We are delighted to announce that our ‘Build-It’ volunteer program in Zambia is this year’s recipient of the GoAbroad award for Innovative New Program.
We couldn’t be prouder, and feel that it is a great time to share with you what this exceptional initiative is achieving! We also want to say a HUGE thank you to our partner charity The African Impact Foundation, and each and every volunteer who has donated their time and money to get this program off the ground – we couldn’t have done it without you!
What is the 'Build-It' Project?
In Zambia, most people survive on only one US dollar a day and suffer from extremely poor infrastructure. We have seen the debilitating impact this has had on communities first-hand, having worked in the town of Livingstone for the past 10 years.
We made it our mission to find sustainable solutions to this problem, and in March 2016, launched a new volunteer program to provide safe and sound structures built with ecological, affordable, and self-sustaining materials. We called this program ‘Build-It’.
Our first step was to ensure there was buy-in from the local people for this program, so we partnered with a community called Linda Farm, with whom we had been working with for a number of years.
Linda Farm was initially set up to empower and rehabilitate those living with disabilities, and currently has over 100 residents.
The farm uses agriculture to teach skills to those who would otherwise struggle to survive, by providing them with the skills to generate their own income. The intention is that they will generate enough income to support themselves as individuals, and to invest in developing and improving the community of the farm further. However, this cannot be done without a measurable amount of support to help them achieve this for themselves.
African Impact ‘Build-It’ volunteers support Linda Farm by helping to construct approved, structurally-sound buildings and structures that improve the lives of the disadvantaged residents.
As well as providing safe and affordable infrastructure, our vision of ‘Build-It’ was always to help preserve Livingstone’s ecology, by promoting environmental awareness and stressing to the communities the importance of waste management.
To achieve both of these objectives, we utilized the innovative method known as eco-bricking, which has now revolutionized the way the communities view waste management, their environment, and at the same time has provided a cost-effective (FREE!) method for building structures.
What are Eco-Bricks?
An Eco-Brick is a PET (polyethylene terephthalate) bottle filled with soft plastics. This includes cellophane, chip packets, sweet wrappers, plastic bags and anything else that can’t easily be recycled.
Where can you find these materials? Anywhere there is litter!
Once all the soft plastic is stuffed and packed into the bottle, the bottle is screwed closed and then used as a building brick.
What has 'Build-It' Achieved?
To date, volunteers on our ‘Build-It’ project have provided Linda Farm with 2 ablution blocks so that residents can have access to clean sanitation, as well as a chicken coop, compost bin and piggery! This has provided the community with self-sustainable income generating activities.
It has also drastically changed the environment of Linda Farm, reducing the amount of waste and providing a sustainable material for building. The amount of rubbish that is collected weekly, greatly helps maintain a clean and safe environment for all the community members.
This project also supports many other community organizations, and has provided several overflow classroom blocks for local overcrowded schools. This creates much needed space for the students and teachers.
The Ministry of Education is thrilled to be supporting us in our effort to work with local schools and communities, where we hold workshops thay educate people on what, why and how to eco-brick. We provide hands-on demonstrations and follow through on progress. These workshops have engaged young people so much that they even bring in their own eco-bricks!
Arguably more importantly than these tangible buildings and structures, however, is the passion for environmental conservation that we have seen in the community members we work with. Since we introduced ‘Build-It’, the community buy-in has been extraordinary, which is vital to make long-term, sustainable change in the area.