If you’ve ever been to Kenya (some may accurately generalize – anywhere in Africa), you know that time is rarely of the essence. When you plan to meet a friend at 1pm, you know never to show up punctually at 1pm because you WILL wait anywhere from 30 minutes up to 2 hours for your friend to finally arrive.
In 2008, when we set our building completion date for December 1st, 2009 – in celebration of World AIDS Day – we knew we were setting ourselves up for a challenge. We gave ourselves 1 full year to design and build a solar powered community center … on a remote island in the middle of Lake Victoria, with no electricity, no vehicles, and a 3-hour wooden ferryboat ride between the mainland and our site at Kitawi Beach on Mfangano Island. We also decided to build this center as from our community—no outside contracting firms… We decided to build the EK center from local designs, with local sand and stones, with 100% local labor, and through local leadership.
Back in 2008, Adam Sewall, one our Kenya-based construction crew leaders and OHR founders, had highly recommended using an eco-friendly yet extremely durable building technique using ferro-cement. Its economical advantages and sustainable characteristics made it a desirable option for our vision of building – in its broadest sense – a long-lasting, ecologically sound, community owned and operated, public education and support center for the people of mfangano.
Learning the skill seemed to be invaluable to the islanders as a way to build stronger structures with less material. Ferro-cement took the cake and we all jumped aboard. Before we knew it, ferroism had taken over and we were all eating off of ferro-cement forks and wearing ferro-cement shoes.
So far, we’ve encountered only a few bumps along the way. Designed, built, and managed almost entirely by Kenyans, we are extremely proud of our work thus far. We continue to work hard to complete the roof, windows, doors, and interior details.
If you happen to be in the area (Mfangano Island, Lake Victoria, Kenya) stop in for a tour of the building, a game of football, and most importantly, a warm welcome. Our next steps of interior set-up and program implementation will begin in the Spring of 2010.