Well things are really progressing with Moving Schools 002 at New Road School in Mae Ramat. The new site has been cleared and this week parents and teachers from the school committee will begin digging foundation holes for their new school. The PTA meeting which was held last week was a great way to discuss the school design with the local community and gain their feedback on the design.
By reviewing a scale model of the school design with the PTA members the Building Trust team were able to clearly understand the needs of the school committee and the pupils. There will be five classrooms made from a steel frame as constructed in the first Moving Schools build. The building will feature two large classrooms and three smaller classrooms which will be divided by walls which the parents and teachers will construct themselves.
It is great to see how pro active the local community members are in building a new school for their children. They were happy to take time of during the Songkran holiday season to get started on the build of the new classrooms. I look forward to keeping you posted with details of the school build over the upcoming months.
A few photos of the first day on site plotting the grid for their new school building:
I documented in my blog last year about how my very good friend Matt decided to put his faith in Building Trust and spend his holiday from his London city job to spend two weeks filming the school build. Matt believed in us and travelled for the first time out of Europe to document the Moving Schools build. We were very happy to have Matt with us and it was fantastic that he managed to film the early stages of the build. He was able to capture the arrival of our International set of volunteers and the moment when the Thu Kha Hang Sar headmistress, Chan Chan dug the first foundation hole for the school.
After Matt left to go back to his city job (as a film editor) in London, we were lucky enough to have a second camera man on site to film the rest of the build. We met Richard through the team at Youth Connect. Richard was making a film about the young apprentices we had hired to complete the school build. He was documenting the start of their new social enterprise called Iron Wood. Richard very kindly agreed to film the rest of the school build.
I am very proud to present a small film promoting Building Trust and documenting our first Moving Schools build. I hope it clearly demonstrates how we operate as an organisation and what we aim to achieve through our humanitarian projects. Many thanks to Matt for editing, filming and creating an amazing film and thanks to Richard for the interviews and additional footage!
Please watch, enjoy and share!
We are hoping to make a longer film of the Moving Schools project to help further promote Building Trust. If you know of anyone who may be interested in collaborating with us please do get in touch.
After a great weekend, with the arrival of the fabric roofing and flooring material for the school build we were very eager to start putting up the roofing system and turn the project from a steel frame into a complete building. The workshop apprentices were now working on site at the school where they were using a generator to construct the larger roof frames on site.
Once a large frame was built by the team, the plastic roofing fabric was fitted to the frame and then a team of workers would lift the frames into place over the steel frames.With the rain not stopping we decided to try and place the first small roof in place. Paul from Youth Connect climbed onto the steel frame as Aung Myint Soe and David pushed the small frame into position.
It was great to finally see a roof section in place and to find out that the plastic roofing caused no sound when the rain hit the roof. With the first small roof in place the next day the team decided to lift a large frame into position to complete the first school module. With scaffolding carefully positioned around the steel frame the team slowly manoeuvred the large roof into place and within a few hours the first two school modules were fitted with roofing system.
As the roofs were fitted the volunteers moved the Viva floor boards into place on the school module and the boards were painted. Both top and bottom of the boards were coated in acrylic paint. This layer of paint will provide an essential waterproofing.
After the floor boards were painted David used self tapping, countersunk screws to attach the boards at 50mm centres to the steel floor joists. Slowly we could see the school modules creating an interesting new space which would become the classrooms for the Thu Kha Hang Sar students.
As the floor boards and roofs were being fitted, we began to research a supplier for bamboo blinds which would be fitted to the steel frames adding extra protection from the weather to each module. We were very happy to find out a family in a nearby village manufactured bamboo blinds from their home. Driving through the rice paddie fields and across a winding path led us to where the family created the blinds. We discussed the designs with the family and they agreed to make 30 blinds for the school in two weeks. The family would cut and smoke the bamboo before weaving the bamboo with nylon to create beautiful blinds.
