Engineering Abroad – A Civic Engineer Makes a Difference in Uganda
Civic Engineer’s Design Engineer, David Shodeke has recently returned from volunteering leave working on an incredible project called Kathy’s Centre in Uganda. Here, he shares his experience of the project so far and his recent time there;
The construction of Kathy’s Centre is a collaboration between two charities, Act4Africa and Engineers for Overseas Development. They have come together to create the centre which will be a kindergarten and health centre that will leave a lasting legacy for the people of Mayuge, Uganda.
The centre is named after Kathy Smedley, the co-founder of Act4Africa, who worked tirelessly for 15 years for the women of Uganda. Having lost her own battle with illness in 2014, Kathy’s Centre is a legacy project that will bring together the issues that mattered to her most – HIV prevention, gender equality, and the rights of women and girls to a healthy life, an education and an ability to prosper.
Since January 2016, I have been involved with Engineers for Overseas Development (EfOD), helping to design and plan the construction of the centre. Planning and design have been extremely challenging as we have had limited information on the quality of materials, ability of labour and even the condition of the site. All of this has meant that sections of design were based on multiple assumptions and in some cases, various designs had to be produced to allow us to be prepared for differing site conditions.
In August 2016, the first pair of UK volunteers (EfOD members) flew out to Uganda to start the enabling works and gather information for the design and construction teams in the UK. Since then tremendous progress has been made on site.
I flew out to Uganda a few weeks ago to spend two weeks working on the project. My trip was incredible. During my time there I spent every day on site overseeing and helping with the construction and most evenings were spent working on drawings and checking details. The project was running behind schedule but we made good progress. The main areas I got heavily involved in were;
- The construction of the suspended slab for the ecosan toilet
- Digging the foundations of the shelter
- Completing the construction of the timber trusses and lifting them into place
- Digging a 40m trench for a fresh water pipe.
- Fixing windows and doors
Whilst exhausting, I was very proud of what the team achieved. It was also amazing to see and hear how incredibly grateful the local people are for our help. They made me feel very welcome and it was an experience I will never forget.
I thoroughly enjoy working for EfOD and have learnt a wide range of construction techniques as a result. I have also relished seeing the remarkable progress that the team and local labour have made and feel proud to have played my part in helping to engineer and construct the centre. The centre is due to be finished in January 2017 and it will make a huge difference to the lives of local people.