At The Happold Foundation we see the amazing work organisations such as Build It International are doing to change people’s lives for the better. And we recognise that in order to carry out this important work, volunteers from the built environment sector are vitally important.
Life for many people in Zambia is challenging, with 64% of the population living below the poverty line and 80% have no regular income (World Bank, 2017). The built environment in the country is also challenging, with often substandard accommodation used for living, schooling and community purposes. It is estimated that the country needs around 17,000 new construction workers each year, but very few young people are given the opportunity to gain the necessary skills to pursue this line of work.
Build It International is a UK registered charity that works in Zambia to create opportunities for young people and their communities by providing skills training and building community projects. Since the charity was established in 2007, Build It International has developed bespoke training programmes that teach entry-level skills in construction. These skills provide young, unemployed people with opportunities to find work and provide for their families, and a chance of a brighter future.
In 2015 Build It started to develop plans for the construction of a new ‘Centre for Excellence’ training facility to significantly expand its trainee programme scaling-up the number of young people trained.
Matt Duckett, Graduate Structural Engineer at BuroHappold, at the start of construction at the Centre for Excellence
Sara Moslemi Zadeh, water engineer at BuroHappold, with Chair of Build It Zambia Board Rueben Lifuka
Situated on a two-hectare site on the northern edge of the capital city Lusaka, the centre is at the heart of ambitious plans to increase the number of young people Build It trains by 500% to over 400 a year by 2021. Build It’s vision is for the centre to become a hub for construction skills training, small business development and showcasing sustainable building techniques.
Shortly after construction began in 2016, an employee volunteer programme was established. So far three young engineers have spent up to a year with the Build It team in Zambia. Their roles have been as assistant Project Managers and technical advisors. They have been involved with design and construction of specific buildings at the Centre for Excellence, and have also supported other Build It community building projects.
Construction at Learning Plaza Two
The centre’s multi-function hall, providing flexible flexible learning space for training and workshops, as well as conferences and events
Matthew Duckett, Structural Engineer says “working in Zambia has been an invaluable and totally unique development opportunity, both professionally and personally and I am hugely grateful to Build It, the Happold Foundation and BuroHappold for their support. In return for their expertise and energy, young professionals get to work at the sharp end in Zambia and deal with the day-to-day challenges of project delivery! Like all effective partnerships this is a win-win arrangement and we look forward to working together for many years to come.”
Since 2016, two-three new buildings have been added each year. Training at the centre began in 2017 and already over 200 trainees have graduated in bricklaying, carpentry and painting. This £2M investment should be completed by 2021.
Learning theoretical and practical skills
The project demonstrates the importance of volunteering in developing countries, and how supporting disadvantaged communities can empower local people to develop skills, provide work and raise the quality of life in their local communities.
You could help make a difference. If you are ready to use your engineering skills to help others while experiencing life in another culture, contact Build It International to find out what volunteering opportunities are available and how you can apply by contacting: +44 (0)1743 246317 or email firstname.lastname@example.org