It was fantastic to be providing the local community with work and great to see even more local produce being taken into the final design. After collecting all the blinds from the local village they were taken to the Youth Connect workshop to be painted with a lacquer to protect the bamboo from insects and water damage. We really looked forward to bringing all the school materials together to see the final school design.
It was great to see more of the roof in place and begin to get a feel for the space and overall design of the building. We were really pleased with the plastic fabric which looked spectacular above the steel frame. The roofing system will provide the students with a quieter classroom environment, sun protection and better ventilation provided through the angles of the roof.
Meanwhile, in the workshop further Burmese workers were employed to finish the bamboo wall panels. A team of two spent two weeks constructing 60 bamboo panels which would create the walls for the school modules.
It is great to see all the components of the build coming together and we are looking forward to seeing the finished school build very soon.
After a fantastic weekend constructing the ten school modules on site, we were eager for the arrival of the roofing fabric and flooring which would turn the steel frame structures into a school building. We received notice on Sunday morning that the UV resistant fabric for the roof had arrived in Bangkok from Germany via Oman. The fabric was very kindly donated to Building Trust by Mehler Texnologies a German company, who offered to provide the fabric for the school project free of charge we then had to pay the shipping cost by air to Thailand. We also awaited the arrival of the flooring which is made from a cementitious wood board by a Thai company called Viva Board. The cementitious wood board looks very similar to the familiar concrete flooring often found in Mae Sot schools, however the vital difference is that the Viva Board can be taken with the school community if they have to move the school in the future. Another package awaiting delivery from Bangkok were the aluminium extrusions, a product by French company Profil Tensions Systems which would hold the PVC membrane to the steel frame.
After a few days of long, arduous and frustrating phone conversations, trying our hardest to get the fabric released from customs at Bangkok airport we received the great news that on Wednesday afternoon the flooring, extrusions and roofing were on a truck from Bangkok to Mae Sot.
As the truck made it’s way to Mae Sot the volunteers spent 2 days completing 8 foundation holes for the central courtyard. Instead of using truck tyres and digging three tyres deep for the courtyard foundations, we used a smaller car tyres. We were able to use a smaller system for the central courtyard as there will be very little imposed loads on this area of the school.
As the final courtyard foundation hole was finished, the truck from Bangkok arrived and the volunteers, David and I wondered how on Earth we would be able to unload the truck containing all the flooring and roofing materials for the school construction. As we tried to come up with the easiest solutions to unload and called friends to see if they could help, out of nowhere a group of 50 students from the school next door, who had just finished playing football started walking in droves up the road. They all huddled together around the back off the truck and looked up to David & the workshop guys to unload the material to them. It was as if by magic a team of incredible, strong children showed up to help us unload. Ranging in ages from 6 – 16, they lifted the rolls of plastic roofing into the school site.
With 10 children to a roll the roofing was quickly brought into the school site. Next to be unloaded were the large Viva Boards for the flooring. Over the next hour 140 pieces of Viva board were carried piece by piece into the site, where I stood directing the children where to place the materials. It was fantastic to see how eager and enthusiastic the children were to help out.
We were so relieved that the fabric and roofing materials had arrived safely from Bangkok and could not quite believe the experience of unloading the truck. We truly believed someone/something was looking out for us.
After an action packed afternoon on Friday, Saturday morning we were to begin work on the roofing sections. There are two sections to the roof, a small roof and one larger roof. Both steel frame roof sections need to be fitted with aluminium extrusions, which hold the plastic roofing material in place. Adrien from Profil Tension System very kindly flew up from Bangkok to show us how to construct the aluminium and roofing sections.
First the aluminium extrusions are connected to the steel frame with self tapping screws at approx. 200mm centres.
The fabric is then rolled out over the steel frame and cut to the correct size. Small plastic extrusions are then tapped into place at four points across the frame to keep the fabric in place.
