Success Stories

Church and Community Hub is Rebuilt by Hand, Brick by Brick

Fallen church after a storm story-of-the-weekChurches are more than just worship centers in the villages of Malawi. They also serve as a place for orphans to receive shelter, food, and care. They are also a place where Village Empowerment provides literacy programs, business development support, and where the community gathers. Thus, it was critical that a new temporary location be provided, and that the repair work on the church happen immediately.

Linda Limbe, Village Empowerment’s Program Director on the ground in Malawi, fled to the scene, and, with the support of Don Smith, the Founder of Village Empowerment,was able to help the village. The village immediately set-up a temporary shelter in a thatched hut,and began the long and hard work of rebuilding the church. Village Empowerment was able to support the repair of the church by purchasing all of the supplies needed for the roof,and coordinating the effort to complete the project.

Thatched Roof
story-of-the-weekWhat is a thatched hut?It is a makeshift grass-thatched building with poles and African long grass, which provides little defense to rain, but provided shade for church services, meetings, and the child day care center until the church was rebuilt.

What was the process of rebuilding the church? First, they made the bricks. To do this, they start by digging a hole, usually about 20 feet in diameter and about 3 feet deep. The women then gather at the village well. With a hand pump, they pump the water into large buckets and carry them on their heads to the dugout area in the ground. The water is then poured into the depression, and, with their feet, the ladies make mud. Several village volunteers, both men and women, place this mud into a wooden form the size of a brick. These wet mud bricks are removed from the form and laid in the sun to dry for a few days.

When they are dry enough to pick up, they are stacked in a pile called a brick furnace. Openings are left in the bottom of this brick furnace to accommodate wooden logs. This entire structure is then coated with soft mud so the heat is contained when the fire is built. The fire is kept continuously burning for two or three days and nights. This process can take a great deal of time.

When all the bricks are ready, the foundation and walls are rebuilt. Trees small in diameter are cut to form rafters above the walls to hold the roof in place. Meanwhile, the village volunteers and church members sell crops along the road to make money to buy cement for the bricks.

At this point Linda, who works with the volunteers, saw the need for a metal roof rather than a thatched roof, not only for the church, but to ensure a secure space for the orphan day care, feedings, and other activities.

Linda brought this to the attention of the leadership of Village Empowerment, and the funds were provided to buy the metal sheets at a cost of approximately $1000.

How long did it take?The entire process of building the temporary building, making the bricks, burning the bricks, selling crops to raise money for cement, and building the structure took approximately seven months. With the temporary hut in service, the villagers then began work making bricks for the church.