Local architect intern volunteers skills in Uganda

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A architectural intern at Engineering Ministries International Canada (eMi Canada), who grew up just outside of Airdrie, has returned from Njeru, Uganda, where she put her skills to use designing a children’s home project.

Spending time previously working in an Ethiopian orphanage, Rochelle Hartung, 27, has always had an interest in international aid work, but this is the first chance she has had to combine altruistic ventures with her career aspirations.

“I wanted to try and use my architectural schooling in a way that I felt was a little more beneficial to people who might not have access to architectural professionals,” she said.

Arriving near the start of September with a team of architects and engineers from eMi Canada, Hartung visited the site where she met various design professionals from around the world all working to establish an orphanage, school and church there.

The team did everything from soil analysis, water testing and surveying, all the way to the architectural side developing a master plan for the site and working on individual plans for each building design.

This process of design was also a learning experience for Hartung as she had to take into consideration the temperature difference and building material available in Africa, as well as cultural differences.

She conducted interviews with a variety of people to help shape the final master plan, including items as simple as determining the use of a western toilet versus a latrine system.

“It’s nothing like taking a design you make here in Canada and plunking it over in Africa,” she said. “You can’t just be going in there guns blazing telling people what they need.”

At the end of the trip, the architectural master plan was finished and presented to Chayah Ministries in Njeru, which specializes in childcare and benefitted greatly from the architectural design and engineering help eMi brought to the project, according to Hartung.

“It’s great to come in and fill a gap they don’t necessarily have expertise in,” she said.

Back in Canada, the architectural interns at eMi Canada have been tasked with finishing the design drawings and creating a final report package to be presented to Chayah just before Christmas.

After that, the ministry will take the designs and, based on their financial situation, will start to build. The final building stage is the lasting part of this volunteer trip for Hartung.

“When you have something you’ve designed come to fruition like that, something that will be a part of these kid’s lives on a daily basis, it’s a really cool thing,” she said.

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