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Davis Journal

Weber State student helps design and build community center in Kenya

Apr 06, 2023 11:45AM ● By Becky Ginos

WSU student Sadie Wood mortars bricks for a community center in Kenya. Wood helped design the building and spent 10 days in Taru to help build it.

Courtesy photo

CLEARFIELD—Most college kids spend spring break relaxing and having fun. Sadie Wood spent hers in Taru, Kenya building a community center from the ground up. The Weber State senior and Clearfield High graduate helped design the building then watched it take shape.

“In September I participated in the Weber State University Interdisciplinary Design Charette,” said Wood. “It’s a 48-hour competition where you don’t know anything you will be designing. You’re put in a group with students from building design and construction management. The team has to build a model and make renderings to show to the judges and give a presentation.”

There are five or more people in the group, she said. “We took first place and I received $1,000 toward completing the project.”

Wood’s design was for the organization Kenya Keys. “They pair communities with sponsors from the U.S.,” she said. “Many of the kids there can’t attend school because their families are poor. It is a long way and they can’t pay for boarding so most quit after the eighth grade.”

They were given a list of the community’s needs and wants, she said. “Then we designed a building with that concept. I was able to go to Kenya and help build that building.”

It’s meant to be a gathering place, said Wood. “Something they can value as a community. There is a kitchen where they can cook and a space for teaching so it’s cool.”

Wood was there from March 1 – 11. “It was cool to see the construction of the building,” she said. “It was built using their methods. We were sawing boards by hand and shoveling and backfilling by hand. We mortared bricks that they made by hand. We’re trying to learn from them.”

The workers are paid by the day, said Wood. “Different people would come on site. Most didn’t speak too much English so it was fun to try and see how they do things and then totally botch them.”

The inspiration for the building was based on the Kenyan landscape, she said. “We looked at the area and colors and used bricks that matched the land. We wanted to make what they really valued.”

Wood said the people were the highlight of her trip. “We were met by some elderly men who were dressed in traditional wear and danced. Everyone always wanted to dance. We ate meals at their homes and the women would cook for us. It was neat to meet them. I’ve gained some Facebook friends for sure.”

Wood will graduate this month in interior design and building design and construction. “I have a full-time job at an interior design firm,” she said. “I’d love to go back (to Kenya) if I have the opportunity.” λ