Empowering HIV/AIDS orphaned children in Africa to a self sustainable future

Catherine Koch

Catherine Koch

Founder and President of Love Is The Answer, a Canadian registered charity serving orphaned children in Africa.

The Building (Completion!) of ACIO Dorms – Part Three


If we could list all the people who have helped, each in their own special way, to build the new dorms for the children at ACIO, our list might contain names as numerous as the bricks used to complete the structure. We would want to consider near to six years of connections.. support, encouragement, suggestions, sharing, caring, generosity and Love since the original idea was presented to me by Vincent, the Director of ACIO, in Gracious Cafe on Republic Street in Mbale, Uganda, sometime in October 2007.

On behalf of the Board and representatives of LITA, it is our complete joy and honour to offer here ‘Part Three’.. the final photo essay chronicling the building of the children’s new home. ‘Part One’ is here.. ‘Part Two’ here. Please, as you view the process to completion, claim your bricks.. please, celebrate your incredible contribution to the project.. please, dance with the children and us all, in Joy and Love.  Together we all have accomplished something very beautiful.

As one dear friend put it, this is the house that Love has built.

~ Welcome Home Children ~ You will recall, last posting we had made it to the “ring beam level”. Brick work had been completed to the top of the windows and doors..

The ring beam.. three strands of rebar, formed and held in a triangle shape by rings is placed all the way along the bricks built up to the top of the windows and doors.
Boards are fixed along the top and sides of all the door and window openings.. the ring beam is placed on top of these boards and the top round of bricks.. boards are placed all along the walls on either side of the ring beam..
The boards are secured tightly, and concrete mixed with sand is poured in on top of the ring beam.
The boys checking out one of their windows.. ring beam cement now dry above them.
The girls, enjoying some imagining and a lollipop, on the threshold of their new home..
Lydia, in the girl’s doorway.. David, in the boy’s.. library/office in between them..
Ring beam level completed with another four rounds of bricks on top, taking us to the roof line.
On to the trusses.. timber was brought to the site and needed to be split into 2 x 4’s.. first, with amazing accuracy, the 2 x 8’s were scored with a machete down the middle, two lines side by side.. a wedge was pounded in between the score lines and the board very easily split in two.
The very skilled roofers worked their magic with the timber..
Again, the machete played a vital role in tidying up quite perfectly the split edge of the boards..
End and adjoining angles were measured..
Cuts were made..
Trusses assembled..
In total, 11 trusses were built..
Timber was fixed to the top row of bricks all along the walls..
The trusses were hand hoisted, balanced and fixed to the board ringing the walls.. (Originally, the roof was designed to slope in one direction, for easy water collection in rainy season. It was learned that in “institutional building” such as this accommodation for orphaned children, the Ugandan government advises/requires a center peaked roof for strength. Therefore, we will now aid ACIO in designing a water collection and storage system that will include rain gutters on the front and back sides of the building.. coming soon!)
All trusses in place, more boards were split for the rafters..
And then fixed to the trusses, to prepare for adding the iron sheet roof..
Doctor Frank at the window, a volunteer who helps with the children’s health care and Vincent, the Director of the project, at the door to the library, his office through the library..
Securing the roofing boards..

All ready for irons sheets..
At every point in the construction we celebrated all advancements, but at this particular one we knew we were getting pretty close now.. ‘lock up’ became our next focus.. the roof timbers were painted with wood preservative..
30 guage iron sheets were nailed to the roof timbers..
Tada.. one very secure roof in place, and the children danced under it with great joy to see the final sheet nailed on! (This and the next photo were taken on a day when I brought samosas for the children and I’m guessing that it’s oil on little fingers that got on the protective lens cover on our camera.. please pardon the blur on the right..) A solar lighting and storage system is currently being decided upon and will be added to the building within weeks.
Some of the children celebrating along with Vincent and one of their teachers..
Moving on to doors and windows, the original idea of wooden ones was upgraded to safer, more secure metal ones. Made to order by metal fabricators in a shop in Mbale and transported to the site, masons fitted them in the existing openings..
Several workers placing each window, removing bricks that needed to be, leveling, cementing..