The four small plastic extrusions are then removed as a larger piece of plastic extrusion is fitted to the roofing section as the plastic is stretched and tightened across the frame.
When the plastic is stretched and tight across the whole roof, then a second layer of aluminium is fitted on top.
The process of fitting aluminium extrusions to plastic onto steel roofing frame took the team just under one hour to complete. Now to complete another 9 small frames and 10 large frames!
It was great to see how fantastic the roofing fabric looked against the steel frame and when tested under the rain we could see how resistant the fabric was to the weather and how little noise could be heard when the rain hit the plastic surface. This would be a huge change to the current tin roof which is very noisy and only lasts a few years. We hope that the plastic roof will last for 5-10 years, Chan Chan the Headmistress smiled from ear to ear as she visited the school site and the weekend to see the fabric roofing material. This will be the first of its kind and we hope will make a dramatic improvement to the education of the children at Thu Kha Hang Sar.
We now wait for a break in the rain to place the 10 small and 10 large roofs onto the steel modules. We hope that we will be able to have the roof up over the next few days. This will allow us to have a dry area where we can begin to fit the Viva board flooring and insert the bamboo wall panels into the school structure.
LIVE UPDATE: from ‘Moving Schools‘ project – First Classroom module is placed on site
After another successful weekend with new volunteers helping on the school site we were happy with the progress being made. It was great to have volunteers from the UK and Canada working alongside the school teachers and students on their Saturday morning. With the number of long term volunteers slowly depleting it was great to see the arrival of Pablo from Guatemala on Saturday, a civil engineer who will be helping us out in Mae Sot until the end of the project. We also gained a few days volunteering assistance from Wen an Architect who had travelled from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to assist with the build.
On Tuesday, we received news from the workshop that they had finished cutting, drilling, painting and welding one set of steel frames to construct one school module. With this good news David, Pablo, Jim, Wen and I went to the school site to prepare the foundations posts for the arrival of the steel frames. In order to ensure we have the same height across the site, we purchased a 10 meter length of clear plastic tubing to use as a water level. Pablo had recently used this technique on a project build in Guatemala so was able to explain and show the very clever, simple process of ensuring the height across all foundation posts.
The ends of the plastic tubing are held vertical, and the rest of the tubing lies on the ground. The tube is filled with water, then two people hold the tube and one foundation post is chosen as the reference point. With foundation post chosen, one person stays at the post and holds the tube against the post and waits until the water levels out. The water level at each end of the tube will be at the same elevation, whether the two ends are adjacent or far apart.
Then at a second foundation post the other person holds their section of tubing against the second post and waits till the water stops moving up and down. When the water is still the level is marked on the reference post and then on the second post.
This process is repeated across all foundation posts using the reference post against each post. A very simple method indeed!
On Wednesday, we headed up to the workshop and started loading a truck with the steel for one classroom module.
Thankfully the distance between the workshop and the school site is not too far and the truck managed to drive onto the school site for the steel to be unloaded and laid out onto the ground
The workshop apprentices drill out the final holes in the foundation posts on site to ensure all sections are fitted to the correct measurements.
The steel columns are laid out on the ground and positioned into place with the floor panels and ceiling sections, which are bolted together. This will allow the two sections of the frame to be lifted up into place over the foundation posts and then bolted together.
When two frames are fitted to foundation posts the structure is secure, however we add a cross brace across the frames for additional support.
Next the floor sections are bolted onto the frames, soon we will add the roofing, bamboo wall panels and floor panels onto the school modules but first we must finish the remaining foundation posts and fit the classroom frames into place. The workshop are now planning to work over the weekend and we hope all ten modules will be fitted over the next few weeks.
On Saturday morning, the remaining volunteers, David and I travelled up to the school site ready to start another day of foundation work. As we walked on to site we looked behind and saw a large truck dropping off a great number of people. Slowly one by one they walked through the school gates with tools in hand, the children’s parents had arrived to help! With the majority of our volunteers leaving last Tuesday we were not sure how many people we would have to help over the weekend and were pleasantly surprised with the influx of new recruits!
