Engineer shares stem knowledge with Malawi school

A colleague from Leeds-based fire engineering constancy, OFR has recently returned from an exciting overseas project – building a STEM classroom alongside the existing Rainbow Hope Secondary School, in Mangochi on the shore of Lake Malawi.

Laura Smith, who is a fire engineer at the Brewery Wharf located consultancy, spent two weeks as part of Orbis Expeditions team, alongside other women engineers, project managers, designers and medical professionals from countries such as Australia and South Africa. The team of professionals were tasked with designing and building a STEM classroom alongside the existing Rainbow Hope Secondary School.

Practical construction tasks included bricklaying, furniture assembly and painting as well as hosting workshops for the students and teachers at Rainbow Hope. These included bridge building, water filtration, and model car making amongst others.

Speaking about the project, Laura said: “It was an amazing, exhausting, eye-opening two weeks – aside from my involvement in the construction project which will now provide students at the school with a great STEM resource, I certainly learned a great deal about the culture in Malawi, including the different practices adopted by different tribes.

“I was amazed by how open and honest the pupils, teachers, and local residents were, especially when discussing harmful practices such as FGM and child marriages that are still very much active in many areas. We watched a play by the Drama Club and heard presentations from students about such practices; each story underlined by the desire for change, particularly from the younger and more educated members of the tribes.

“We also spent time in some local villages, hearing about a scheme called “No Sex for Fish” in which women are taught about basic finances and investments in order to become less reliant on their husbands, or other means, to feed their families. These women were, to put it bluntly, awesome! They were all heads of their families and were taking charge of their lives and their children’s futures. Much of the money they build up using this scheme goes towards school fees, uniforms and essential supplies.”

Laura undertook the project as part of OFR’s Better Days initiative – a company-wide scheme that enables its colleagues to give time to support important charitable causes.