Volunteer Cora Went reflects on her experience and attributes the girls as essential motivators

On 10/10/10, the Daraja students, volunteers and staff had a fantastic day creating adobe bricks that would eventually be used for the construction of a new shed for the garden. That day, however, was only the beginning as the shed required a lot of time and hard work to be built. 18-year-old volunteer Cora Went worked with students and local workers for weeks afterward to finish building the shed. The shed was created to show the students an example of natural building techniques. Cora reflects on her experience below.

If I could have looked into the minds of the smiling, mud-covered participants in the 10.10.10 Adobe Brickmaking day, I doubt that anyone could have imagined those 200 bricks turning into a shed. Yet, a month and a half later, anyone passing through the Daraja shamba will pass through a beautiful adobe structure. The Shamba Shed stands sturdy and finished, with a door leading to a locked closet on the inside, iron sheets to provide shade from the equatorial sun, a coat of plaster over the bricks, and even glass bottles embedded in the walls for an artistic finish.

Though daily, I worked with just two local men, at every open time slot – during sports on Thursdays and Fridays or over the weekends – we invited the girls to come help. Each week, I worried that they had gotten tired of working with soil and sand and might not come, but each week, at least ten girls came waltzing down to the garden to prove me wrong. Together, we stomped materials in the holding pit to form more bricks, or helped to mortar the bricks onto the walls inside the shamba.

These days, when the girls came down to help with the project, were by far my favorite. As soon as they expressed their excitement at seeing the day or week’s progress on the shed, I would be re-inspired in the project. They worked with immense joy and perseverance, pushing me to do the same. One afternoon, Faith helped me to bring wood planks to lay the drying bricks on for over an hour. Another night, Alice A. and I worked through her free time from five till six with Stevie, the 5-year-old son of one of the staff members, just because she wanted to make more bricks.

“I’m going to teach my family at home how to make bricks,” Teddy told me. If I have taught even one girl a useful skill, or shown that even an 18-year-old girl can construct a building – or do anything, for that matter – with help from her community, then my work here has been far worth it for me.

My last week at Daraja arrived too soon, and it came time to plaster the shed. I told the girls at lunch on Sunday that it would be their last chance to work on the project, and invited them down to the garden. I expected ten girls to show up, but at two o’clock, all 52 girls walked down in work clothes, earnestly excited to help for the last time. We went to borrow additional wheelbarrows, then mixed and plastered all afternoon. Happy shrieks spread around the building as they threw, slapped, or smoothed the plaster on with their hands until we had completed the structure.

By now, it would be rare to find a person on the Daraja campus that has not gotten their hands or feet dirty in the shed construction. Teacher Catherine jumped into the holding pit wearing a nice suit, and even Ruth in the kitchen would stop by to check on the progress daily. Teachers, kitchen staff, volunteers, Danes, kids of teachers, members of the local community, and especially students: the success of the Shamba Shed can be attributed to all of them. “The Daraja Family built this adobe shed from 10 Oct. 2010 to 21 Nov. 2010,” the inscription reads.