Kathy’s Centre: “Another Block in the Wall Against HIV!”

Posted on September 22nd, 2017

On Friday 15th September, representatives from Uganda and the UK gathered in Mayuge to celebrate the culmination of an ambitious construction project, and the beginning of a state-of-the art health, social and educational programme, here at Kathy’s Centre.


Kathy's Centre: Moris & Harriet

The opening ceremony was expertly led by Act4Africa team members Moris and Harriet.


The project embodies the name and spirit of Kathy Smedley, teacher and co-founder of Act4Africa who passed away in August 2014. Like its namesake, Kathy’s Centre is dedicated to providing an array of resources and assistance to the most vulnerable in Ugandan society.


Kathy's Centre: Kids

Children from the local community were eager to check out the beautifully hand-painted kindergarten.


Committed to conscientious, positive change from the programme’s inception, Act4Africa partnered with Engineers for Overseas Development (EFOD) and the Haileybury Youth Trust (HYT) to construct a high quality, sustainable community centre using the interlocking stabilised soil block (ISSB).


Kathy's Centre: Martin & Tracy

Act4Africa co-founder Martin Smedley & key fundraiser Tracey joined the Ugandan team dancing for joy at the opening of the new centre!


Building with ISSB means providing sturdy, stylish infrastructure using locally sourced, widely available soils. These are manually compressed into blocks and dried in the sun, saving the 11 tonnes of firewood necessary for a burned brick structure as big as Kathy’s Centre.


Eco-friendly Kathy's Centre

3 of the large, mature trees overlooking the centre would have paid the price for its construction using burned bricks.


By choosing to use ISSB, Act4Africa has helped to ensure the long-term health of Mayuge’s environment and its community. Local youths have also joined in the construction process, learning vital building skills alongside graduates of HYT’s ‘one community’ programme.


Kathy's Centre: Trainees

Mudoola Abdulah and Bogere Ibra are rightly proud of the structure they’ve completed here, all while learning on the job!


EFOD and HYT training has provided sustainable livelihoods for these young masons, who now make blocks for sale from the centre. How’s that for employable skills? This is one of many activities, including goat-rearing and basic veterinary training, that will help to provide access to independent income for the centre and its beneficiaries.


Kathy's Centre: Goat Farm

Kathy’s Centre will soon be the goat-to place for young women to gain economic independence…


Crucially, Kathy’s Centre will provide the district, which has one of the highest rates of HIV/AIDS prevalence in Uganda, with vital testing and counselling services, adding to the 70,000 people the organisation has tested and the 1.4 million it has educated since 2000. The new facilities will also host a youth club and a kindergarten, empowering the young men and women of Mayuge district!


Kathy's Centre: Celebration

The talented dance troupe who performed at the ceremony are part of the generation who will receive the benefits of the centre.


We’d like to thank Act4Africa for making us a part of such an exciting and transformative project! HYT and its new masons also extend their gratitude to Engineers for Overseas Development for their ongoing professionalism and patience – our trainees weren’t the only ones who learned a thing or two!


In the words of Pastor Richard Abaliwano, “Together, we have put another block in the wall against HIV.”


Let’s keep building!









Winners of the Ashden International Award for Sustainable Buildings 2017.

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Kayembe and the Class of 2017

Posted on August 28th, 2017

The trainees at Kayembe Primary School, HYT’s 11th community training project, have come a long way from building newspaper structures on interview day. Thanks to the expertise of HYT trainers and the generosity of international partners Water Charity, they have had the chance to practice building both a double classroom block and a rainwater harvesting tank.


HYT Uganda team building exercise at Kayembe Primary School

HYT doesn’t encourage building houses out of paper, except on interview day, where it is a key team building exercise.


Before commencing construction, the trainees were thoroughly versed in the arts of block-making, producing over 8000 interlocking stabilised soil blocks (ISSB). Some of these were cuboid, for the classroom, and some were curved, for the water tank. All of them were made from locally-sourced marram subsoil and cured in the sun, rather than being fired in a kiln using traditional methods.


HYT Uganda ISSB construction press at Kayembe Primary School

Jenipher has proved to the community that women can play a key role on any construction site!


HYT takes pride in efficient use of resources, and at this foundational stage in their masonry careers, trainees learn the importance of precise, responsible workmanship. Plaster, for example, is only applied to joints like corners and pillars, and tools such as building string, set squares and spirit levels are employed to make sure that they are coated as thinly and accurately as possible.


HYT Uganda plastering and set square at Kayembe Primary School

Moses has a particularly keen eye for detail, and has been leading the way in plastering class at Kayembe.


Of course, the gift of learning is extended by the trainees to the pupils of the school, who will soon be able to use the classroom for their own lessons. An indoor teaching space allows year-round classes free from distractions and the constant threat of rain.


HYT Uganda outdoor learning at Kayembe Primary School

Learning under the mango tree is not quite so idyllic when it’s pouring down with rain!


Rain can also be a blessing and, before it can get to the heads and papers of pupils at Kayembe, it will be caught by the 170m2 roof and channelled into the nearby 20,000L water tank. This saves pupils from going to fetch water from the community borehole which, in busy seasons, can consume up to 5 hours of learning time a week.


HYT Uganda pupils collect water at Kayembe Primary School

It is pupils who lose out on time in the classroom to go and collect water for drinking, cooking and washing.


The tank has also provided a practical training course for the building team, who now possess the skills necessary to produce these unique structures. Following their graduation, they will use their construction expertise to continue building, providing water for the region, food for their families and a new path for development that makes innovative use of, rather than exploiting, Uganda’s environmental heritage.


HYT Uganda sustainable ISSB construction team at Kayembe Primary School

Many thanks to Water Charity for helping to train a fantastic new tank team!