Volunteering in Nigeria

Master planning for healthcare in Benin City

Recently, I spent a little over a week in Benin City, Nigeria, 200 miles east of Lagos working with a team of architects and engineers from the U.S., Canada, Ghana and Nigeria. The non-profit Christian development organization, Engineering Ministries International, assembles groups of architects, engineers and design professionals to donate their skills “to help children and families around the world step out of poverty.” Since 1982, EMI volunteers have worked on over 1,000 relief and development projects in 90+ countries. EMI volunteers pay for their own travel and work on projects that serve the poor and share the gospel in developing countries.

All projects must meet the following criteria:

The project ministers to the needs of the poor

There is an ongoing proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ

The property on which the project is to be built is owned by the ministry

There is a planned method of funding for project construction and operation

A rigorous project approval process ensures projects are selected with a realistic chance of being built.

Our EMI project assignment was concerned with a hospital in Benin City. Originally, our team expected to design an ancillary building to be built at the hospital to provide clinical services for the community such as a dialysis clinic and additional support space for the hospital. As the team began to get a greater understanding of the needs from the hospital staff and board of directors new design priorities emerged.

As it turned out, a master plan was needed for the hospital in order to plan for its growth over the next 10-15 years. The ancillary building then became one phase in an overall master plan. This master plan will enable the organization to best utilize its existing urban site in an area where little long-range planning has been completed.

One of the first phases is the construction of an ancillary building featuring antenatal care facilities to replace the existing auditorium. At present the hospital uses the auditorium for administering prenatal care. The long term plan is to build a new ancillary building with a new auditorium for antenatal care as well as staff support functions. The design for this new building began in conjunction with devising the master plan.

During the trip, the civil engineers focused on addressing existing and future waste water and storm water as well as developing a survey of a new property recently purchased by the hospital. The electrical engineers completed a thorough evaluation of the electrical system throughout the existing hospital and evaluated its available additional capacity. The structural engineers provided assistance with the design of the ancillary building. A graphic designer began work on wayfinding signage.

While our work consumed much of our time, we had the opportunity to attend church services on two Sundays and visited a refugee camp which was hosting orphans from the conflict with Boko Haram in northern Nigeria.

The trip provided a great opportunity to work with design professionals from other countries including a structural engineer from Nigeria, intern architects from Canada and Nigeria, and an electrical engineer from Ghana. It was an amazing opportunity to donate design services to an organization whose mission is to serve those who are in need and see how much could be accomplished in a week. Benin City hospital was my first EMI project, but I know it won’t be my last.

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