Friday, August 03, 2007

Building Workshop in Khartoum

Surviving the floods with some strong material!!!

Seeds planted are finally sprouting... After some intensive work finishing the country registration for our NGO, the country agreement, bank accounts, office space, phone numbers, technical agreements, etc. we are finally doing a teaching workshop under the auspices of the International Peoples' Friendship Council and Park. That means we are conducting the building workshop with one of the nonprofits that have land in the park (though the park itself is a government sponsored friendship bid) and are under the guidance of their engineers and architects. Our main goal for this exercise was to teach the technology to as many engineers and architects from NGOs in the whole of the Sudan and to the area universities.

[Homes for Sudan was particularly grateful for the assistance and donations of Imam Ahmed al Mahdi who provided us with transportation to and from the worksite.  We are immensely grateful for the Sudanese elites who have taken interest in the project and provided positive support such as Yousif Dafalla and Tawfig El Dawi who took on the projects while donating a huge amount of their valuable time and support.]

Preparation for a small exercise required fine details like buying shovels, picks and other work material.

Here you can see the ironmongers in the market sharpening one of our picks to build the foundation.

While the CEO and some of Khartoum's educated elites did the footwork of social visits to the various authorities like the major general who runs the park, the head of the International Friendship Society, a few ministers, and many architects and engineers, our architect Kate had charge of all of the building site and the teaching. She and Adlan (the architect from the Sudanese Austrian Friendship Society's Board) worked with the students, architects and engineers laying out the foundation and helping the laborers dig the foundation.

Laying out the foundation.

Working with the almost 100% clay soil in Khartoum proved to be quite a challenge. The soil was packed and hard and it made for a rather discouraging beginning even for the laborers who were being paid. The students and architects were great troopers, but did not get the instant reward of seeing quick progress for their work. Nevertheless, most of them stuck with us. Two engineers from Practical Action, one of the NGOs partnering with us, several architects from Newtech, a 'non profit' working with the park itself, and students from Khartoum University were among the participants.

The girls rock as workers here.

I came to Khartoum a couple of weeks before Kate and she kept writing from Boston asking about the rain that was reported on the news. I said in my newly learned Sudanese way 'no problem'.... it doesn't actually rain in Khartoum during the rainy season, only outside. Last year during July it only sprinkled once... Well... of course, Kate brought the rain with her and this is considered a blessing here... but.... the first big rain flooded out our foundation before we started.

The first flood.

We showed Nader Khalili's training video from the California Institute of Earth Art and Architecture three times. Once with the help of the Yemen Society, and twice with the help of Al Zubair Charity Foundation that is right next door to our building site. Both rather ironic, but building bridges as well as small houses is part of the whole philosophy and Al Zubair's Chairman, its engineer, its doctor, and just about everyone on the lot has been extremely helpful to us and good sports in sharing their water and electricity. We realize that working under such sparse conditions is good practice for Darfur and the periphery. We are sure that we will find such good support there.

Unloading the cement mixer from the truck.

Since the Khartoum soil is quite different from the sand in California and in many other places where these earth houses have been built, we consulted with the university and many architects and builders about the foundation and the mixture of earth/clay to lime for filling the sandbags. Everyone had a different opinion of course, so after testing the soil multiple times, discovering that the initial lot of lime that we ordered was not lime at all, we decided on a mix and composition for the foundation and the building.

Finally under Kate's capable guidance, the building started to take shape.

The Students from Khartoum University joined in and are being offered a certificate from the department of architecture.
There should be a group of capable and trained architects and engineers by the time we finish this trip. We are hoping that they can complete the structure and we can add the finishing touches when we return.

At last the building was taking shape ......

And then.....

The floods have been a blessing from God. The material is strong, and so far, the foundation is firm.
The students, engineers, workmen and foreman were wonderful to work with and there are many among them who are able to build on their own already. The Community Development Fund has proposed to pilot the material in Kordofan rebuilding a wall destroyed by the flood. As the dome progresses, we expect it to be copied. The general has proposed that the students design a cafeteria for the park using the material. We are all excited to see what comes next.

Laying the barbed wire on the sandbags.

No comments: