10 years of Together for Gando – 10 years of sustainable development aid in Africa

Since 2009, Hevert has supported the construction projects of architect Diébédo Francis Kéré in Gando, his home village in the West African country of Burkina Faso, with the campaign “Together for Gando – 1 cent for each package of medicine sold.”

For the 10-year anniversary, Mathias Hevert, Managing Director of Hevert-Arzneimittel and member of the Board of the Hevert Foundation, took the opportunity to revisit the small African village Gando in February. His last trip to the village was with his siblings in 2010. Modernizing the traditional clay architecture style, building with the participation of the local people, and helping others help themselves – this is Francis Kéré’s sustainable development concept, which Hevert has been enthusiastic about from the beginning.

On the road to Gando

Gando is within reach. Not much farther to go. Gando is within reach. Not much farther to go.

Hustle and bustle awaits Mathias Hevert upon his arrival in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso. A lot has changed here since his last visit. “Ouagadougou was a pulsing metropolis even then, but from my point of view, it has grown significantly once again. From the eyes of a European, the streets are in total chaos – people, bikes, cars, trucks and their quite unusual transport constructions. But somehow, everything works in a continuous flow,” reports Mathias Hevert.

Since flying out of Berlin, he has been traveling with Francis Kéré, who has scheduled two-and-a-half to three hours for the trip from Ouagadougou to Gando. As truck drivers coming from Togo are very tired, night trips are extremely dangerous and have to be avoided. Just outside of the city limits, the dwellings become simpler. Along the side of the road there’s dust, sand, and plastic bags.

After a long journey, including a pit stop to buy exercise books and a sweet surprise for the elementary school children, they are finally approaching Gando. The last five kilometers lead over a rough stretch of sandy road. Except for school children on bicycles, hardly anyone is here.

The students provide a loud, colorful welcome for Mathias Hevert. The students provide a loud, colorful welcome for Mathias Hevert.

A loud welcome awaits the visitors. In front of the elementary school, a group of students circles them and an excited Mathias Hevert steps into the crowd of jubilant children. In the classrooms, everything is surprisingly in order, even though four of the children have to share a table and a bench. Class sizes of up to 100 students are not uncommon here. Mathias Hevert takes the opportunity to personally hand out the small gifts he brought with him. He associates handing out the sweets with small, but fair math challenges – the kids receive their candies after all doing the calculations together.

In the elementary school, up to 100 children share a classroom. In the elementary school, up to 100 children share a classroom.

“I cannot describe how it feels to experience the students’ excitement up close,” reports Mathias Hevert. “They are truly happy about the visit. I think a lot of them know that being able to attend school is not taken for granted here in the countryside, and that an education can make it possible for them to have a future outside of hard work in the fields.”

Ensuring this unique opportunity is what Hevert and the Hevert Foundation aim to support. Part of this support comes from regular donations through the campaign “Together for Gando – 1 Cent per Package” – a symbol for long-lasting commitment meant to provide the Kéré Foundation with planning security. Hevert has already donated around 370,000 euros for Gando in recent years.

The anniversary donation of 60,000 euros, made shortly before their departure, will be invested by Francis Kéré in the development of the secondary school and a mango tree plantation.

A holistic educational concept

The secondary school is still in development. The secondary school is still in development.

After completing the elementary school’s construction and its expansion a few years ago, Francis Kéré started planning a secondary school. After all, the students should be able to get a secondary-school education locally as well. Since construction began in 2011, two sections of the school have already been completed and classes are being taught in them. The foundations of the remaining sections have been excavated and were poured at the beginning of December 2018. Up to 50 children share a classroom in the secondary school.

Classes are already being taught in two sections of the school. Classes are already being taught in two sections of the school.

Construction progress has slowed down in recent years due to rising construction costs. It is primarily concrete and steel – the main building materials in addition to clay – that cost significantly more than when construction began. “In 2004, I was able to complete my first major construction project in Gando – the elementary school – for approximately 50,000 euros. Today, I can expect to spend three times that amount for a similar project,” Francis Kéré explained. However, the work is able to continue thanks to supporters like Hevert. While the role that social construction plays is key, Kéré is also committed to the maxim of Professor Peter Herrle, his former professor and mentor at the Technical University of Berlin, who says that each building is one of a kind and an architect must continuously refine his work. That’s why Francis Kéré is exploring completely new approaches, including for the secondary school.

Anniversary donation of 60,000 euros should drive school projects forward. Anniversary donation of 60,000 euros should drive school projects forward.

Not only do the buildings now have walls poured from clay instead of being built from individual bricks, the climate-control concept is also completely new. Terraced ground structures are planned as an additional cooling measure. These terraces in the earth will have concrete pipes tunneling underneath them that allow filtered, cooled outside air to reach the area under the school building. In this way, air is exchanged solely through physical access points without using additional energy and creates a pleasant indoor atmosphere for learning.

Mangoes for everyone?

As you approach Gando, you will see a green belt all around the school complex. Mango trees were planted extensively around the school buildings by Francis Kéré to provide shade and more food for the school. The trees damage the barren soil relatively less than e.g. eucalyptus trees, which have been widespread in Burkina Faso since French colonial times and bear no edible fruit.

However, there are also other food-lovers that stop at nothing when it comes to the trees. “We have lots of trouble with goats, which primarily nibble on young trees and damage them in a way similar to termites. That’s one of the reasons why we had to put a fence around our new plantation,” explains Kéré. “As part of our reforestation program, we planted an incredible 563 new trees there. The saplings are still very small and weak. For upkeep, we engaged a group of women from the village to take care of the young trees.”

Impressions that last

Giving children a future through education – the Hevert Foundation supports Francis Kéré with this mission. Giving children a future through education – the Hevert Foundation supports Francis Kéré with this mission.

Mathias Hevert's eventful visit is rounded off by a dinner with the teachers from both schools. Without the dedicated staff, most of whom left the metropolis of Ouagadougou to teach children here in the country, even the best school buildings would mean nothing. “I will always keep these impressions of my trip, which are a great inspiration for me. We are pleased and proud to be able to support such an intelligent and sustainable development project like Mr. Kéré’s with the help of Hevert customers. I am touched by how much we have been able to drive Gando forward together and how thankful the people of Gando are to have this support.”

Want to see Gando for yourself? You can find a short travel video here .

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