course, when I leave the building will continue. I will continue to communicate with the people here, but then we will be back to e-mail, WhatsApp, and pictures.

My time is up here. It is been great and very useful; we have accomplished a lot. I am very grateful for all the input by all the participants.

I actually have kind of a hangover – tired, encouraged, hopeful, but still have the feeling that I could have stayed longer to get even more done. It all went so fast.

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The next phase

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The lower floor of the main building is done for now. Later the cement floors will be smoothed with another layer, and the walls plastered. The electrician is busy with planning and putting conduit in the walls. We’re also putting in extra conduit to be able to wire solar panels (in the future?) and electrical meters in each of the rooms that may be rented out in the future.

They have now started the walls for the kitchen, toilets, and outer wall surrounding the center. This is being carried with the same expertise we have become accustomed to. Joseph the contractor, and Joash, our jack-of-all-trades, who is continuously peddling between the site, suppliers, the bank, etc. to keep things moving. Continue reading

The upper floor

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We’re on a roll now. The record-breaking rain has slowed things down a bit; I walk around in my rubber boots and sometimes an umbrella – the workers keep going, and only head for shelter when it really starts pouring. The mud is bad in the dirt streets, but not any more on the building site.

The floor upstairs is going according to the description last time and is now drying. This process will take three weeks. In that time the supports will remain, making the building look like a jungle of wooden poles.

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So how do we build?

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Our building will be a solid, well-built structure that will last for years. Getting it there is quite a different story than what happens in the Western World.

Building is literally done by hand here. The rule of “only touch once” for stones, sand, ballast (pieces of stone in cement for reinforcement) doesn’t work here.

The trenches for the foundation are dug out by hand. That’s easily said, as they had to go down to six feet to reach the rock base solid enough to carry the load of the building. For the pillars they actually went deeper. Try throwing the dirt out of there with only a shovel!

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The first stone

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When you put up a building, the first phase of preparing the ground and laying the foundation takes a long time, and you really don’t see a building coming up. That changes when the walls can finally start.

The original founder of Matunda, Fred Mukolwe, honored us by laying the symbolic first stone. This he did with our longest young member, Michael Njore. The two did a good job, and when finished, the others took over with laying quite a few “first stones”. It was a momentous occasion for all. When you see where the kids are at now, and what the future building will look like, you can really appreciate why everyone is excited.

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The walls are going up

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After that symbolic first stone came the others. The walls are going up quickly, then comes the upper floor. The next time I’ll describe the process of building, but for now, just look at the pictures.

These guys are hard workers, not in the last place determined by the sheer number of unemployed. Don’t do a good job, you’re out of a job.

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The kids

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Yup, the kids of Matunda; that’s what’s it all about. They’re all local kids that don’t have at home what all kids need: a good roof over their heads, enough good food, parents or those who will love and take care of them, an education, and good examples from adults on of how to live their lives. And these kids don’t – or at least they didn’t.

We feed them, get them medical attention when needed, and simple schooling. Certainly just as important is keeping them off the streets (the wrong crowd, sniffing glue, child prostitution), giving them a positive example and positive interactive life style, including just being able to safely play with other children.

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In the area

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As I make my way to and from Matunda each day, I go along many make-shift shops, and over a large empty field that is used as a road, for congregating, and playing soccer. Within a day I had been greeted many, many times by especially the young kids, with, “How are you?”, often first with “Hey, mzungu” (white person). They don’t always know the answer when I answer, but they try. “Fine, how are you?” always gets them smiling (and me).

I feel safe here. Most people know us in the area around our project, and would probably protect us, if it came to that. Still you leave your watch, jewelry, and camera at home, and don’t go out at night alone. I also keep an eye on anyone behind me, but those are normal, and I hope, logical precautions.

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Rainy season

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It’s now the rainy season, which, of course, means it rains a lot. I wish the Netherlands was regulated like this, as it rains mostly at night, and sometimes in the morning. When the sun comes out again, it’s relatively quickly dry, but the mud will get you. In the slums, the runoff is a slight ditch dug in the ground, or just the natural small ditches meandering through the neighborhood, with contents we don’t want to talk about.

Digging in that wet, muddy ground was very heavy work for our workers. They have to go through the ground to hit the deeper bedrock that will serve as the base for the building. The base of the foundation is at six feet (two meters), and the base of the pillars at eight.

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