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Building a hopeful future in Zambia

Special Interest Programme / Partner story

Photo provided by Build It International

The capital of Zambia, Lusaka, is a swiftly developing city with new buildings popping up in the city each month. Because of this growth, there is substantial demand in the Zambian construction sector for properly trained labourers. There is a shortage however – it is estimated that less than 2,000 of the 15,000 – 17,000 new entrants into the construction sector each year have any formal qualifications, and there are significant shortfalls in many skills.

In response, Build It International began constructing its Centre for Excellence training facility in 2016. This not-for-profit organisation offers skills training, work experience and essential community-building projects to meet the needs of the growing country. It provides young, disadvantaged people with new skills to find work and provide for their families

“We are inspired by the way trainees embrace their training. Many come from exceptionally difficult circumstances with little opportunity,” said Sughra Hussain, Build It International’s country director.

Build It’s Centre for Excellence – a two-hectare site at the edge of Lusaka – is a hub for training in construction skills, small business development and sustainable building techniques. The centre has the current capacity to train 180 trainees and the future capacity to train 240 trainees. It offers courses in bricklaying, carpentry, painting, plastering and tiling. In partnership with Build It, a host of construction companies provide the centre’s trainees with paid three-month work placements, and many of the trainees are hired by the companies once their three months are up.

To date, Build It has provided vocational skills training to over 1,200 young people and has improved infrastructure through 51 community-build projects. These projects have helped trainees gain employable skills and have also brought essential services to Zambia’s communities. The building projects have included schools, clinics, homes, and health facilities. In 2019, more than 40 trainees worked on projects at Naluyanda and Mukuyu community schools to build classrooms and latrines. In 2020, some of its more experienced graduates led on the construction of classrooms, latrines and a teacher’s house at Light of Hope Community School, as well as permanent hand washing facilities in 26 schools, to help mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

“Too many young people in Zambia are denied access to decent education and training. It holds them back, trapping them in the same cycle of poverty that held their parents,” says Lucie Kasanga, chair of the Zambia board of Build It. “We are building a future where more young people have the chance to learn – to equip and empower themselves with new skills to make a lifetime change in their fortunes and those of their families.”

Elizabeth, a 24-year old who joined Build It’s painting course in the spring of 2019, came from a family that often struggled to meet daily needs. She is one of 10 children who were all raised single-handedly by her mother after her father passed away. Elizabeth saw Build It as an opportunity to build a better life for herself, and when her work placement at Matbros Applicators turned into a full-time job, she was overjoyed to be able to support herself. “My new job has motivated me to make more efforts in my work in order to reach my dreams,” says Elizabeth.

In addition, 27-year-old Harriet Mwedna joined Build It’s brick and blocklaying course in 2018. Married with three children, Harriet signed up to the training to gain skills and raise money to support her family. “I was discouraged by some community members – they thought it was a course that could only be pursued by men!” she says. Harriet has been working in construction since finishing her training. With her savings, Harriet has bought a farm and residential plot in Central Province where her mother stays. Harriet is able to pay school fees for her children, plus help supplement daily meals at home.

In sum, more than 300,000 people have benefited from Build It’s work, including young trainees, their families and their communities. This grant falls under our Special Interest Progamme, which reflects the Trustees’ interest in making dynamic, diverse, large, innovative, and challenging grants. You can read more about the programme here. You can learn more about Build It here, or watch the video below.