When Owain Phillips was an apprentice with Welsh apprenticeship scheme, Cyfle, he was given the opportunity to volunteer on a project in Uganda to build a mill in collaboration with the Welsh charity, Engineers for Overseas Development (EFOD).
While in Uganda, he saw around 100 pregnant women sat outside a hospital that had no decent maternity facility, so when First Minister, Carwyn Jones, visited the mill Owain and other apprentices told him about the situation they had encountered. They proposed him to build a new maternity facility, and to their surprise, the Minister agreed and a grant was awarded to them by the Welsh Government.
The building was created by Welsh apprentices who completed the project in stages. After a few years of hard work the maternity finally opened and it has recently won the Queens Awards in the Construction Excellence award.
“Uganda is such a different place to work. Say you need to get hold of timber, for example, at home you can put an order through on a computer. In Uganda you need to sift through piles of timber and find suitable wood, weeding out the timber with bugs in it. Then you haggle the price, load up the van and take it back to site. It’s at least a days’ work instead of a few minutes,” explained Owain.
Owain is now a Contracts Manager for Seven Oaks Timber Frame based in Neath. He spent five weeks project managing the last stage of the maternity unit build and was responsible for hiring 40 local people to help. Each one of them was trained and fed every day.
“It really helped me with my career as I had to learn to think on my feet and have confidence in what I was doing. And it’s changed the way I live, for example I can’t leave any food on my plate now. Even if I’m stuffed to the brim I can’t consider wasting food as I know how little they have,” concluded him.