Tuesday, July 17, 2012

A Fresh Perspective on Education

Kigali is often described as the "Eden" of Africa
Going Beyond The Three R’s.  Education that transforms a person and a nation requires more than teaching the basics of Reading, wRiting and aRithmetic: it requires instilling character, discipline and an understanding of the individual in the context of the larger world.  Rwanda continues to rebuild its country in the years following the 1994 genocide, its goal being the reduction of poverty and a transformation into being a knowledge-based economy.  However, while quality Christian values-based education has been accepted as a key to this transformation, lack of resources means classes are still over-crowded, many teachers lack proper and ongoing training and most receive inadequate pay.

Even in the capital, many families still live below the poverty line.
The Mission.  In 2004, Wellspring Foundation for Education began its mission of facilitating the development of schools and empowering Rwandan teachers.  To begin, Wellspring established a high-quality school, Wellspring Academy, in the capital Kigali as a model for its training.  In 2005 Wellspring began to demonstrate how this success can be brought to other schools with in-service teacher and leadership training.

Wellspring Academy
The Mission.  Today, Wellspring is partnering with 40 schools in the Gasabo District, providing teacher training, training for school administrators and leaders, and training to Parent Teacher committees to foster community involvement.  Wellspring has also been continually supporting the development of the Association of Christian Teachers, Rwanda, which is a grassroots association of more than 800 believers nationwide who want to encourage each other to be faithful to the Lord through their profession as educators.

Exploring he new Wellspring Center property
eMi Engagement.  In 2011 Wellspring contacted eMi Canada and began discussions about engaging an eMi team to design a new guesthouse and conference facility, known as the Wellspring Center, to serve as a platform to host and connect international donors and partners with the work done being done by Wellspring in Rwanda.  On a new piece of undeveloped land this guesthouse and conference facility would be phase one in what would be a multi-phased development that would later include Wellspring’s administration offices and apartments for long-term volunteers and trainers.

Dave (CE) investigating construction materials and methods
The Work Begins.  On June 1st, 2012 a team of 7 volunteers, 2 interns, one eMi East Africa Long Term Volunteer and I arrived in the capital Kigali to begin designing Phase One.  The team stayed on the Wellspring Academy School campus that shares its land with Christian Life Assembly Church.  At the Wellspring Academy campus the team set up its work base and then ventured out to investigate common Rwandan construction practices, visited local buildings under construction and perused with building supply markets to see common materials and their prices.
As Emma (Intern) surveys, she attracts a young audience
The Property.  About 25 minutes away from the Wellspring Academy campus, on the edge of Kigali, the team visited the new Wellspring Center property.  There the team found a 4.5 acre hillside site that showed obvious signs of previous terraced agriculture.  The views from the site were beautiful and so the setting is ideal for a guesthouse and conference facility.

Site investigation by Emma (Intern), Dave (CE) and Bill (EE)
Site Investigation.  The civil engineers and techs on the team surveyed the property, dug and tested percolation pits and examined the soil for its bearing capacity in supporting the new structure.  Once the parameters of the site were established they were translated by computer to produce a property plan showing boundaries and topographic grading.

The eMi team working in a spare Wellspring Academy classroom
Designing the Facilities and Infrastructure.  Once the building needs were established with lengthy discussions with Jeff Komant, Wellspring Country Director, the architects used the property plan to begin laying out the Wellspring Center by understanding its potential size, establishing site-lines to desirable views, choosing appropriate local building materials for its structure and exterior finish and locating roads, paths and service buildings that will support the main function of the Center.

Wellspring Center (foreground) and Conference Facility (background)
3D Imagery.  To help with the visualization of the proposed project the architects on our team created a digital 3D model of the proposed main building.  Once their fieldwork was complete the civil engineers and electrical engineers began their  calculations for fresh water supply and storage needs and the handling of sanitary waste and surface water drainage which can be significant because of heavy seasonal rains.

Me drawing "old school"...fun!
Final Presentation.  During the week Jeff ensured we had a good work environment with power, internet, great meals and delicious African tea (similar to chai tea).  He had many excellent planning and design discussions with our team so that, as is our goal on all projects, what was shown during our Final Presentation was the culmination of a week of dialog and was never a surprise.  I was even able to put my “old school” skills to use by drawing a Site Master Plan by hand.

Completed Site Master Plan
Project Photos.  A new set of annotated photos has been placed in my Photo Gallery with various options to view it.  If you want to browse the set, click here.  If you wish to see a slideshow of the photos, click here. If you want to see the titles and read the captions of each photos, click here.

SketchUp Model of the Wellspring Center
Thank you to all who have contributed to this work through your financial support, encouragement and prayer; you have been a part of making this project, and the resulting touched lives, a reality.

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