how did you get started?
the morning of our first day we carried out a few odd jobs to get the
accommodation straight and then we were ready to start work. We had asked
that the local contractor be paid to get the foundations dug and the pad
down before we arrived and that was done exactly as asked.
first working day....
It had also
been arranged that the local villagers, as their contribution to the project,
would make all the building blocks in advance for us. They had made quite
a few but not as many as we had hoped, it was touch and go over the first
few days as to whether they would keep up with us- we did use a few blocks
before they had really hardened but with no ill effect.
about the heat?
first day we tried to work in the afternoon but it rapidly became obvious
that that was a non-starter. From 1pm until 4ish it was too hot. Every
day it was in the high 40°C or low 50s and on at least 3 days it was
in excess of 55°C. We
ended up with a working day of 7am to 1pm and 4.30pm to 6.30pm, daylight
was 7am to 7pm so this fitted in well.
We had arranged
for 12 locals to join us on the site as volunteers and that arrangement
worked very well. Although they were all men as opposed to our 5 men and
7 ladies they were a mixture of ages and abilities. Some of them spoke
little English but we all got on very well and at times their knowledge
of local materials and building methods proved invaluable.
us more about the work involved...
very rapidly with the skills that some of the local volunteers had and
the enthusiasm which we all had. We soon formed up into groups, some cement
mixing, some block laying and others doing the all important general work
so it wasn’t very long before we needed scaffolding.
scaffolding - not quite up to it!
very briefly, the local version of scaffolding made with a few branches
tied together, but decided that it would be safer to hire metal scaffolding
as the building was higher than usual. Although the building was large
at 10 metres by 40 metres it soon reached its target height of just over
We then cut
and wired steel rods together for the re-enforced ring beam which ran
right round the building. A lot of concrete was mixed, carried up the
scaffolding and poured into this beam and it was finally finished during
start the roof then, we spent Friday and Saturday demolishing and rebuilding
a cattle trough in the village. It had been damaged some time ago but
the village could not afford the repairs.
We were able to renovate the village “Lavoir” that had suffered
a lot of wear and tear over the years. These local repairs were financed
by money raised in Jersey during our preparation and we felt they would
be of benefit to the whole community.
you manage to finish everything?
the final week dawned we started on the roof. First, by good team work,
we manually hauled up the huge metal A frames, no cranes here(!), then
bolted them into position before nailing in the wooden cross struts.
on the roof - no crane!
first few were in place we started fitting the roofing sheets. We were
using steel profile sheets which are much more hard wearing than corrugated
iron and also much heavier. One slight problem towards the end was that
the last few sheets had to be cut for ridge pieces and nothing in our
tool kit or anywhere in the village was powerful enough to cut it. We
had to get our “shopper” to get an angle grinder from Town.
As this took
time it meant, unfortunately, that we were not able to fit those last
few pieces before our time in Sohm came to an end.
there any celebrations to mark the end of your stay?
the last afternoon we held a party in the almost completed building for
all those who had worked with us and for us. During the emotional speeches
I handed over the building to the Jersey Gambia Schools Trust on behalf
of Jersey Overseas Aid and marked the occasion by presenting a plaque
carved by one of the team. This will be displayed on the outside of the
building when it is opened later in the year.
on that last day made us realise just how much we had achieved in one
short month and we all felt justly proud of our efforts. We had provided
food for the party, many “western” things but a rice dish
for those who preferred the traditional fare. Our guests of course went
first and by the time we ate there was only the rice dish left!
During the party we distributed gifts to all the site workers and all
the domestic helpers. In return all the team were given a Jersey Gambia
Schools Trust tee shirt from the trust and from the community each person
was given a large bag of groundnuts which, knowing their poverty, was
to each other
For an open
and live debate on this or any subject that matters to you why not visit
the BBC Jersey message boards and start a discussion on the subject.
comments in our discussions on this site the message boards allow for
live debate and discussion so visit get talking by visiting the message