Before we finished Project Akoyan, another 50 Yazidi families came to our attention who were about to be kicked out of the dwellings they were staying in. Not too far from the Akoyan valley stands the main city of Rwandz. It's one of the main municipalities in our region, though also the smallest.
Rwandz is well known for it's tourist destinations, massive gorges, beautiful mountains and colorful history.
Two huge resorts crest it's mountains and an entire 'holiday village' sits nicely above the town. It was in this rapidly developing 'holiday village' that these Yazidi families had found some shelter in it's incomplete houses. But, now that the winter thaw had commenced and spring had begun, the general contractor, understandably, wanted to get on with his work and finish out the homes.
He contacted the local mayor and the local mayor made us aware of their predicament.
After looking all over Rwandz for some even slightly level ground to begin another camp, we stumbled upon the large football [soccer] stadium at the very back of the holiday village. It looked like it hadn't been used in years, and had several acres of land, nicely fenced in, and more importantly level.
Rwandz is a city that cannot grow another hand breadth. I remember meeting the mayor of the town back in 2010. He told me that he'd just been selected to be mayor moving back from the States where his family still resides. The home he was building for himself was miles away from Rwandz, so I asked him, "Why way out there?" He told me that the Rwandz municipality couldn't even find a place to build him a house so crowded was the city and that was 5 years ago. Many more homes have etched out a place on mountainside since then, but only just barely.
So, when we found actual 'flat land' in Rwandz, we were thrilled.
Here's a pic of the land as it looked in late March.
As with our other camps, we didn't wait for the grass to grow beneath our feet, we dove right in the very next day.
The first week of construction, or should I say excavation and rock dumping went by with a blur, but the weather was not helpful bringing frequent rains that put many of the dump trucks and even the grader deep into the mud.
We learned a lot about letting mother nature have her way and just stop to let things dry out a little. But not after getting 3 of our vehicles completely stuck.
There was an area at the 'bottom' of the land, in particular that ended up needing over a meter of rock and boulders to maintain a level lie of the land at a cost we certainly weren't expecting. Fortunately, for us a contractor a few blocks away from stripping away the land and let us have all the rock we needed for free. Still, the hundreds of dump truck loads of rock we laid for this camp left us reeling. At one point we had 9 dump trucks employed at the same time, dropping their loads one after another after another for 3 straight days.
The rock 'quarry' where we got the bulk of our rock for the foundation of the camp.
Here was a pic of my son Andrew standing in one of the ruts that the grader had formed while trying to get unstuck.
Throughout the construction process the Yazidi families who were staying in the unfinished holiday village just a couple blocks away would come by and offer their support and/or 'gentle suggestions' on how they'd like the camp to look. It was great that we could do it all together.
We split the camp into two long rows with an open space between for their vehicles and 'run around' space.
At times the weather would clear and we'd be enveloped into the vibrant colors of spring.
Just over a week after we began excavating the land, the dump trucks hauled in the cinder blocks to build the kitchen/bathroom/shower facilities.
We chose our design of these buildings after a careful discussion with the Yazidis themselves and a look at a nearby UN camp in Basirma - a hours drive west of us.
Each unit has two kitchens for two families with one shared bathroom/shower unit. It also required the building of 4 main septic tanks. The roofs are made from sandwich/insulated aluminum panels.
Here's Tim, my faithful colleague in the work putting some skin into the game quite literally.
The refrain, "Just one more load of block cement," was heard again and again it seemed.
This is Hersh, our general manager, the "fixer" on our team and the one who puts it all together. Without him I'd be completely lost. Hersh you deserve a vacation a trillion times over. Thanks for all your hard work!
Before long we were able to start pitching tents... in the rain. Thanks guys!
And finally with a little bit of fanfare, the Yazidi families moved in one month after we began construction.
Here I am with the new Mayor of Rwandz and his security detail.
Finally, it looked like this.