Imagine constructing a large clinic (hospital?) of more than 20 rooms on a hill with the following:
Volunteers from the community help Phebian feed the workers and help the construction team with various jobs. Yesterday over 100 youth from Koidu volunteered all day. The local radio station even interviewed them giving the project some nice publicity.
Over 22,000 concrete blocks made by hand on site
The wood for the rafters was obtained in the forest about 15 miles away. Our crew went into the forest, identified the trees, cut them down and then paid young men to literally carry out the logs 5 miles to the nearest road to load on a truck and take to the sawmill in Koidu.
The foundations and septic tanks all dug out by hand. The clinic is on 3 levels because it was built on a hill and so lots of leveling has occurred. No tractors, caterpillar earth moving equipment etc.
All rafters cut to length on site with hand saw
No concrete mixer
Scaffolding is all homemade
No building inspectors
No hard hats
Conduit for electrical wiring is chiseled out of the concrete block wall
Plumbing is chiseled out of the concrete floor
The basic crew is about 28-30 men led by a construction engineer (think Mark Herskind) with Phebian and Joshua providing overall decision making and support. Phebian also provides housing for the engineer and some of his team and also feeds them every day!
At one time the site buzzes with activity. Men making blocks, carrying large buckets of sand on their heads, nailing rafters, laying block, sawing wood, mixing concrete.
Two unintended, but excellent, consequences of this building project is that it is providing meaningful work for at least 30 men for much of one year. Also it is abundantly clear that this community is engaged and incredibly excited and proud of this project. It truly is being built by Sierra Leonians for their community.
When I first saw the site earlier this week I was excited and overwhelmed by the scope of the project and the challenge of keeping this place going. But I was also a little impatient to get it done. But now after being here a few days I am realizing how amazing it is to see this being built in such have manner by hand. And I am confident the clinic will succeed because the community has invested itself.
Our mobile clinic today was in Jaima. Much calmer than yesterday. Mostly chronic diseases (has abundant clean water, 2 well functioning clinics and a high school). Gives one Hope that better health is possible if done in a more holistic fashion.
Tonight Steph, Karlin and I went on a 45 minute run (could not get Phebian to run). We braved the stares and smiles of the villagers and I almost got heat stroke at the end. But it was worth it.
another clinic. This time in Tefeya. Probably the village with greatest need.
This country is an amazing and vibrant place. It has a way of grabbing your heart and not letting go.