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Back on Site in Sierra Leone

Two years ago, at the start of 2014, we started work on the Swawou Layout Primary School for Girls in Kenema, Sierra Leone. After five months, and with a building nearing completion, we were forced to stop work due to the rapidly growing Ebola virus outbreak. Kenema, in the east, received the country's first confirmed cases of Ebola and fast became one of the hotspot towns of epidemic. 

Despite clear challenges in maintaining an incomplete building over ensuing wet seasons and without proper supervision, the alternative of running an active construction site during a major health epidemic presented much more concerning risks with the chance of disease spread increasing dramatically when bringing larger groups together and through physical contact. Over the two years since, we're delighted to report that none of the men and women who worked on the project contracted Ebola though many are now living elsewhere, having fled to safer regions of the country. Those who have remained or returned to Kenema have been back on site as we started work on completing the construction at the start of the new year.

Neglected for almost two years, the school had become overgrown with moss and algae, and long grasses had grown up and swamped whole sections of the building. After a large clean-up job, we were delighted to find that the building had survived well and could be restored to its original condition. Led by our project manager, Andrew Perkins, a large community team have spent the past five weeks clearing site and working hard to complete the school ready for the girls to start lessons in by March.

The biggest job involved fitting hundreds of corrugated roofing sheets onto the steel frame that raises the roofline high above the ceilings and internal spaces, ensuring that rainwater is kept at bay but keeping inside temperatures down. The pitch of each roof is angled against the driving wet season rains which come in from the Atlantic, and open towards the hotter, dry season winds to encourage seasonal cooling and climate protection.

With just one week left till completion, we are excited for the pupils and teachers to move in two years later than planned! More updates will follow, as the girls begin their lessons and Swawou gets back on track following a very challenging couple of years.