way way back

Delta Design Build Workshop grew from a construction company into a social impact design, build, and teaching collaborative in 2016. Post Rose Fellowship, we are excited to have continued to work in the Mississippi Delta, building equity through the built environment and working in partnership with communities and organizations that share our values.

Unfortunately, while we were busy with all that growth, writing blog posts didn’t make it to the top of my to-do list. So to end the year, we are recapping a great twelve months with a series of blog posts that highlight how we stretched our capacity, our brains, our schedules, our budgets, and our legs in 2016.

To start the list, Delta DB’s longstanding partnership with Village Life Outreach Project continued. Our design team grew to include recent University of Cincinnati DAAP graduate Jesse Larkins as a summer intern, and Richard traveled to Tanzania to wrap up construction of one medical personnel duplex, and begin a second one. These staff houses are essential to support the Roche Health Center (read more about RHC here) because the remoteness of the site means that resident doctors and nurses are required for the center to qualify to offer many important medical services and medications.

We are thrilled to continue to be a part of this team (including partners both in Cincinnati and Roche) that values health and human life so much.

Many aspects of the process that has developed over our seven years of working with UC, Roche, and Village Life is represented in the pictures below. Roche residents build masonry (fence posts and soil bricks) on site, a team of Tanzanian craftsmen lead the construction crew, women are a part of the construction team, new water and electrical infrastructure is being developed, and UC alumni, faculty, and students provide medical care. It makes me proud to be a Bearcat.

everybody likes a video

“I believe this is how we make the world safer, a better place: trying to give people access to healthcare and improving educational opportunities. And I think we really are creating the global village that we can communicate through and understand how we’re similar and how we’re different in different places.” – Richard Elliott

A lot of courses are taught today that are focused on large scale societal issues. Particularly in the field of design, students are asked to solve real world problems through studios. This is a slippery way to approach the challenges of the globe. On one hand, students are exposed to budgets and schedules, and gain broad perspectives that cannot be replicated in a classroom. They are more likely to pursue a career path defined by this immersive experience, as evidenced by so many of the graduates of Auburn’s Rural Studio. Conversely, questions of feasibility and responsibility must be considered before embarking on a project that students may not have the time or expertise to see through to be anything other than a research exercise that uses under-served populations as case studies.
In the video above, Elissa Yancey takes her students on a semester long journey that straddles the two sides of this discussion. In the weeks leading up to the trip to Tanzania, her students researched, practiced interviewing, and learned to use audio and video equipment. The film that resulted is not perfect, but the human element is really close: envelope pushing experiences for students, an easy to share message about Village Life and the organization’s mission, and no one in Tanzania was promised a business, building, or otherwise that will not appear.

truss mock-up


While I make new friends in Mississippi, Richard is back in Tanzania with our well established crew. We have been working with our contractor, translator and carpenter since 2010. Thank you Dan, Julius (featured image), and Sakai (safety vest)!

Because of our hardworking team, a mock-up of this large, technical truss was completed in one day. Read more about this project here.

it’s official

After many months, Google Maps has approved the locations of the Kingigoro Primariy School and the Roche Health Center. If you are ever in East Africa, all you have to do it type the names of these buildings to get driving directions! Alternatively, you can search for these locations today and see the progress Village Life is making. The completed walls and foundation of the new school building are shown below. Richard Elliott will lead EWB-UC students on a trip to construct the roof in April.

Picture 3