Having a look at the construction area of the pre-school – impressions and pictures by Madlen Ehrlich

At the construction site of the pre-school of Boboyo in Cameroon
In December 2013, Madlen Ehrlich, board member of Germany-based NGO ident.africa, flew to Boboyo for one week. Boboyo is the village in the north of Cameroon, where ident.africa do voluntary work since 2004. During her stay she was able to have a look at the construction field of the new pre-school. We asked Madlen to write down some unforgettable impressions for us, the participants of the pre-school project and supporters of the NGO:

Even before I visited Cameroon, I was excited that German students have agreed to fly to Cameroon to support local construction workers to build the pre-school. Between November and March, 6 groups at 6-9 students are travelling to Boboyo for several weeks – voluntarily and in large part at their own expense. During my stay I was able to meet a couple of students who have been there for about 6 weeks – excited about what they already achieved. And I met a group of students who just arrived, super enthusiastic and full of pleasant anticipations of their stay. This mix was amazing.

The first stones for the outer wall
The first stones for the outer wall
From my perspective, the collaboration between the students and the local construction workers worked very well. Both sides have allowed themselves to learn something new and build relationships as a result of their involvement and enthusiasm. Even though not everyone was able to speak French perfectly (like me), the language wasn’t a barrier at all. Communication and understanding each other was no problem at all – probably because of the mutual respect.

At this point I have to admid, that the one thing that impressed me most, was the strict discipline of the students: at 6:00am they met at the house of “Mama Marie”, who prepared tea and coffee. After a large sip, they walked to the construction area. At 07:00am the construction workers arrived. Regardless the coffee break at 10:00am and the lunch break at 2pm, they worked from Mondey till Saturday until sunset (or even longer). What a work ethic.

When I arrived in Boboyo, the first two groups already finished the fundament of all pavilions and the base plate for one pavilion. They just started to build the fist wall on the base plate. Untought observers may have wondered or would have been a bit disappointed from what they saw. But having in mind, that everything is done with simple tools and without any machines (no electricity), I had great respect for the work they did.

Manuelle Herstellung der Steine
Building stones manually
The poor conditions for construction workers in Cameroon was new to me. Urgently needed building materials are not always available and was delivered in partial shipments. If it doesn’t arrive, people are just unable to continue. Things which are delivered in assembled conditions in Germany, have to be build manually at the construction area, e.g. stones for the walls or woven steel fabric (which is not welded, but tied with wire). This means there are lots of efforts before they even start building. The same is for tools: it is hard to get some. Some were brought from Germany, others were build by themselves, for example the mesh for the clay and the building sand.

This often leads to delays. Even though this could be frustrating, everyone remains positive. So I am all the more delighted that besides the 3 groups of students from RWTH Aachen, 2 groups from Oldenburg agreed to support the project. They will build the rest of the walls and the roof.

At this point, I must praise the local construction workers. They were very open minded and welcomed the studends with warmth and hospitality. Even on a hard working day, there was time for a laugh. It was also good to see, that construction wokers from Boboyo were proud to build the pre-school, so starting this year the village will have a facility where teachers will look after they youngest ones during the day.

It has been a wonderful week. Therefore I would like to take the chance to say “Thank you” to some people: To the construction workers and the students for their energy and their commitment for building the pre-school. To Mama Marie, who invited me to her home and served a delicious food – not only to me, but also to the students, 3 times a day from November to March. To the members of CODEBO, who provided accomodation for the students, help in buying building materials, and organized the visit of Mrs. Coly. To the Lamido of Boboyo, who welcomed Mrs. Coly, myself and other guests in his house and served delicious food. And last but not least: to the women of Boboyo for their affectionate and impressive reception, as well as the great after show party at Mama Marie’s house.

I can add nothing, but: I’ll be back!

During my stay I took some pictures of the students and workers at the construction site. They can be seen in the slideshow below or on our Google Plus Site.

(if you don’t see the album, please reload the site (F5))