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Swawou Project Week 12 - Friends From Afar

This has been the most energetic fun filled jam packed week of the whole project! James and his team of student volunteers from the Welsh Architecture School arrived and were put to work immediately. They’ve been involved in on site activities such as pouring concrete and making timber scaffolding, painting the mural and painting windows and doors, to off site workshops with a local carpenter to design the new school furniture. A big distraction for the workers on site, they’ve enjoyed having these new ‘pumoi’ (white men) around, asking them all sorts of questions, interested in where they all come from – there are some international students – and getting to know them.

With the extra man power we’ve pushed to get the roof of Block B and the Kitchen up and the welders have been putting it together. We managed to concrete the ring beam in Block C and one of our talented masons plastered the back wall of the toilet block to provide a blank canvas for visiting Becky to paint a mural on. She spent last week with the girls at the school doing plenty of workshops and generating ideas for the mural. This week with the help of our student volunteers, and enthusiastic workers they’ve managed to begin the mural, which will continue to be painted with the girls from the school after Becky returns to the UK.

Peter has been busy each day photographing portraits of individual workers, volunteers, and school girls and interviewing them on their thoughts about the school and what they like about it and what they have learnt or taken away from the project. It’s been a lovely exercise and we can’t wait to see the end results which will be exhibited in the near future.

The masons have been all over the shop this week, between block supply dry spells, we’ve had them plastering the ring beams, snagging the rest of the building and making good any defects, creating some external landscaped areas from the bad blocks and helping out with the lifting of the roof – some of them are nice and tall!

We’ve had plenty of rain as the imminent arrival of the rainy season descends and with that follows ridiculously hot sunny afternoons. Even the workers complaining about the heat! So we’re especially keen to get the roofs on as soon as possible and the ceilings installed so internal works can begin. We intend on making the most of all our spoiled bricks by crushing them down and putting them in the screeds and wall plaster mixes to give a nice burnt red colour.

The students are living at a guesthouse which is a twenty minute walk from site through the area of Ngombu, a lovely area with a small market and where most of our workers are based. We visited a few of their residences and met some of their family this week reinforcing just how interactive this project is with the local community and the impact it has made in the short space of time we’ve been building. Seeing the building from across the river valley that separates Ngombu from the Swawou School is breathtaking.