Dale Minner, die-hard Clemson dad, traveled to Tanzania in October 2018 to dig wells for remote villages. He traveled with Ken Wood, whose charity Lifetime Wells International has dug almost 2,000 wells in Ghana and Tanzania. Learn more at www.lifetimewellsinternational.org.
“I had three weeks between jobs and decided, very last minute, to hike Mt. Kilimanjaro — the tallest mountain in Africa. We arrived at the Lemosho trail head, and about five minutes before we started our ascent, I notice the unforgettable Clemson colors and logo. The purple sweatshirt was worn by a Swahili-speaking, Tanzanian native with a friendly face. We couldn’t communicate well, but the Tiger Pride was there!”
They say it takes a village — and for one town in Ghana that couldn’t be truer. Over the past decade, the people of Okurase have been working together to transform their community for a more prosperous future by constructing the Nkabom Centre, the area’s first-ever educational facility.
The 18,000-square-foot structure has electricity and running water and is the first of a 17-building complex completely designed by Clemson architecture students studying at the Clemson Design Center in Charleston (CDC.C).
Cynthia Swenson, a professor with the Medical University of South Carolina, approached the CDCC for help in 2008. As the co-founder of Project Okurase, a nonprofit that develops sustainable, replicable solutions for disadvantaged villages, Swenson had been working in the Okurase community for several years and following the vision of the community, wanted to help construct a complex that would house educational and medical facilities with water and energy. But money was limited.
“Someone suggested Clemson because the students do hands-on service projects as part of their work,” Swenson said. “I knew after speaking with Ray Huff and Rob Miller that I’d found true partners in the CDC.C for this effort.”
“Everything we designed was built around local craftsmanship and skills we saw on our trip to Ghana.”
It was paramount that the buildings convey the local culture, so before undergraduate and graduate students began to tackle designs, students Kyle Keaffaber and Lindsey Willke traveled to the region to research. “They saw firsthand how the land, water and sun played into the structure’s dynamics. It was fascinating,” Swenson said. “We originally envisioned the medical center at the front of the complex with a school behind it, but our research indicated that would be a huge mistake because air flow would carry communicable diseases through the medical complex and toward the school.”
The trip provided another valuable lesson: The buildings needed to be constructed with compressed earth bricks. “To allow the community to play an active role and become invested in building their own community, everything we designed was built around local craftsmanship and skills we saw on our trip to Ghana,” Keaffaber said. However, the on-loan brick-making machine had to be returned before work was completed. Clemson faculty and staff stepped in and built four manual brick-making machines.
Today, the first structure in the complex stands tall, awaiting students of all ages to take their seats in the coming weeks, and now the community eagerly anticipates construction of the next building.
“I’ve seen an absolute change. People who grew up in that village are coming back, and things are picking up economically,” Swenson said. “And the people have a level of pride in this building — they built it themselves — and they want to leave a legacy for their children.”
Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity brothers Charles Rogers ’10 and Rogers Coxe ’11 and three others climbed 19,341 feet to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania, known as “the Roof of Africa.”
“… there, ahead, all he could see, as wide as all the world, great, high, and unbelievably white in the sun, was the square top of Kilimanjaro. And then he knew that there was where he was going.” – Ernest Hemingway, “The Snows of Kilimanjaro”
“But tonight, at the top of the mountain that Clemson flag is flying.”
I took my Tiger Rag to the top of the highest freestanding mountain in the world……9 days later, Dabo Swinney said that after Clemson won the national championship!