Rural African hospitals struggle to attract and retain quality doctors, leading to inconsistent and low-quality care. Recognizing this imminent challenge at the newly completed Butaro District Hospital (opened 2011), MASS in partnership with the Daniel E. Ponton Fund at Brigham and Women's Hospital, Partners In Health, and the Rwanda Ministry of Health used serene and beautiful housing to draw and retain quality doctors to the region. The influx of physicians has cultivated an exchange in new medical expertise, creating a collaborative teaching environment amongst local and foreign professionals who now live and teach together on site.
Beyond medical knowledge, the housing was also used as an educational opportunity to develop new construction and craft skills. MASS set up a compressed stabilized earth block (CSEB) fabrication and training workshop on site, using the innovative, earthquake safe, and sustainable construction method as a precedent for a new form of quality construction in the region. Everything—from the CSEBs to the custom furniture and light fixtures—was fabricated by local masons, carpenters, and artisans, and through extensive, collaborative mockups, MASS employees and the local teams learned from each other. In the end, the construction process allowed for significant growth in new knowledge: 30 people were trained in producing CSEBs and can now propagate safer, seismic construction practices; 138 people learned masonry skills—46 of whom became high-skilled, professional masons; 60 people received training in steel bending and carpentry; and 50 people learned terracing practices, a skill valued to stabilize Rwanda’s agricultural hillsides.
These individuals have begun marketing these new skills throughout Rwanda, and grassroots businesses and cooperatives have sprouted throughout the village. The total number of people employed during the construction process reached 900 individuals, fostering community ownership and propagating the new skills advanced by the project. The Butaro Doctors’ Housing created an improved, sustainable building practice that ultimately created not only 900 jobs, but 900 Rwandan ambassadors of better building.