Thursday, 28th September 2017
Our trainees helping to build a future
The 2017 trip to Swaziland for the “Build A Future” project run by All Out Africa, consisted of Amy Arnold, Andrew Provost, Benny Feddon, Jack Duggan, James Ananthakumar, James Buchan, Ollie Davis and Erica Denman.
Prior to departure the team raised £5,487 for the trip. Some of this money was donated to All Out Africa, some spent on materials for the building project and the rest was spent on books, shoes, stationary and toys for donation to the kids at the NCPs. Over the past 13 years, All Out Africa, their superb builder Michael and an army of volunteers, have built six Neighbourhood Care Points (NCPs). These are mostly in rural areas and serve as a centre for local orphaned and vulnerable kids to come and eat, play and get pre-school education. Each NCP has a classroom, toilets and kitchens with the larger ones having play areas and shelters. Women from the local community teach the kids every morning and are often assisted by volunteers from around the world through All Out Africa. There are now about three hundred kids attending such NCPs.
THE TOUR – A RECAP FROM TOUR LEADER, ERICA DENMAN:
Our time at London Heathrow was considerably improved by the appearance of Jack and Ollie who had schlepped halfway across London with their own suitcases plus two huge, and somewhat rickety, bags of the sort preferred by your market trader peddling goods on the street and not at all suitable for a long haul flight! After repacking their items for donation into more secure cases we checked in and settled down for an eleven hour flight to Johannesburg followed by a four hour bus transfer to Swaziland. The boredom of the transfer was alleviated somewhat by a cheeky Nandos located by a watering hole where, among other things, zebras, rhinos, wildebeast and ostriches were drinking, or perhaps just watching us at the equivalent of our watering hole?
Our first day consisted of an introduction to the project we would be working on, followed by a walking tour of the local area and finishing with a braai in the village. For the first time in four years this trip took place in September which meant we could witness the Reed Dance. All the women in Swaziland are invited to attend the Reed Dance where they sing, dance and carry a bunch of reeds in a huge parade for the King. During this ceremony the King can then choose his bride for the year. There are conflicting reports but he currently has between eleven and fifteen wives.
After this unique introduction to Swaziland, we started work at the Nkhanini NCP. In 2015 a Walter Lilly group started the construction of the classroom, kitchen, shelter and toilets here. By 2017 three of those buildings were finished, along with some swings and a seesaw, and about 15 local kids are regularly attending classes. Our task for this trip was to complete the shelter for the kids to eat and play in during their morning break. Given that the temperatures were averaging 35 – 37 degrees I am not sure if we, or the kids, were looking forward to the completed shelter more!
The team were exceedingly pleased to see that the foundations had already been dug by the 2015 group, but in two years a lot of grass had grown, so we still had quite a job clearing the trenches and removing the top layer of soil (it hasn’t rained in seven months so the ground was quite compact). By mid morning we had a beautiful surface on which to start the build. We mixed up the first batch of concrete (using spades and wheelbarrows only) for the foundations and then laid our first few lines of blocks.
Using a string line and tape measure (who needs paperwork, setting out and datums?) we set out the timber posts which would hold the roof. We then placed them in blocks, poured concrete around the posts and set up a cunning arrangement of pickaxes, rakes and blocks to hold everything in place whilst the concrete dried.
By the end of day two we had made good progress with the blocks (some hidden talents in bricklaying were discovered) and, more importantly, our concrete mixes were improving in quality – as we discovered the ideal consistency looks much like a runny cow pat.
Next up was levelling the ground to create a pathway around the building. Cue some impressive / sweaty pickaxe action from the boys, with a well earned rest after.
By day four we had finished the walls and started on the roof. We constructed the structure of the roof with timber beams then nailed down sheets of corrugated iron to finish.
The roof was up, walls were done, now it was time for the weekend where we would be staying up in the hills in a nature reserve called Malolotja. Our Saturday night started with a beautiful sunset and finished around a bonfire and huge barbeque, all setting us up nicely for our zip lining trip on the Sunday.
On Monday we started levelling the floor inside our shelter, laying the blocks for the seats and laid a smooth finish to the walls. A full on debate, with Benny as our model, followed when it was discovered we could layout the seating any which way we wanted.
On Tuesday the kids were at the NCP for the start of their new term…they welcomed us with constant cuddles and we then handed out shoes, sunglasses, books, pens and paper. There were some toys in our goody bags but by far the most popular gifts were the bubbles (and not just with the kids). Other popular activities included climbing all over us at every opportunity, wearing our sunglasses and having their picture taken.
Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons saw us at Homework Club. This has been running for a couple of years now and gives the kids a chance to go through their reading and maths in a more structured environment than that which they might have at home. Or indeed, simply a chance to challenge (and beat) Jack to some press-ups.
By the end of the two weeks we had completed the structure, with rather fetching seating and a gravel floor finish. Our last task was the Walter Lilly logo which was beautifully crafted by the team using a t-shirt, ruler, block of wood and some stones. Everyone can be very proud of their hard work in sweltering conditions (an African heatwave puts ours to shame). The team worked exceptionally well together to produce another fine build, completed ahead of schedule and with some very happy clients to boot!
For more photos of the trip, visit our facebook or flikr page.