Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Notes from the field

Joel digs a trench around the tent shared by the five from Kampala as a storm threatens

So far, we have had little time to write but we do want to share some stories from the last few days. There have been so many funny and trying moments it is impossible to relay them all but here are some that stick out in our minds. These are more like notes than stories but they are better than nothing.

A couple days in, we had a visit from the city engineer who threatened to stop the project. He claimed we needed an approved building and site plan – paying to approve building locations for buildings that may be built sometime in the future - and we needed to hire an architect to do so. Although I could see his point, few building sites ever go through this process. Nelson said he was just trying to get a bribe from us. Fortunately for the project, Nelson is well connected. The Ugandan Minister of Defense is a friend of his and will assist us if necessary. Incidentally, the minister is also planning to throw us a party at the completion of the school and he is a big supporter of Ground Breaker construction (the doctor at Makerere who sold is the machine also built a house for the minister).

Pete and Nat with the afternoon session students

Lunch of posho and beans is prepared daily for the students
Home sweet home

It has been a bit difficult to track who is working and who is watching, despite our efforts of trying to keep onlookers way from the site. Today there were people working who Russ didn’t recognize. As is turns out, some of the workers, who we have been trying to train on a daily basis, decided to work in their fields and send their uncles instead.  Today, Nat and I are going to look for reflective vests in Kasese to make the workers more identifiable.

Pouring the first foundation
Our construction methods have changed a few times over the last few weeks and some materials have come down in price. As a result our overall construction costs have come down slightly. Now, with the foundation of the first building complete, we have decided to dig and frame the foundation for the second three room classroom block. We are not sure if we will continue too far with the building of that structure but we will at least get it started. We will have to see what we can scrape together to make that building happen. It would be fantastic to at least come close to finishing the second building too. It is both painful and inspiring to see over 600 students cram themselves into three small rooms to get any education they can get their hands on.

It took about a week to build the foundation for the first foundation, here are the costs (minus a significant prior investment in tools and equipment that will remain with the school). Generous wages for 17 workers, with a range of abilities, $84/day. Two meals a day for those workers, $111/week. Two truckloads of hand-pounded gravel (making big rocks into small rocks with a hammer), $133, delivery included. Two truckloads of sand, $71. Twenty three bags of cement, $235. Wood for framing, roughly $200 - but much of that was cut from the forest and milled by hand before our arrival and can be reused.

As you can see, after all the expensive prep to make this project happen, it is not outrageously expensive to do the building itself. We have the skilled workers here and everyone is happy to work. It’s now time to stretch our shillings.

The building site

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