What does it take to build a school?

August 28, 2017

An engaged community, donations for materials, Adanu (means ‘wise collaboration’ in Ewe), and LOTS of hard work from everyone!

Land is donated, work committees established, rules for work are made, and the community provides all the labor, sand, water and anything else they can.

The Chief and Elders set the tone by showing up early every workday. The women start collecting water, men start mixing the concrete by hand.  Blocks are molded, lines are set, foundations are dug, walls slowly rise.  In about 4-6 months, a school building is completed.

Sound easy?  NO WAY!

We spent a week in Hehekpoe trying to be helpful to the workers, but we mostly slowed them down.  Even something as simple-sounding as collecting water had us begging off after 4 trips. Try carrying a massive bowl on your head for a ¼ mile without spilling – it’s heavy, requires a model’s posture, and strong neck muscles (luckily the other women lifted it onto our heads so we didn’t have to start in a squat position!).  Carrying bricks this way is better as they don’t slosh around!

I tried putting my expertise in mortaring bricks to good use (I watch my husband do DIY jobs), and while I was pretty pleased with myself, the men soon encouraged me to take a seat in the shade.

In the week we were in Hehekpoe, their progress was tremendous – walls were climbing to the invisible ceiling, and the entire back wall had four courses of bricks laid.

The best part of watching the school go up was the participation of the community. Those that couldn’t work onsite still gave valuable help.  One man who ran a very small store in the community asked our Robert Tornu how he could help.  Robert said he could pay for an extra mason (from a nearby village) to come work for one day. The man disappeared for a few minutes, then came back with the needed amount – 40cedi, or $10.

Building a school is about empowerment, commitment and communication; empowerment so the community knows they can do it and own it, commitment from the community and Adanu to see the work through, and communication between everyone to ensure challenges are resolved and successes celebrated.


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Likpe Nkwanta – a slow success

May 18, 2017

It isn’t always smooth sailing – or smooth building.  The Adanu Model relies on a community embracing empowerment, action and accountability.  And while some eagerly push forward, others need time to learn their future is up to them to build – Adanu does not build it for them, but puts all the pieces in place so they can build it themselves.


Likpe Nkwanta is a perfect example.  The community had a ground-breaking ceremony last summer for a 3-classroom school. It usually takes about 3-5 months for a school to be built IF the community is all in on the project. This in itself can be really challenging, as it means time away from farms and livelihoods as they donate their time to the project. Imagine if you had to take unpaid leave from your job to help build your child’s school.  Even if it was every other week, how would you pay your mortgage, buy your food, pay your bills? 


Adanu fully realizes the challenges a build project entails, which is why we respect the pace the village works at; it is also why we engage and re-engage the community week after week, month after month.  They have asked for Adanu’s help to them bring a brighter future, and in the process learn what they need to do, to be the ones creating that future.


The people of Likpe Nkwanta are hard-working, and have a deep love for their children.  Adanu has sat down with key stakeholders and community leaders to revive their efforts on multiple occasions, and the process, while some might consider it too slow or even a disappointment, it’s working.  DJ (Adanu Director of Construction) just sent pictures of the community pulling together to literally build their children’s future.


It might seem to some that this is a failing project, but we see it as a tremendous success.  This is what we do – change lives through collaboration, giving people the time and skills needed to fulfill their own potential.  This is sustainable development at its core.

Men and women building their school at Likpe Nkwanta

Mixing concrete as a community

The foundation for a 3-classroom school