This week marked the groundbreaking for a new Operating Theater addition to the existing clinic facility in the Reaching Children’s Potential (RCP) complex located in Ipalamwa, Tanzania. Established by Global Volunteers, an international volunteer organization founded in St. Paul, MN, the Reaching Children’s Potential program was developed to “help parents acquire essential services to prevent childhood stunting”. The Operating Theater addition’s design responded to guidelines established by the United Republic of Tanzania, who drafted their first design standards for operating theaters and maternity wards in 2018. Global Volunteers hopes this addition is the first of many operating buildings to be constructed throughout Tanzania as part of the comprehensive RCP program. Our team wholeheartedly admires the community development work done by Global Volunteers, and we are proud to continue pro-bono services for this worthy cause.
The mission of the Reaching Children’s Potential program through Global Volunteers is to address the problem of childhood stunting in the location in the world where it is most prevalent. Stunting is primarily the result of “insufficient food, nutrition and protection from disease during the first 1000 days” of a child’s life, from conception to the second birthday. By supplying resources and education to address this issue that begins in utero, the program hopes to see future generations in the community reach “optimal health, growth, education, and productivity”. Global Volunteers looks to break cycles of poverty for future generations in the area and ultimately the world. This region of Tanzania was chosen as a test case due to its worst-case African conditions.
RRTL Architects (now Architecture Advantage) started to create the RCP modular facility design logic in conjunction with Global Volunteers in 2016. Since Global Volunteers focuses on the longevity of their work, the first building on their site was the Volunteer Living Unit complex. Offering volunteers comfortable accommodations from the outset enabled the program to expand both in scope and financial resources throughout the years. At the time of construction, the Living Unit building was so unique to the area that the exterior steps became a destination for graduation and wedding photographs to be taken. Since this start-up phase, six other buildings: the Kitchen Unit, Administrative Unit, Mother’s Unit, Clinic, a dry storage food goods building, and support staff housing have been constructed.
Since the initial step in 2016, the site has been a hub for educational and medical resources to combat childhood stunting. The food preparation facility offers classes and programs dedicated to helping new and expecting mothers understand and develop better nutrition habits. The Mother’s Unit provides a safe place for expecting mothers to stay prior to childbirth, as the Clinic is the only built hospital for labor and deliveries within a four-hour radius. With the addition of the Operating Theater, the complex will be completed.
To celebrate the start of construction, Craig traveled for 30 hours alongside his brother-in-law, Wayne, to reach the project site, inspect the eight buildings, and attend the groundbreaking ceremony. A visit to the Reaching Children’s Potential site had not been possible for our team until this year. In addition, information was gathered to understand construction techniques and materials available in the region and to adjust the design documents for future applications of the RCP project throughout Tanzania.
According to Craig, the travel was “both exhausting and exhilarating.” The living and construction standards of the region – and the Ipalamwa Village, in particular – were modest. However, we were met with a receptive, spirited, and appreciative community that has overwhelmingly embraced the premise behind the Global Volunteers RCP concept.
The Tanzanian government has conducted an extensive study and concluded that the Ipalamwa RCP facility is making such a significant impact on childhood stunting challenges in the region, that they have asked for the concept to be replicated. The architectural component is only a small part of the concept serving as an organizational facility through which to teach, provide health care, provide employment for local villagers, and conduct continuing volunteer opportunities. The architectural language developed for the Ipalamwa facility has evolved as a branding image for the Global Volunteers concept which places control and participation squarely in the hands of the community.
Craig has commented the Reaching Children’s Potential complex might not be the most interesting architectural project of his career but may be the most important. At Architecture Advantage, we seek to create a culture of community engagement and giving back when and where we are able. It has been an honor to donate architectural services for this meaningful work. Our team is proud of the continued use and importance of the complex and proud to continue to partner alongside Global Volunteers. We are excited to see and learn firsthand the impact the RCP project has had on Ipalamwa and the surrounding communities.