On our first trip to Kenya (October 2010) we realized that there was an urgent need at Achungo for more land. We have by now purchased the new site, fenced it and have begun construction. But I’m getting ahead of my story.
In 2008 Saratoga Federated Church purchased a well for Achungo Children’s Center and the parcel of land where it was located. Gifts from Germany built a 3-room cement block building for the preschool class, offices and a sleeping room. In 2010 we put up a temporary classroom building of tin alongside the kitchen shed. Between these buildings, the pump house and the latrine, there is little room left on this 1/3 acre parcel for the children to play and no room to build the additional classrooms we will eventually need for grades 5,6,7 and 8. (We add a grade each year, adding 6th now in 2012).
There are a variety of other problems with the current site as a long-term campus:
- The temporary classroom building has dirt floors and posts driven into the ground—it will not last long (the tin is already breaking loose in places) and the floor turns to little rivers in heavy rains.
- The yard turns to deep, sticky mud during heavy rain and we saw the smaller children (3- and 4-year-olds) get stuck in it, unable to move their shoes until they cried in frustration.
- Even in good weather, there just isn’t enough yard for now over-140 children to play.
In 2011 as the new 5th grade had to share space in the sleeping room, we began looking for more land. We are close enough to the village crossroads that we were dismayed at the prices and lack of available land. During the summer Michael thought we could purchase some adjacent land, but that fell through. Eventually, he located a parcel about twice the size of our current one (about 200 meters away from it) and we put down a deposit to hold it as we tried to raise the funds to purchase it and to begin building. In the end we were blessed in amazing ways even as we felt like failures, unable to develop a fundraising strategy. By the end of September we were able to complete the purchase and since then have fenced the parcel, cleared it and have begun construction.
Our goal was to complete 3 classrooms in time for January school start. The plan is to build a U-shaped building at the upper end of the site. It will be block and cement construction with a tin roof and the room linked by a cement walkway, all elevated a few feet off the ground to stay free of runoff and mud even in the heaviest rains. In November we broke ground on the first wing and have now completed the foundation that will support the 4 classrooms of that wing. Construction has begun and we have most of the funds to complete those 4 classrooms along with the new latrine building at the other end of the parcel.
In 2012 we hope to find the funds to complete the entire campus, including all 9 classrooms, offices and library/computer room. Then our attention will return to the old site where we need to build a kitchen and move out of the tin shed and its 3-stone fireplace. We also plan to build an assembly room that can accommodate the entire school -- for meals, exams, and school assemblies. Currently if it is raining, everyone packs into one of the classrooms for assemblies and it's such a tight squeeze it's hard to inhale (and I'm only slightly exaggerating!).