In June of this year one of our Management Trainees, Ajay Banga, visited the small village of Asempaye in Ghana to volunteer within a local community. Over the week Ajay helped to build overnight accommodation for teachers travelling from Accra daily to provide an education to children in the local village. Often the teachers, who would be travelling for over 2 hours each day to get to the villages, would be delayed meaning that students missed lessons and received a much poorer level of education. The idea of the accommodation would allow teachers to stay Monday-Thursday night and travel back home on a Friday enabling the students to receive more organised, full school days.
We caught up with Ajay on his visit to find out how it went:
So Ajay, where did you travel to and why?
Last month I was lucky enough to travel to Ghana and volunteer with a local community in the small village of Asenpaye. I was keen to visit a third world country and Africa was the main place that really appealed to me, the culture was something I found really interesting.
What were you hoping to learn from the trip?
I wanted to learn about the way the construction industry works in another country or continent, and how this differs from how we operate. They obviously do not have the resources and materials/plant available to them that we do, so I was keen to find out more about how they manage to build projects and the alternative methods they must adopt.
How did the way of working vary from how we operate in the construction industry back in the UK, did the contrast between the two change your perspective of what we do in the UK?
In Ghana, everything is by hand, everything. In the UK, we buy bricks and blocks from a builder’s merchant and it is delivered to site already made and ready to lay. In the UK we can buy ready mixed mortar or concrete and it will be delivered in a lorry where as in Ghana it must all be hand mixed. Small things that I often take for granted such as a cement mixer were not available as the village did not have any electric, meaning everything would be mixed by hand using shovels.
When comparing the way construction is carried out in the UK, one thing I noticed is their attitude towards sustainability. Although there were not any clear initiatives that I saw, I did notice compared to the UK is the massive difference in the amount of packaging waste. In the UK, we have tonne bags of sand, or aggregate, pallets wrapped with plastic, whereas in Ghana everything was loose. The only thing packaged was cement in a hessian sack in 50 kg bags.
Did you meet any of the local communities?
We met many of the local families in the surrounding villages and also a lot of the school children. They were all extremely friendly and always waved, smiled and said good morning. We spent a lot of time with the school children as they often spent their evenings in the ‘volunteer base’ where we were stayed. One thing that surprised me was how happy they all were, yet they had very little in comparison to children in the UK. Their clothes were often ripped, or too big/small, they had very little or no food sometimes, no running water, no electric, no technology or anything and they never complained. They were always smiling, friendly and care free. This taught me to be grateful for what we have, never take anything for granted and how to adapt to different environments.
Is there anything that you have taken away from your trip that you think you could apply to your day to day role?
I would say now I have a different mindset and perspective on a personal level. However, in terms of how this would change my day to day role at Willmott Dixon Interiors, I would say it would have to be in relation to our packaging of materials and the unnecessary plastic we use. I would like to try and raise this within the pre-start meeting we hold on site with our subcontractors before allocating packages and placing orders. It is also a topic I believe our sustainability and supply chain departments may be able to collaborate with to encourage our supply chain to minimise the amount of waste packaging across our sites.