Wednesday, September 28, 2005

BRICKS FOR GANDO : Each Member Of A Community Has A Duty To The Whole

This is my favorite type of "Self Help" story. It's a story about one individual who takes it upon herself, or himself to fix a situation that needs to be fixed. This article about Diébédo Francis Kéré and Gando Village is one of those stories.

Diébédo Francis Kéré comes from Gando village in Burkina Faso and is founder of the "Bricks for schools for Gando Project." Because the "Bricks for schools for Gando Project" is basically supported in Germany, it's real name is the "Schulbausteine für Gando e. V."

Below is a statement by Diébédo Francis Kéré about his project. I tried to paraphrase it for the article, but finally decided that he has stated it much more eloquently than I ever could.

"In traditional Africa each member of a family is responsible for the well-being of all other members. Each member of a community in my homeland has a duty to the whole community. Each individual is indispensable for the survival of the community.
If one member of the community leaves in search for a better life, he tries to compensate his loss by sending back financial aid.

"I am in precisely that situation and wish to fulfill my part of this social duty, the "being there for each other".

"The difference to the usual procedure is that I wish to provide my family and the community as a whole with a solution which reaches beyond financial support.

"My presence in Europe has allowed me to look further beyond the horizon than most of my compatriots. Among other things I have realized that school education and training are the basis of any social, professional and economic development.

"For this reason it is vital that a school is provided for my village and that it is made accessible to as many children as possible."

Diébédo Francis Kéré says that his members of his village community approached him with a request that he help them save their school, which was in a virtual state of collapse. At the time, Kéré was studying architecture at the Technical University of Berlin.

Kéré came upon the idea of asking his fellow students to buy one or two symbolic stones for a school in his village in Africa. He compared the cost of the stones to the cost of an "extra cup of coffee." With the success of this effort, he was encouraged to found the Schulbausteine für Gando e. V. Association as a non-profit organization in 1999. The goals of the Association were to promote education, health, and development aid in the village of Gando.

The village of Gando itself consists of approximately 2,500 members who live in homesteads occupied by different generations of the same families. The majority of the members of the village community work abroad in order to earn money for their families back home.

The Association has created a "Whole Development Concept" that now includes not only the building of the school, but the construction of teachers' housing, a water collection unit and latrines.

The Association's web site states that all projects "initiated and carried out by the association should be a model of help to self-help". The village community has been included in the process from the beginning. And the school was built prior to the other projects because, as a place of learning, it was seen as the basis for the whole development.

In the construction of the School, the idea was to modify the building materials and construction principles in order to adapt traditionally temporary clay building methods to produce long-term, climatically high quality results. I imagine that Kéré's architectural training had something to do with this idea.

The Association's web site says that providing suitable housing for teachers in rural areas is a problem in Burkina Faso because the clay used in housing construction (which is the most readily and freely available local building material) does not remain aligned permanently. The higher cost of the much better suited cement building materials are problematic because the village communities often cannot afford them. In the past, little experimentation has been done to try to improve the quality of the clay available to the rural communities. This is because there is no great demand for the clay. As a consequence of these factors, the unsuitable accommodations are one of the deterrents to teachers accepting positions in rural schools.

So, it becomes clear that Kéré's work has a relevance not only for Gando, but or other rural communities in Burkina Faso as well. Modifying the clay to make suitable residential building material can possibly have a lasting positive effect on development.

Schulbausteine für Gando e. V. Association has many partners and supporters, including institutes within architectural faculty of the Technical University of Berlin. There are also many individual supporters who have a great deal of experience in development aid.

The Association is currently working with several German schools on both the primary and secondary levels.

And a partner organization within Burkino Faso is Locomat, which is a project organized by the Burkinabe Ministry for Infrastructure. Locomat works to spread the use of local building materials within Burkino Faso.
The Association says that it also takes on trainees, helps individuals to arrange for internship placements in Burkina Faso and offer planning advice to other organizations. They say that they are always looking for other organizations that are involved in similar activities, so if the "Bricks for schools for Gando Project" sounds like the type of thing you would like to "Check Out," go to their website at: Bricks For Schools .

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