Birth of a Social Enterprise Part 3 – What’s That Going on in the Chicken Shed?

Well finally, in January 2016, after much design, head scratching, metal cutting and bending, concrete mixing, the highs and just a few lows, we perfected the design of the wall panels of the house and therefore the essential molds to move our dream a little closer.

Now to build a prototype house. But first we need to “bulk” manufacture, in testing we only built one panel at a time. We worked with Imran Mogul at Multi-Dimensional Engineering to manufacture 20 molds. Imran has a great engineering shop in the Industrial Area of Nairobi and employs a number of our target beneficiaries from the adjacent slums. They were very interested in what we are doing and enjoyed being part of it.

A Friend has a small farm outside Nairobi where he used to rear chickens and offered us the use of the sheds and a small area for the prototype house. Late last year, while we were finalizing the mold design, we also cast the ground slab to receive the prototype.

In January, we relocated the molds, our few tools etc out to Athi River where the prototype slab was. This was also where we had been loaned the chicken shed for manufacturing. First job was to clean out the traces of the previous “residents” – Chicken poo, nice??

At one point Winnie stood covered in dust, face smeared with streaks of …….? Smiling, she paused and said “Simon! On Saturdays wives are supposed to dress up, be taken out for lunch or to the countryside and relax, I get to clean a chicken shed?” Luckily, it is all fun, whilst hard work. Remembering why we are doing it and the opportunity it creates for improving the homes and saving lives of slum families makes it all worthwhile too.

Next we were planning the best set up for production and bringing in the materials. Nothing fancy or technical, just a truck, 3 men and a lady, wheel barrows and buckets. 5 tonnes of cement, sand, aggregate and mesh together with the many pieces of the molds into our new “home”.

Very quickly there was a hive of activity, drilling the base boards, bolting the angles to the boards, ensuring the set up was accurate. Then the great moment, mixing the materials for the first panel for the first full house of Kwangu-Kwako.

Flurry of Activity
Flurry of Activity

In just over a week, we had enough panels for the prototype house (59 Pieces) and then another week,or so, for the show house panels and for a toilet cubicle too. With concrete there is a frustrating 3-4 week period while the concrete “cures” and gains full strength. Patience is needed while the panels sit there and we cannot build. We used the time to test the roof and door designs. More on that in the next Birth of a Social Enterprise Blog.

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