It has now been almost 12 weeks since I arrived in the community of Sachibondu and first set eyes on the roofless spaces and courtyards which were to become the new hospital which when completed will serve thousands of people. I knew that I would learn a lot through my experience on the project but I did not expect to learn as much as I have from the people here and I never expected to become as attached as I have to this beautiful place and my on-site family.
Having finished their breakfast on site, our team of over 140 local community members awaits the start of the morning meeting.
Over the months I have not only seen the building progress but also the confidence and skills of many of the workers grow and develop. Those who have been employed as unskilled general workers have gradually been trained in various on-site trades; bricklaying, carpentry, reinforced concrete components and plastering. And those who were hired as trained bricklayers have learnt new ways of building with brick that they thought previously impossible, whilst the carpenters have been pushed to challenge their skills in joinery and learn new ways to work with timber.
Felix, 50, is a trained bricklayer. Having first found the idea of vaulted brick roofs quite amusing, he has become one of our most skilled and accurate roof-builders.
A large part of what Orkidstudio try to promote is education and gender equality and this project is no exception. In Sachibondu we employ a large female workforce, and it is hugely encouraging to see a mix of women of all ages and backgrounds; ranging from young single mothers, trained bricklayers and carpenters to grandmothers, for most of whom this is their first taste of employment. It invokes such a sense of pride to see the dedication these women throw into the job and the gratefulness and excitement on their faces when they begin to learn new skills they never thought were an option. But what is even more encouraging is the acceptance within the male construction team to encourage, motivate and teach the unskilled women, and to learn from those who have more skill or experience than themselves.
Miriam, 28, (right) started working with us on our brick production team, making over 350,000 bricks. She has since joined our team learning to build interior walls using the same bricks she helped produce.
Even the barriers of age and the tradition of the 'elder' seems to be slowly changing here. In a community where so much tradition is rooted in the respect of your elders it is unusual to see an older person accepting direction or teaching from a younger member of the community. But on site it is possible to see young workers teaching their elders in different trades or tasks. This is a new way of thinking that is, if nowhere else, at the very least working it's way into the minds of the construction team; everyone irrespective of their age or gender has something to contribute to others.
Prisca, 22, and Marjorie, 26, have been working on roof masonry, general bricklaying and plastering gaining new skills from those around them.
The building of this hospital appears to have brought a great deal of joy and purpose to many people's lives. There are smiles, encouraging words and so much laughter heard across site each day and I can't help but compare the attitudes of many of the workers here to my own experience of the construction industry in the UK. Here, there is a huge sense of comradeship and family and the workers so willingly open their lives to one another.
Men and women of all ages and abilities work together to build the Hospital's vaulted brick roofs.
Like all those who have been involved in the construction of this hospital I shall find it very difficult to part from Sachibondu and the people who have poured their dreams, skill and pride into the building of the project. And I desperately hope that the legacy of equality and education that Orkidstudio have tried to promote here will take permanent root in this community.
Nivea, 38, joined our team with no previous construction experience and is now a critical member of our brick-laying workforce.
Written by Natasha Ho, Extern Project Manager