Friday, March 23, 2018

Regeneration, Renewal, and Expansion of a K-12 Campus

In June of 2018 I have this great opportunity to serve again in the country where I went on my first project trip with EMI in 2001. That project trip happened within two weeks of 9/11 and so all of my international EMI experience has been "post-9/11". While the world has changed a lot in 17 years and EMI has grown and matured greatly as an organization, we continue the work of meeting "on-the-ground" needs all over the world, serving poor communities in order to bring Hope.

Belize Christian Academy (BCA) is a K-12 international school with a rich history in Central America. The vision of TeachBeyond, which now owns and operates BCA, is to introduce a new, over-arching master plan on this lush, 25 acre property and construct a new center for Learning and Administration. The long term result will be a school campus that supports academic excellence as well as community spirit.


BCA first opened its doors in September 1993 on the outskirts of Belmopan, the capital city of Belize in Central America. While the initial population of 38 students and 4 teachers was modest, 14 nationalities were represented in the student body. This large mix is due to the fact that many children from foreign embassies have made BCA their school home. Today, local children as well as those from 40 different countries have attended BCA.

Geographically, Belize lies along the western edge of the Caribbean Sea, is bordered to the north by Mexico, and west and south by Guatemala. The official language of Belize is English while Belizean Creole is an unofficial native language. Spanish is its second most-spoken language. BCA itself is situated on 25 acres, half of which is maintained for the school grounds while the other half is mostly forested. The existing school facility is a collection of mostly single-use buildings. While most are very serviceable, some older buildings will be slated for replacement in the coming years.

The project scope of the EMI team will be to review BCA's existing facilities and infrastructure, create an overall, phased master plan for new and facilities to be rebuilt/replaced, and incorporate a new Learning Centre and Administration Building. Future EMI teams will address future phases when phase one is complete and the needs of the next phase are determined.

Thank you to all our supporters and friends who make it possible for me to serve with EMI in this way! If you or anyone you know wish to learn how to join me on this project, please click here to see the EMI project page.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Bright Future Secondary School (Rwanda)

Africa Harvest Mission
(AHM) was established shortly after the genocide of 1994 when more than one million people lost their lives in a hundred days. AHM began under a tree in a rural village in eastern Rwanda where Pastor Patrick preached "unity" and "hope". As AHM churches grew the ministry developed the capacity to establish social development programs for vulnerable women and later, Bright Future School for vulnerable children and orphans.

Education. However, simply providing education is not enough; delivering education without providing the basis of a moral compass can result in evil as easily as it can result in good. For this reason, the teachers and administrators of Bright Future School are proactive in building a generation “driven by Christian values of love and care to humanity”.


Getting Started. AHM started with the youngest children, operating four elementary schools in the rural eastern countryside. They recently purchased a parcel of land to establish a boarding school for secondary students (grades 7 – 12). The location, closer to the capital, is where they hope the students will be stimulated and motivated to use their education actively in their community and become Christ-centered leaders of tomorrow.


AHM’s boarding school will ultimately have three classes per grade with a capacity for over 700 students. The environment is to be as much about nurturing community as it is to be about imparting an education. It will be a place to foster discipline in life as much as discipline in the classroom.


Step By Step. To account for the fundraising process as well as gradually taking on children they are nurturing through elementary school, the secondary school will be built in phases and account for the increasingly sophisticated and complex nature of the education system as well as the construction industry in Rwanda.


Before navigating the labyrinth of building codes and district and industry requirements, AHM needed a team of design professionals to help establish a master plan and the character of the school; they needed to know each step taken and dollar spent will lead them toward their objectives. When AHM’s American partner, Africa Bright Future Ministries (ABFM), found out about EMI, they applied to receive one of our multi-disciplinary teams.


Partnership. Our EMI team consisted of architects as well civil, structural, electrical, and geomatics engineers from Rwanda, United States, and Canada. Our Rwandese members were instrumental in helping our team understand the local culture and the construction context. We enjoyed each other’s company and laughed a lot, but also worked side-by-side with professionalism to provide AHM the planning that it needs to operate an effective, cost-efficient, sustainable, and beautiful secondary school campus.


