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Swawou Project Week 06 - April Fools

We almost completed Block A by close of play on Saturday. One final push would have been necessary to get it finished before the sun went down, but the wind picked up, grey clouds loomed, and by the time we got everything into the car and store room, the heavens opened! We ran to take cover under the Officers' Mess across the street and the workers had to wait out the rain. The rain is good for the brickwork though as it strengthens the blocks. Usually fired mud blocks would be produced before the rainy season and then left out to catch the water, making them stronger to use. In our case, the bricks are fresh off the clam and so at the end of every day and beginning of every morning we water the building to ensure the bricks soak up the water they require to strengthen. They also turn from a dirty orange mud colour to a beautiful rusty burnt red during this process; it changes the whole look of the building.

We had a small team this week cutting blocks down to size, as our most recent supply was far too big for the current wall construction - one of many difficulties building in Africa! Paul set them up with the generator and angle grinders and taught them how to cut each brick. Their pace is certainly good, cutting hundreds a day and getting nice and dusty in the process! WE had to move the tent to cover the generator so it wouldn’t get too hot, which was a laugh as the locals thought it was hilarious to see the pumoi (white men) carrying the tent for the shade of the black men!

As the building forms it is starting to change the feel of the place, the local team are delighted to see what is being produced, some of them in absolute marvel at what we are creating. They told us that they have never seen a building like this in Sierra Leone, and no buildings are of this level of beauty. It’s humbling that they appreciate what we are trying to achieve and it encourages them to take pride over their work and their responsibilities. However hectic the day's work, the workers and the building make it all worthwhile!

This is sports season for schools, so this week we saw the nearby football field filled with hundreds of children from different schools as they participated in their school sports day. There was music and a procession and we were even visited on site by the local Women's Institute mascot – a devil - which was an entertaining experience. The workers on site told Kirsty to run and hide from the ‘Woman Devil’ and she was running around the IT suite and Staff block through the openings trying to hide and get away from it!

On Tuesday, the first of April, the workers played an April Fools on Spencer; he went off site to pick up some things and when he came back they ran and hid behind the walls, when he got out the car, one of the remaining workers told him Kirsty was in the store and he headed off in that direction before everyone burst out from behind the building shouting April Fools. It was a lovely way to use the building, and an enjoyable morning with the workers. It’s great to find mutual similarities across our two cultures.