Deborah’s Blog: Homesick for Zambia

Hello again. I’m writing this blog from the UK. Although I’m now technically “home”, after 14 months in Zambia I’m still find having trouble adapting back. There’s two things in particular that I’m really enjoying: 1) drinking water coming straight out of the tap and 2) access to a washing machine.

But there’s certainly a huge number of things I’m missing about Zambia. Avocados straight off the trees is high on the list, as is having the kind of job where you’re out and about on site. I think what I miss most is how friendly everyone in Zambia is, regardless of whether or not you’re a stranger.

Where my thousands of plastic bottles ended up…..

Hopefully by now most of you have worked out what I was collecting the plastic bottles for: a plastic bottle wall. The construction method simply fills all the bottles with surplus soil from site and then uses them like bricks. It’s a great use of site materials (the soil) and waste (the bottles), especially since Lusaka doesn’t really have functioning waste management or recycling systems.

Update from the Centre for Excellence

Both the Learning Plaza 2 and the Ablution Block were completed in January 2018. Learning Plaza 2 is already being used to increase Build It’s capacity for the fast-track training programme, and additionally provide a storage room and small office for the trainers.

I’ve got to honest though, my real pride is in the Ablution Block. We’re trying to showcase use of materials other than concrete block, hence the gum-pole façade. I think that the block fits really well with the outdoorsy setting of the CfE, and we’ve had an overwhelming number of compliments on it. Heartfelt thanks to our superb architect, Emmanuel Kamuna of A+ Urban Technics architects who donated so much of his own time and mental energy to the design.


Have you noticed the other plastic bottles which I’ve snuck into the Ablution Block? The bottles are punched through a hole in the roof and filled with water (and bleach). Sunshine shines through the bottle, diffracts through the water and hey presto we have a light bulb. It’s surprisingly effective! We actually went one step further on the Ablution Block and stuck mini solar powered torches to the tops of the bottles so that now there can also be a few hours light in the evenings.

What’s next at the Centre?

When I left Build It International we were moving ahead with the designs for the 2018 construction season. This year the team hopes to construct a Multi-Functional Hall. The MFH will do pretty much what it says on the tin; provide a large, flexible space which can be used for lectures, workshops and events. If all goes to plan, Build It will also be able to rent out the space for other organisations to use; this will generate some income which can be ploughed right back into the trainees. I have high hopes for the MFH, and am fully confident that my excellent colleague Clive Shumba and the rest of the Build It team will be up to the challenge of getting it planned and built. Best of luck!

Speaking of trainees…


Did you see the pictures from the graduation ceremony last month? I was incredibly sorry to have missed it and seeing the trainees one final time, but from what I hear it was a grand success.

Best wishes to everyone who I met and worked with whilst on my incredible stay in Zambia. Corny though it sounds, it really was a life changing experience. I more than hope to be back sometime!