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Supporting global community projects

16 October 2017

Supporting global community projects

Students from the Welsh School of Architecture have been part of a team of volunteers who have spent their summer helping to rebuild a community school in Zambia.

The Shiyala school project was initiated by the charity Mothers of Africa, led by Professor Judith Hall from Cardiff University’s School of Medicine. It has been designed and managed by Orkidstudio, a design/build non­profit organisation set up by Welsh School of Architecture alumnus James Mitchell.

The project began in July, with a borehole being installed to ensure a clean water supply for the village of Shiyala, and foundations for the school being dug. Houses for teachers and toilet facilities also make up part of the project. The work was undertaken by a number of student volunteers from the Welsh School of Architecture and across Cardiff University, as well as the local villagers, who were paid for their work. This approach provides a boost to the local economy and equips residents with relevant construction experience for future projects.

Current BSc Architecture student Lewis Evans participated in the build during the summer.

“I chose to join the project because I felt Mothers of Africa and Orkidstudio were organisations that really worked quite closely with the local community. When I went to their talks they were telling stories about the people and the projects they’ve made with them and how they’ve trained local people to build. This was something I saw as important when foreign organisations seek to assist less developed areas where the culture can be so different and at times sceptical of modern thinking.

“It was my first time staying in a third world country, and there’s a real difference between seeing environments like that on TV and putting yourself in the situation that really encourages you to think about and value what you have so much more. I also have a real interest in construction, and there’s a huge difference between drawing and designing buildings (usually on computers) on our course and getting involved with the real grittiness and excitement of a building site. I’ve always had an interest in how building responds to the social issues in our society, and visiting a place where the issues are so desperate and at their extreme made it very clear to me how necessary it is for architects and people in all sectors to care about improving our society.

“The project was also an amazing opportunity to travel and see the stunning natural beauty of Africa; we travelled to Livingstone where we saw the Victoria Falls and were blown away by the wildlife on safari – it really was a phenomenal end to the trip!”

The build has been financed with the help of the Welsh School of Architecture, Cardiff University’s Global Opportunities Centre, the charity Mothers of Africa, the Salus Charity Foundation, and private funders.

The school build was completed in September. The District Education Board will npw supply qualified teachers in order for the 300 children who live in the area to have access to a sustainable, meaningful education.

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