by Sam Elliott, Earthship Africa Project Manager
photo credit: Robert Eke
10 DAYS, 68 CREW, 92 KIDS, 200 LOCALS.
A Pay-it-Forward Project
Teaching locals OUR techniques
to build THEIR Earthship School.
This October 9th, a crew of 28 like minded folk met in Lungi Airport, Sierra Leone. Our mission was to build an Earthship Waldorf school in the Rokel Community, 14km east of Freetown. Among these 28, were 10 Earthship Crew, 7 Return-Interns, and 11 Humanitarian Interns all Lead by Mr. Mike Reynolds.
Arriving by bus into Rokel at 2am, we peered out the windows to see small candles light up the faces and waves of our new friends as they gathered outside their homes. 10 nationalities piled into our humble abode. We all stood around the table slightly jaded by our situation, took a second, and then began setting up mosquito nets by headlamp. All snuggly set-up, we nestled in for a some well needed z’s.
8am start. An additional 40 local Interns join us, making the crew total, 68. Mike had visited the site in April, determining the best location for the build on this 6.25 acre site. The crew began to layout the “Earthship Flower” from Mikes designs (which had a few “airplane-meeting” changes, with crew jumping over seats adding input- the main change being, the toilets would have separate vaults as seen in this updated plan).
We began pounding tires for the first two class rooms. Most of the materials and tools had not shown up yet. We persevered with man power, sticks and discarded tree roots. By midday the sledges arrived and the 4 tire level foundation was completed. At break time the 92 children would swarm to help with the build, by making plastic bottle bricks and singing “B.I.N.G.O”.
|Day Two: 7am start. Bond beam and tire pack-out
Day Three: Gray Water Planter and Black Water Cells
Day Four: Classroom 1 – Vault Rebar Construction
Day Five: Classroom 2 – Vault Rebar Construction
Day Six: Restroom 1&2 – Vault, Plumbing and Black Water Shell
Day Seven: Classroom 1&2 – Grass & Finish Plaster
Day Eight: Full Building Layout, Pounding tires for all 8 Classrooms
Day Nine: Concrete Slab, Shower Vault, Cistern Placement, Roof Finish Plaster
Day Ten: Plants, Retaining Planter Wall, and Graduation
Hundreds of locals visited the site during our stay. They fed us bananas, coconuts and our favorite, home-made donuts. At first they were confused by our building techniques, but once they saw the outcome, they exclaimed it “Very Fine”.
Each evening after enjoying a bucket shower, our Intern and Master Chef, Chester would whip us up a scrumptious meal, usually including his famous peanut sauce. Children played drums, danced, and the local crew would join us for game-plan discussions late into the night.
We poured blood, sweat and tears into this project, as the reality of how much our presence would assist them became clearer. The crew passed on building techniques and focused on the best workers, in the last few days a follow up crew became apparent. Mike gave a classroom type lecture, discussion, and question time to evaluate whether the information we were giving was being absorbed. It was. They were also hungry to build each others homes, even with the added hilarity that most Earthships were a “U” shape and not a square like all the buildings they’d seen before.
The foreign Interns that travelled from all corners of the globe were a blessing, they identified what was priority, worked extremely hard in heavy heat conditions, jumped into leadership rolls easily, and some integrated so well they became family to the community.
The existing school, made of lumber and tarps, had been threatened with closure, if a permanent structure was not completed, the Government would have seen it unfit.
Luckily all the right folks showed up, we worked as a team, teaching and learning from the locals. 16 locals have continued building. They have completed one class room and restroom since we have left. They intend on building another with the materials we left behind. All workers are being paid a fair local wage. The last 4 classrooms still need funding. The second part of this build will not be so costly with the locals trained and a working system for procuring the materials locally. My heart is warmed with the knowledge that the local community own this project and dependence on us is limited to funding. A Donation of $85,000 would complete the 8 Class Waldorf Earthship Flower School.
Written By: Sam Elliott, Earthship Africa Project Manager
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