David, wings stretched, in front of the back (emergency) door in the boy’s dorm..
Plastering of the interior walls began in the Director’s office first, a cement mixture was placed over the bricks, sealing all the cracks, filling in the holes left from scaffolding etc.. followed by a coating of a lime mixture on top..
The boy’s dorm.. wall plastering complete, the floors now needed to be “screeded”.. a process completed three times with cement mixed to varying degrees of wetness, spread over the floor areas, meeting up with the walls..
The final layer of liquid cement being poured over the floor, the master makes it look so easy..
The girl’s dorm.. water is poured and absorbed, poured and absorbed.. over and over..
Doors and windows in, floor curing, it was time to do “final finishing” on the inside which meant plastering to the edges of the doors and windows..
Daniel, the foreman, did a great job overseeing and organizing work and materials to/at the site..
And just like that.. within a day or so after final finishing, some very happy children moved in to their new home. Walls needing to dry for a while before painting, floor needing to have plain water wiped over it, morning and night, for the next 30 days or so.. the children’s joy was complete.. there is no place like home!
Filled with deep joy in their new home, two of our beautiful bunk bed buddies.. Veron(L) sleeps on the bottom bed and Lydia(R) sleeps up top!
David, proud and happy and grateful, posing on his bed in his new room..
Mosquito net frames are being built right now by the local carpenter who constructed all the beds for this project and it will be soon when we receive photos from Vincent showing us how all the top bunks now have them attached.. nets for the lower bed will be tied to the frame by the upper mattress…
Some of the ACIO boys on the threshold of their new room..
And some of the girls on theirs.. signing “I Love You”..
Some pretty brick work the girls did along the front of the building, where they even planted a row of flowers they hope will grow..
Joined by Joshua and Joel in the new library.. where the children can find text books for all subjects in each grade of primary school, novels and story books, etc, games including chess, scrabble, checkers, backgammon, and.. musical instruments including a guitar, recorders, shakers, and harmonicas!
Vincent, the Director of ACIO Child Care Center and Canaan School, sitting in his new office..
Vincent would like to thank each and every one for helping to create this most amazing and extremely empowering change in the lives of the orphaned children, him and his family, and all of the community. He sends deep Love and gratitude to all.
On the day the children moved in, at one point Vincent and I sat in his office just trying to take it all in, really. He explained… the evening before as he lay in bed he had a vision, and he knew that he was to call the new dorms for the children “Saint Catherine House”. Because of the personal connection for me, in that instant I could feel my Mother and Father right there with us, they had chosen my name after Saint Catherine of Siena when I was born, and it all seemed more than perfect and magical, and ancient, written very long ago. Eilis, one of our LITA Board members, who I was together with in Uganda almost 6 years ago when this all began later added that Catherine of Siena is a great role model for women as well as a strong religious link, which is so important in the Ugandan society.
And so it is, that on the first night of Spring/Autumn 2013, the Beloved orphaned children we are all Loving who are in full time care with ACIO slept for the first time in their new home, safe and protected in Saint Catherine House. While an Angel (hand made out of banana fiber by orphaned children in Bukedea) hung in a window of each room.. watching over, reminding, and assuring the children of the Love that they are wrapped in, always and forever more ~ Sleep well children ~ Dream your beautiful dreams in Love ~

A side bar – I’m sure you’ve heard reference to something called “African time”.. well, perhaps someone out there who’s into math can help me to establish just what that might be. You see, we know it took us exactly 33 days to build this building, bottom to top. But it actually took from November 1, 2012 to March 20, 2013 to complete the work! Do you think that somewhere in there may be the formula for that previously elusive thing called African time.. hee hee!

Be Blessed everyone, thank you so much for the part you have played in bringing this dream for the children to fruition.

With endless Love and gratitude, from all of us at LITA

Some photos to help us remember where the children slept prior to this..

The end wall of the former boy’s dorm, seeping sunshine (and at times all sorts of creepy crawlies and critters, including very dangerous snakes) through many a hole worn away by weather.. traditional mud and stick construction with iron sheet roofing.
This room will now have the mud and some of the sticks removed, and be turned into a 4th classroom at Canaan School which is on the same property as the new dorms.
A quiet moment of contemplation.. Vincent rests for a few moments inside the boy’s former dorm.

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