Along with the parents a new group of Canadian volunteers arrived, five girls who are currently teaching at migrant schools in the area. They kindly offered their Saturday to help out on site, draining a further foundation hole. It was great to see volunteers, children and their parents getting along and helping out.
By creating a long chain the gravel was passed to the foundation hole quickly and in no time at all the foundation post and three truck tyres were placed in the foundation hole and filled with gravel and sand. It was fantastic to see everyone working together as a team to carry out the task in hand in a quick and efficient manner. It would be great to have such a great team of volunteer on site everyday!
The parents will be helping us out on the school site every Saturday over the next month, it is fantastic to have their assistance and see that they are very positive about the school design and want to help out in anyway they can. We are looking forward to working with them this Saturday where we have also been promised some tasty Burmese food for lunch after a hard morning working on site.
If you are in the Mae Sot area and are interested in helping out volunteering on the school build please do get in touch. We are always open to people willing to give their time to help out in anyway they can.
Email email@example.com for further information
On Saturday morning, David and myself met with Thu Kha Hang Sar Headmistress Chan Chan on the school site. After taking measurements of the current school buildings we were able to draw the buildings in CAD and place a render of the position of the new classroom buildings. We were then able to take Chan Chan through each aspect of the school design to ensure she fully understood the classroom layout. We discussed the use of colour within the building and Chan Chan told us how she would like to use the colours from the teaching staff’s uniform in the design. It was great to gain her ideas and thoughts on the design and we look forward to working alongside and implementing her ideas as we move forward together.
In order to understand the scale of size of the classroom we took some of the current pieces of school furniture and placed them outside within the plotted grid of the new classroom layout. This was a great way of allowing us to gain a clear understanding of how the classroom would look and feel inside. We found that the best layout for the chairs was in a horseshoe shape, allowing all students to see each other during a lesson and also allowing the teacher to have the ability to walk up and down the middle of the desks. It was important to Chan Chan and the teachers that we understood where the white boards would be positioned and where the school flagpole would be positioned. After reviewing the layout and materials to be used, we were happy and confident that Chan Chan was pleased with the school design and knew she was keen to start the building project. Not one to miss a photo op one of the teachers suggested that Chan Chan start the first foundation hole. We passed Chan Chan a shovel and led her to where the first foundation foot was to be dug.
With great excitement she placed a pair of gloves on, took the shovel and started digging. Soon afterwards the school teachers asked for gloves and tools and within an hour the Building Trust volunteers and School staff were getting stuck in and mud began flying everywhere. In the first afternoon, the team managed to make a great start on the foundations and slowly began to be able to visualise as to how the school would look. In the late afternoon, we had a surprise visit from the Head of the School Council who arrived with his wife and a much needed platter of jack fruit to feed to the volunteers and provided them with a much needed last boost of energy to keep them going until the early evening.
On Sunday, the volunteers arrived on site bright and early ready to start a full day of digging foundations. Over night the skys had opened and all of the holes that had already been dug and filled with three car tyres, were now full of water and in some holes a family of frogs!
We knew that building in rainy season would be a challenge and we were to find out over the next few days how much a challenge it would be. As David went to scout out more car tyres with Matt our cameraman, the volunteers continued to make progress digging foundations and emptying the holes off water and then filling with tyres. We were shocked to see David and Matt return a truck load full of truck tyres instead of car tyres. The original foundation plan was to place one truck tyre and two car tyres underneath the earth. However, David was to find out that a very kind local Thai lady would offer as many truck tyres as we needed for free. We therefore made the decision that it would be better for the school structure and cost that we place two truck tyres with one car tyre on top. This was great news, however meant the volunteers finished foundations were not quite finished as they now needed to be as wide as a truck tyre. The volunteers remained upbeat and split into groups with two widening the finished car tyre foundations and the further two groups starting new holes the width of a truck tyre. David and Matt returned to the truck to collect a further 32 truck tyres!