Deliverables. Now back in our respective homes, emails continue to fly across time zones as we coordinate our writing and drawing to produce our Final Report and Drawings. Empowered with new knowledge and confident their vision is achievable, AHM will use these documents, which capture our proposals and provide a variety of technical and budgetary options, to further engage local design professionals and government officials in the process toward constructing their new campus.


Photos. I have uploaded a series of photos of our time and work in Rwanda. Click here to jump to the gallery.


Thank you for coming alongside EMI and our family. Your support enables me to lead such projects and in turn, my involvement creates opportunities for interns and volunteers and ultimately, impact is felt by the children, families, and communities served by the organizations with whom we partner.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Continued Healing and Restoration

Africa Harvest Ministries (AHM) was established after the genocide that took place in Rwanda in 1994 that claimed more than one million lives in a hundred days. At that terrible time, Rwanda was completely destroyed spiritually, socially, and economically. There was hopelessness and fear everywhere, with orphans, widows and the disabled roaming the streets seeking to survive.

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It was at that time that God moved Pastor Patrick to begin a ministry that would restore “unity" and “hope". He began preaching this message under a tree in a village which led to the first of 13 Calvary Temple Churches and later the establishment of AHM.

Social development programs for vulnerable women were established as well as Bright Future School to educate underprivileged children and orphans. On this project trip, EMI will come alongside AHM to design a secondary school campus to complement their existing primary school. We will also design dormitories for boys and for girls for children who live too far to walk to school each day. This will expand the reach of the school to a wider community.

For more information on Africa Harvest Ministries, see their website here.

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On May 22nd, 2017 our team will travel directly to the Rwandan capital Kigali for our project and complete our trip by driving over the mountains to Uganda for a design review at the EMI Uganda office in Kajjansi, just south of Kampala. Please keep us in prayer as we travel in the air and on the ground.

Thank you to all our supporters and friends who make it possible for me to serve with EMI in this way!

Thursday, May 11, 2017

When a Little Means a Lot

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A Mattress. How do I complain about household chores and maintenance when a senior in Uganda tells me about the miracle of receiving a mattress? Not a replacement mattress, like for Christmas to replace an old one, but a mattress as in “I’ve never had one before”. Or a small LED lamp to provide their only source of light at night. These are the stories we heard from seniors served by Reach One Touch One Ministries (ROTOM), the ministry in Uganda my EMI team served in September 2016.
Getting Hugs. If you’ve read my blogs before you’ve seen me post photos of being mobbed by laughing, happy kids. On this trip, for the first time, I was mobbed by laughing, happy seniors. We had barely made it out of our van! Frankly, the seniors knew little of the technicalities of our work, they just knew that after EMI showed up seven years ago, the result was ROTOM's medical clinic a facility that has improved their standard of health care.
Inpatient Care. The 1,000+ seniors that ROTOM serves often have medical conditions that require more attention than can be provided for in an outpatient clinic setting. When they need surgery or another form of longer term care, a medical facility needs the capacity and appropriate facilities for inpatient services; surgical rooms, recovery beds, and beds for longer stays. So our EMI team tweaked the initial master plan and designed a 30+ bed inpatient ward to facilitate life-saving or certainly life-improving surgeries.
Doing Life Together. Our team of eight came from Canada, USA, UK, and Nigeria. We came alongside ROTOM to increase their capacity to care and serve. What better reward than a hug from a grateful senior?
Photos. Want to see built facilities that EMI designed back in 2009? How about more photos and stories of the seniors we met? A new set of photos has been placed in my Flickr Photo Gallery. Click here to jump to the gallery.
Thank you for coming alongside EMI and our family in 2016! Supporting us through prayer and finances, your partnership allows me to be remain a part of EMI and makes projects such as this possible.