Mark's Take On Construction In Uganda

Many of our friends have wondered what it is like to build in Uganda. In every aspect except one it is different than what you would experience in the U.S. But that one similarity is the most significant: the importance of working with the right people.

Specifically, people who wish to honor the Lord with their work; people who listen; people with integrity; and people committed to working through the inevitable surprises and challenges of construction. We were blessed to have such a team. One of our Uganda board members, John Ggayi, assembled a team of a structural contractor, plumber, carpenter, welder, roofer and electrician.  Each had done construction work for him over a period of many years.

There were bumps along the way but the Lord prevailed. The structural contractor is a strong believer who often would read his Bible while overseeing the work. When we reached what seemed to be an impasse, we dropped everything and prayed right at the work site. Consensus reached. Problem solved.

Now for the differences. Virtually everything is done by hand. The foundation was dug out by hand. There were no power tools except for a small diesel-powered cement mixer, small welding machine and hand drill. The construction crew worked virtually from sunup to sundown with only breaks for morning tea and lunch. Workers washed clothes from our tap when they arrived in the morning and then hung them out to dry. They bathed from the same tap in the evening before they left.

Ladders are made on site from eucalyptus poles. Scaffolding is made on site from eucalyptus poles. Hundreds of eucalyptus poles are used on the ground floor to support construction of the upper floor. Upon completion, they are removed.

Nobody uses wood as part of the permanent structure. The upper floor is concrete. We were told we must have metal or concrete steps but we insisted on wood steps to the upper floor with metal support. (Some Ugandans have asked if it is safe to walk on our wooden steps).

We wanted to make sure we had accurate bids before we started work so we knew we had the funds to complete the work. This is highly unusual in Uganda. People have some money and they start work until they run out of funds. Then they resume (sometimes months or even years later) when they get more money. The cycle repeats.

Despite our best efforts, we were about $20,000 over budget. (We are grateful to have completed Phase 1 but it has put the ministry under a current financial strain.) Who would guess that if you buy windows it does not include the glass? We paid for a tongue and groove ceiling but were informed the bid did not include a frame for attaching the tongue and groove.  And oops! We built a house on a hill with a metal roof and nobody thought to tell us we need a lightning rod!

Finally as we moved in we realized we could not put off construction of a drive and pathways as we thought. The gravelly soil made for a treacherously slippery uphill walk to the front door.

The Lord brought us through. Even now I am amazed and exclaim, “Look at what the Lord has done!”

No comments:

Post a Comment