Re-Painted, Re-Lit and Re-Opened


April 28, 2011 Text, Photos and Video by Chad Lebo

After several months of scraping, plastering, sanding, sewing, glazing and wiring, Akany Avoko's refectory has re-opened brighter and better than ever. The refectory is the heart of the center's social life. It is where Akany eats, dances, prays, studies, sings and celebrates. And thanks to quite a generous donation from the Balcombe Trust, this most important room now boasts new lights, new paint, new curtains and many other improvements. All things well worth celebrating.

(As always, do not forget to look below and click on "See and Read More" to get the full article and see many more photos).

The man and the hands that did most of the work. Without Ken, we would still have 6 months of finishing touches ahead of us.

Several of the children commented that it felt like eating at a fancy restaurant.
 The Improvements:
  • Light. Lots more light. There are now an additional 9 lights mounted on the walls. This not only vastly improves the lighting, but also adds greater flexibility to the room. The lights are on 4 different circuits and allow only the lights needed for the portion of the room being used to be turned on. If there are only a few kids studying, we can light just that end of the room and save energy. Energy will also be saved by the use of florescent lights used almost exclusively throughout the refurbishment (the only exception being a higher watt incandescent bulb in the otherwise dark and dangerous stairway leading to the dormitory). All the lights now have decorative shades that are locally produced from recycled oil drums.
One of the recycled oil drum light fixtures.
  • The painting scheme is meant to be beautiful and durable. High gloss oil paint was used for the lower portions of the wall to allow easy cleaning without the need to touch up every few months. The light colored paint, high gloss and matte, add even more light to the room.
  • Hardwood benches eat away at the cement wall and quickly turn a new paint job into an old paint job. For that reason, a protective chair rail is now installed at the height of the benches to protect the walls and paint.
The project also provided work experience and money for older boys from the nearby boys' home.
  • More electrical outlets have been added that will allow for greater and safer use of audiovisual equipment such as projectors, speakers, microphones etc. There will no longer be the need for extension cords here, there and everywhere at a dance or movie night. Tripping and electrical hazards are now avoidable.
Singing away during a karaoke session at the grand re-opening.
  • The stairwell leading to the dormitory above has always been a bit of a danger. It was poorly lit and from above and below. As mentioned above, there is now a more powerful light mounted below and a new window has been installed above that will increase safety during the day as well.
A new guitar and a new wall (the dog is old).
  • The windows were always a difficult lot. Because of layers of old paint and broken drop bolts, they did not close or lock properly. The paint has been sanded and the broken drop bolts replaced. They are now freshly painted and secure. The glass panes were also a problem, but no longer. All broken panes, more than 12, were replaced with fresh glass and even the intact panes were reinstalled with fresh mastic. To prevent future breakage, hooks and eyes have been added to hold back the windows when open. Previously, wind and excited children would quickly close a window and crack the glass.
I don't know if paint and curtains improve break dancing moves, but they apparently don't hurt.
  • A new white board has been added to the hallway. This will allow the entrance to become a hub of information and announcements.
  • And improvements do not stop inside. A large sign has been painted on the outside wall that will greet all visitors with “Akany Avoko” and our new slogan “Changing Children’s Lives” in Malagasy, French and English.

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