Breaking ground at last!

Marking outBreaking groundHard at work

We are lucky to be given regular updates from Mark, the volunteer carpenter overseeing the start of the build. He is breaking ground at last! After a lengthy and bureaucratic process to purchase the land and get the necessary planning permissions, work has begun. Here is Mark's update from June 2017:

Breaking ground at last!

Five weeks ago when I emailed about the cow, I mentioned we had permission to start the new build. Well, that was a little bit hasty of me. What we had was only the first signature of a bureaucratic paper trail that has taken a lot longer to complete! Carl the manager has had to trek around a dozen different offices to collect all the relevant stamps and scrawls, but now at long last we are on site.

Building the new feed store for the cows at the children's centre over the last couple of weeks has been a good rehearsal. We dug the foundations and made the concrete for them by hand. We laid three courses of stone blocks and then a concrete floor. Then we raised a timber frame which was clad in corrugated steel sheets.

It has been a long time since I did this sort of work without the help of machinery. Doing it under a hot sun as well meant I had no trouble sleeping at night. Getting up some mornings was more of a problem!

Yesterday we set out the profiles (the little wooden post affairs in the pictures) so that we could run strings to show the trenches. Word had got around that there was digging to be done, so a steady stream of men and women trickled onto the site, all carrying djembes (a very efficient local style of mattock) and spades. The work didn't start until today but folk like to be early here.

This morning I rolled my clanking wheelbarrow of tools on site before eight, in front of thirty expectant faces. Maina the mason gathered everyone for the negotiation. Carl, the children's centre general manager, had told us to offer 20 Kshs a foot, which went down like a lead balloon. Thirty angry-sounding folk with djembes look quite menacing. They absolutely couldn't work for less than 30. Back to Carl on the phone, who offered 25, take it or leave it. They took it and leapt into action, everyone claiming a strip of ground and swinging at it furiously.

There were over 150 yards of trench to dig, two feet wide and two feet deep, and several large tree roots to lift from holes dug earlier in the week. All of this under a blazing Kenyan sun (London temperatures just now!). I suppose a JCB would have done the work in about four hours. We managed it in five for about a third of the cost (around £175). It is good to be reminded that big machines are not really that much better at doing these heavy tasks, the key factor is the cost of labour. So if you fancy building a pyramid, come to Kenya!

Posted in St Jeromes.