We were sad to see our cameraman Matt leave on Sunday evening, however we knew he had to get back to his real job and looked forward to seeing more of the footage he had captured over his two week stint in Mae Sot.
On Monday the volunteers had a day off, several were very lucky and managed to gain a day pass visit to Mae La Camp which they reported back as an interesting, eye opening trip. Meanwhile, in the Global Neighbors workshops, Chris and his team of local apprentices began work on the steel foundation posts for the first school module. The foundation is made up of a layer of gravel, a truck tyre with the steel foundation post slotted inside then a further truck tyre and one car tyre placed on top. The tyre hole is then filled with gravel and the footing fitted into place. We were glad to know that Chris’s team work incredibly fast and managed to make the first foot posts by the end of Monday.
On Tuesday, David dropped myself and the volunteers off at the school site to continue digging holes. By Tuesday the school site was very water logged from the continuous down pours of rain and the water remaining in the ground. Volunteer Ben resorted to wearing swimming goggles in order to get the mud out from the bottom sections of the foundation holes and not get mud in his eyes. By midday on Tuesday the volunteers were covered from head to toe in mud and were really making progress on the foundation holes. Even with a heavy afternoon downpour they stayed out on site determined to get as many holes dug in one day as possible. It was great to see their positivity and determination to get the job finished.
By Wednesday, the volunteers were beginning to feel slightly less upbeat about spending the entire day digging holes, however I think it helped keep motivation by seeing the children they were building the school for so close to them every day. I sat amongst the children as they waited for their school bus as they each shouted out ‘Hello’ to the volunteers digging hole.
I spent the morning cleaning and painting the first of the school foundation posts. First using white spirit to remove any rust and dust and then painting with a layer of red primer. After the primer had dried I then gave each post 3 coats of black enamel paint. The primer will help to keep the steel from rusting.
After spending the morning in the workshops, we went back to the school site to test out one of the painted foundation posts inside a truck tyre. In order to place the post inside the tyre, a small cut had to be made to the tyre. We were happy to see the foundation post fit perfectly. The next morning, Ben one of the UK volunteers and David accurately measured the placements of the foundation posts and prayed the rain would hold off for a few hours to allow us to drain the holes of water and fill with gravel and tyres. We were very pleased when the rain held off and yesterday afternoon we managed to fix our first foundation post!
Bright and early on Monday morning, the Building Trust team and volunteers met at the DK Hotel in Mae Sot to await our escort to the Global Neighbors workshops in Mae Pa. We have been very kindly offered the workshop facilities to develop and design the modular school classroom. Before setting off, the volunteers were given a run through of Safe Tools Use and watched a 20min video entitled the ‘ABC Of Hand Tools‘ The very simple cartoon allowed the volunteers to have a basic understanding of to use hand tools correctly and how easily they can be misused.
With the arrival of our ride, the volunteers piled into the Picturebook truck to be taken up to the workshops along with Saw Dee and Si Da Pa, two highly skilled carpenters/bamboo workers who will be working with the group this week. They have worked on several school projects in the area and were hired to teach the volunteers about the uses of bamboo. They worked with Norwegian Architect Line Ramstad through the G’yaw G’yaw Organisation. Gyaw Gyaw is committed to construct buildings to the benefit of Karen refugees in Burma and Thailand.
Before we could start using the bamboo and seeing how this material could be used to create our wall panel structures, Saw Dee and David travelled to pick up material supplies for the day. While myself and the volunteers awaited the materials we played a few team building exercises to make sure everyone would communicate clearly and be aware of each other in the afternoons building workshop. The first activity was a drawing game.
