Providing a better future for the Children in Gando

African drums, children’s singing and dancing awaited the architect Diébédo Francis Kéré when visiting the primary school of Monzingen last Wednesday, May 2nd. The winner of the Holcim and Aga Khan Awards for Architecture was happy to accept the invitation of Hevert-Arzneimittel and to present the projects of his association Schulbausteine für Gando e.V. in Burkina Faso, Western Africa, to 200 excited adult and child visitors.

Mathias (l.) and Marcus (r.) Hevert while handing over the check to Francis Kéré.

“We are very lucky having a sponsor like Hevert-Arzneimittel,” Diébédo Francis Kéré announced while presenting his association’s project of building schools in Burkina Faso. “We got financial help and a deeply committed entrepreneurial family.”

Since early 2009, Hevert-Arzneimittel has donated 1 cent to the association for every package of medicine purchased as part of the "Gemeinsam für Kinder" (Together for Children) campaign. “We have supported the projects of Mr. Kéré since 2006. With the campaign ‘Gemeinsam für Kinder’ we wanted to demonstrate that the association has our long-lasting support”, Mathias Hevert, CEO of Hevert-Arzneimittel, clarified. “And our customers can be sure that each purchase or prescription of a package of our medicine helps to support this great project in Africa.”

Last year Hevert once again was able to raise a considerable amount with its campaign. Thus, last Wednesday 25,000 Euro could be handed over to the founder of the association by a symbolic check. “This year’s donation will become an exclusive contribution to financing a wing of the new secondary school,” Kéré announced at the press conference accompanying the main event in the primary school of Monzingen.

Exited listeners in the gym of the primary school of Monzingen.

“It is great that our co-operation partner, the primary school of Monzingen, allowed us to organize the event in its gym,” Marcus Hevert, co-owner of Hevert, emphasized. “The primary school also supports the projects of Mr. Kéré in Burkina Faso. Having organized several small campaigns themselves the pupils had already been able to collect donations for the school project and the children of Gando.” According to Petra Kohrs, head teacher of the primary school of Monzingen, a further charity run is planned for the second week of May.

In the meantime, 700 pupils are sharing classrooms in the primary school of Gando which was originally planned for a total of 120 children. At the end of primary school, many children do not know what comes next. A secondary school is far away and fees are high. But all those worries can be overcome soon: The construction of the first secondary school for Gando has already started and even this year three to five classes will open their doors for the older children.

Contrary to schools built during the French colonial era with concrete and their typical corrugated sheet roofs, several architectural features, as a massive, cooling mantle of clay, make it more comfortable for teachers and pupils to stay inside the buildings even during the months of great heat.

The different construction phases of the school project.

“Still, I first needed to make clay more popular,” Francis Kéré explained. “In my country, people notice that Europeans build solid houses with concrete. Thus, they first neglected my idea of using clay. But I was able to modernize the clay with the help of a little amount of cement. With this cement the clay gets more robust. Today, the use of clay and the work with their own hands strengthens the confidence of the people of Gando. They realize that what we have and do is valuable.”

As a further mantle, earth fillings in the form of terraces will additionally help cooling the classrooms of the new buildings in the secondary school. Furthermore, domestic plants will offer shade and a place to play during school breaks. Those plants will be watered with collected rain water.

For the sum of these innovative ideas and concepts the project officially named ‘Secondary school with passive ventilation system, Gando, Burkina Faso’ was awarded with the Global Holcim Award 2012 Gold. The competition seeks projects that harmonize conventional notions of sustainable building and environmental, social and economic performance – while also exemplifying architectural excellence and a high degree of transferability.

By now, CEO Mathias Hevert and his siblings have visited the village Gando in Burkina Faso twice. “It appeared to us as if we became part of a totally different world,” the CEO remembered. “We are looking forward to our next trip to Burkina Faso visiting the public library and our wing of the secondary school as well as meeting the teachers and children again.”

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