Two years ago, we worked with our sister company, Rwanda Trading Company (RTC) and Architect, Nerea Amoros Elorduy to create a school in the rural community of Mwito just off Lake Kivu in Western Rwanda.
At the beginning, the hope was simple – to create a community-owned early childhood development center where local farmers could, for the first time on the isolated peninsula, send their 3- to 5-year-old children for primary school preparation. What this evolved into was an opportunity for so much more.
Taking us back to meeting Nerea, we were quickly introduced to the lens by which she and her team at Creative Assemblages look at all projects – that in all things (even building materials), there is an opportunity to have impact. By creating facilities adaptable to specific social, historical, and material contexts, her team uses new and traditional knowledge in different settings to create highly efficient spaces perfectly adapted for the environments they sit in.
Applying this approach to the building materials, we were able to create an Early Childhood Development facility with:
- three stimulation rooms
- one kitchen
- a set of composting toilets
- a multipurpose space
- several semi-covered play areas
- an open playground
The facility design has a close-to-zero carbon footprint in its construction and maintenance, and provides stimulation for the children who attend daily. More than half of the building materials are up-cycled from RTC’s original factory in Kigali and the rest are purchased from the local community. The design maximizes natural light and ventilation as the building is off grid. The spaces themselves, with things like age-appropriate climbing walls, are designed to be as additional education for the children.
Now, two years and a global pandemic later, the school is still actively working to support the children despite sporadic lockdowns due to COVID-19. In honor of the two-year anniversary, Westrock has donated two milk cows to ensure the children have access to these nutrition benefits during the school day.
Westrock funding is matched by the local government and families as part of a long-term strategy to make the school an independently sustainable operation. As an example, the cow donation by Westrock comes alongside the local government’s provision of milk two days per week. Thus providing enough milk for all five days of the school week. When school is not in session, the milk will be sold locally to raise more operational funds for the school.
While this is a great step, we still have so much opportunity in Mwito’s community and other coffee communities alike. We want to thank you for your support of Westrock Coffee, and want you to know that just like something as simple as building materials, your coffee purchases have impact. Impact that spans across the world to communities like this one.