Living and working in Nairobi was an amazing experience. We were mainly working on structural and civil engineering designs for a primary school in Kibera. Our typical day involved site visits to discuss the existing structures and construction methods used, collaborating with designers, architects and landscape architects, and learning from our inspiring colleagues.

During our four-week placement, we developed our engineering understanding and learnt about traditional construction methods and materials used in engineering in Kenya. We were involved in delivering workshops, writing reports on drainage for a site, collecting data and designing the foundations for a local school.

We were very impressed with the innovative solutions and upcycling of materials that the communities of Kibera use, such as using soda crates for an infiltration pit. We gained an insight into the problems that the people of Kibera face, such as having no access roads, no formal drainage systems and nowhere to drain water. It is exciting to have been part of the design, knowing that we provided useful skills, and we are looking forward to seeing pictures when the second phase of the school is constructed.

Our time in Kenya went by very quickly but we learnt a lot about the local culture and the work environment in Kenya. Outside of work we sampled all the local dishes, and tried chai (a milky black tea, with a significant amount of sugar) and ate delicious, fresh chapatis en route to work. We’re grateful to KDI staff who helped us to learn and practice basic Swahili, which was helpful to understand the gist of community meetings. It also came in handy when we went on safari and was vital for getting a good price for fruit and veg at the market!

We enjoyed our time with the KDI team and the senior fellows very much. Experiencing first-hand the positive, meaningful change that the international development sector creates has inspired us both to consider it seriously as a career path. We would highly recommend the experience to any engineer considering this line of work and are looking forward to the projects we will be involved with in the future.

Engineers Without Borders UK would like to thank the Happold Foundation for its support to the Global Engineer Fellowship programme.