Posted on 28th January 2020 by Philippa Wilford

Building a two story 100'x60' Training Centre in one of the most geographically remote places of Myanmar comes with its fair share of challenges.

I was reminded of that during my latest visit, with it taking us four days just to travel to the project site in the remote mountains of Chin State. When you're also having to transport building materials, it can be a bit frustrating if you forget that essential item of equipment and it's a 12 hour journey (or longer) just to get to the nearest DIY store.

We started constructing the Training Centre in January 2018. When we set out, we determined that everything would be done through the hands of the local townspeople. Where they had experience, we would build upon it.  Where they didn't have the skills we would provide training. 

I kept reminding myself of that as I looked around the project, a year after I'd visited previously. Unlike another building in the area that used contractors from the city, the Training Centre stands as a testimony to what can be achieved through the efforts of local craftsmen, some of whom have learnt a trade through the building process, and are equipped to use that in the future.

Despite being incomplete, the Training Centre has already seen a year's worth of use. The first rooms hosted training for local villagers before the building even had a roof, as we launched a new phase of health training for Community Health Workers in December 2018. In June 2019, just as the roof was being fitted and the monsoon rains begain, 96 students moved into the building as part of the new Education for All project where they will be studying until March. In December last year we ran further training on maternal and neonatal care for Area Health Coordinators and will be running additional workshops in March 2020.

Whilst we raise funding for a separate dormitory, the first floor of the training hall has been turned into an accommodation block for the students and the second floor is in the final stages of being converted into office space and accommodation for local staff.

What I like about the building is that it isn't perfect. The ceiling tiles don't quite line up with the walls. The concrete render isn't quite as smooth as you would want it to be.There were even a few patches of mould that needed cleaning off where the monsoon rains had wet the concrete prior to the external render being finished. The reason I like this, is because every imperfection in the building, which will last for generations, spoke volumes about the hands that had created it and the lessons that had been learnt in the process.

Lessons about how to make concrete, how to tie reinforcement bars, what grade of steel to use, how to cut roofing bars, how to plumb in drainage, how to put up a hanging ceiling, how to make a staircase. Alongside the practical lessons were thousands of hours spent in relationship with local villagers working hand-in-hand on a project that they initially said was impossible to build!  

 

Do check out this short video of the Education for All project which is a fantastic example of how the Training Centre is being put to use.

We are so grateful to everyone who has supported the Training Centre rebuilding project.

If you would like to find out more about this and our other infrastructure projects click here, or feel free to get in touch for more information by emailing: info@healthandhope.org

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