I first split the group into pairs giving one person from each pair a simple drawing of a cat placed on the top left of a blank piece of paper. The other team member then had to draw the picture which was described to them in shapes by the team member with the original drawing. It sounds difficult but the teams seemed to enjoy the game and as we tried a second round with one player drawing their own image to describe to the other team the communication between the pairs developed and the teams were faster at drawing the correct image.
The next game involved trust and working together as a team to get the best possible solution. The volunteers enjoyed the mornings activities of getting to know one another a bit better and to understand how important it is to ensure everyone has a clear knowledge of the task to be achieved each day.
Just after lunch Saw Dee and David arrived with the materials needed to build the wooden frames. The volunteers quickly ran to the truck to help unload the bamboo, wooden planks and woven bamboo sheet into the workshops. We were quick to learn that Saw Dee believed that the machetes they had purchased did not have a high quality handle, so decided to search the workshop for a better piece of wood and then make their own. Within an hour Sawdee and Si Da Pa had made 3 new wooden handles for their machetes.
With machetes at the ready, Saw Dee kindly began the bamboo workshop and discussed the many ways bamboo can be used. He first cut a piece to length then used the machete to take any rough edges off the sides. Then slowly cut into the bamboo, tapping all the way down. Saw Dee said to cut one piece of bamboo would normally take 15mins, however the lesson took slightly longer so the volunteers and BTi staff could gain an understanding of how to do it ourselves.
After cutting the bamboo, Saw Dee unfolded the bamboo and began to flatten, using the machete to remove any hard edges found along the inside of the bamboo. The piece was then attached to a further two pieces of flattened bamboo and attached inside a wooden frame to create the bamboo infill wall panels.
It was great to see the skills shared between the local workers and the International volunteers, the group worked well together and slowly but surely we were getting the hang of using bamboo. Saw Dee and Si Da Pa will be working in the workshops all week to finish the wooden frames for one classroom unit.
Yesterday, the volunteers began clearing the ground and digging holes for foundations with the hope that we can complete one steel frame with infill wall panels over the next week. So keep reading to see how the build progresses!
And one panel is completed.
After cutting 3 pieces of bamboo and flattening then fitting inside a wooden panel fixed with a mortise and tenon joint and two tapered down teak dowels. Now another few to go so we can complete one classroom module!
Well my Vodafone WOD placement may have ended but my volunteering for Building Trust International continues and things are busier than ever. I have just arrived in Mae Sot, a small town on the Thai/Burmese border where I will be volunteering on the construction of the winning school design from our ‘School 4 Burma’ competition.
The build is due to start in June with a team of Worldwide volunteers arriving to help with the project. Yesterday, we had a meeting with the school headmaster and discussed the potential sites for the school construction. We are awaiting final approval from the local community that we can start construction on the school this will be finalised in a meeting which will take place on June 6th.
In the meantime, we are discussing with the school teachers to gain their thoughts and ideas on the winning design. We have also set-up meetings with local timber yards to discuss the costs of the materials to be used for the school construction. I look forward to sending through more details and photos as the build progresses.
In the meantime, back in the UK Jude Sellen a Building Trust trustee is hosting a 2 month open house exhibition for the charity. Jude has arranged an open house showcasing the Moving Schools exhibition, which was recently on display in London. The event is open 10am to 5pm every weekend through May and June in the small town of Westmeston, outside of Brighton. Also on display in the house are photography works by local prize winning photographers. Many of the pieces on display have been kindly donated by the artists to raise further funding for the Moving Schools project. Along with fantastic pieces of art to purchase there is an garden cafe with baked goods, tasty cakes and even beans on toast on offer. With all proceeds going to the ‘Moving Schools’ project. Many thanks to Jude and the local community who have helped organise and plan such a fantastic event.
If you missed the ‘Moving Schools’ exhibition in London and would like to see the project then please make sure to visit the Open House Exhibition which can be found at 1 The Street, Westmeston, BN6 8RJ
All funds raised will go directly into the ‘Moving Schools’ project which I am currently working on in Mae Sot. So please go and show your support.