The project began back in 2004 when a small Irish NGO, Emmaus, purchased 63 acres of land from the local community of Rogbere Village, a rural area about 42km outside of the capital, Freetown. The vision was to provide skills training and apprenticeships, and a Hydraform M7 blockmaking machine was bought as a cornerstone of this plan.

In 2009, Emmaus got together with another UK-based NGO, A Call to Business (ACTB), which had received a big donation to build a school on the site. The resulting Rogbere School of Excellence (Junior Secondary) was completed and opened in September 2010. A teachers’ accommodation block was also built the following year. Marjie Sutton, director of ACTB, explains that Hydraform technology was chosen because of its ease of use, cost efficiency and the excellent quality of the finished product. “The buildings constructed using Hydraform interlocking blocks are all very attractive, far outshining the usual cement block structures,” she adds, noting also that the mobility of the machines is very useful.

In 2012 work began on a new home for a small orphanage for physically and mentally disabled children that had been sponsored by ACTB since 2007. The new orphanage opened in 2013 and now houses about 40 children. Since then a further small accommodation block has been built to house visitors/volunteers, along with a new toilet block for the school and another building to expand the school, hopefully to include primary and senior schooling.

The NGO’s vision is to see Rogbere Village transformed into a self-sustaining business hub, providing employment and income-generating opportunities for the community and expanding to encompass surrounding villages. As part of this vision, ACTB runs a successful microfinance/SME-lending business with around 11 000 clients across the country, which also benefits the Rogbere community via loans to groups of women.

Plans are also in place for a variety of business activities, including agriculture (cassava) and poultry farming plus other livestock (goats/sheep). All along the way marketable skills have been transferred to members of the community and this will continue to be the focus of the Rogbere project.