Woodworking in the Congo #1: Maybe this time I can actually do it

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Blog entry by PG_Zac posted 06-20-2010 11:38 AM 2505 reads 0 times favorited 16 comments Add to Favorites Watch
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As many of you know I’m working in the DRC, and have been for a couple of years. All of my jobs in the Congo so far have been on mines, and mines always kill trees. You just have to look through my blogs and projects to know that I hate seeing a tree go to waste.

On my first (and second) Congo mining job I made an offer to the Mine – Give me an equipped workshop and your dead trees, and I’ll teach the locals woodwork in my spare time.

The reason is three-fold:

a.) I hate wasted wood

b.) I need something productive and interesting to do with the (very) little spare time I get
and most importantly-

c.) Out here in the rural areas, most of the locals have ZERO marketable skills. We even have to teach many of them how to use a handsaw, and power tools are so far removed from their experience, they might as well be from a sci-fi book. Most have never seen or heard of a wood chisel before. Many have never earned more than $20 in any month in their entire lives. When the construction phase ends, the number of people employed by the the mine will reduced drastically, and I believe we must leave them better off than when we arrived. It would be irresponsible to do otherwise.

Anyway, on my previous jobs, my offer was refused with “When the mine starts making money, we’ll start our social upliftment projects”.

I think it’s going to happen this time. I have spoken with my Construction Manager and the mine’s manager of social projects, and they are keen. They asked me to prepare a collection of photos to show what I can teach, and a preliminary budget to equip a wood school. The facility is not a problem, as the mine already has a training centre that is currently underutilised. Previously they built the training centre to train people in Mine related activities, but there is a significant space that is unused.

Our first obstacle will be to get the Mine manager to approve the idea and budget. He’ll be back on site in a few days and then the 4 of us (Construction manager, Social manager, Mine manager, and me) will sit down to explore the idea further. I have been led to believe that he will eagerly support the idea, but that budget may be a bit of an issue. Already some people are talking of holding a fund-raising event to help make this a reality.

I’ll post progress on this project from time to time and, whenever possible, I’ll post pictures as well.

As LJ member Todd A. Clippinger says “Share the Love~Share the Knowledge”

Wish me luck !!!

-- I may be schizophrenic, but at least I have each other.

16 comments so far

View patron's profile


13722 posts in 4674 days

#1 posted 06-20-2010 11:52 AM

the best to you in this paul ,

it is so disheartening at times ,
to see the unchecked abuse of our world and it’s people ,

your quest to help others as you can is how the lives of others can be improved .
it really only takes concern ,
which you have in abundance ,
even in small ways , i bet those you meet learn from you ,
keep up the good work , it’s all we have that can make a difference .
my prayers are with you in this , and your safe return home too .

-- david - only thru kindness can this world be whole . If we don't succeed we run the risk of failure. Dan Quayle

View Moron's profile


5048 posts in 5227 days

#2 posted 06-20-2010 12:29 PM

I wish you the greatest success.

At the very least you could teach them to make charcoal and sell it, use the money for the budget to build schools and skills.

-- "Good artists borrow, great artists steal”…..Picasso

View Eagle1's profile


2066 posts in 4398 days

#3 posted 06-20-2010 01:04 PM

Good luck. I hope you get it acomplished. It’s great that you want to give back to the people there.

-- Tim, Missouri ....Inside every older person is a younger person wondering what the heck happened

View deeman's profile


380 posts in 4414 days

#4 posted 06-20-2010 01:50 PM

I hope you are successful on this project. It is a wonderful thing you are doing.

-- Dennis Trenton Ohio And life is worth the living just because He lives!

View Woodbutchery's profile


434 posts in 4919 days

#5 posted 06-20-2010 01:52 PM

It’s a grand plan you have, and I wish you good luck in it.

-- Making scrap with zen-like precision - Woodbutchery

View Cher's profile


965 posts in 4427 days

#6 posted 06-20-2010 02:00 PM

Hi Paul your idea is an excellent one. Here s hoping the mine manager will see this project through your eyes.

All the very best to you my friend. Keep us informed.

-- When you know better you do better.

View Greedo's profile


473 posts in 4294 days

#7 posted 06-20-2010 02:04 PM

in my woodworking class there is an african from benin who came to belgium just to follow the class.
he is verry motivated and never takes breaks, but as you stated many people over there have so little abilities.
just getting him read a plan or use a handsaw was a chanllenge. and then we don’t have the same culture or habits, they take it much slower lol.
so anyway bravo on your project, i wish you alot of patience and luck!

View ND2ELK's profile


13494 posts in 5107 days

#8 posted 06-20-2010 02:07 PM

Good for you! I hope this comes about. I will be looking forward to seeing your progress.

God Bless

-- Mc Bridge Cabinets, Iowa

View tyskkvinna's profile


1310 posts in 4319 days

#9 posted 06-20-2010 03:26 PM

AWESOME!!!! I support this idea so much you have no idea. I’m really glad to see that it is taking hold.

-- Lis - Michigan - -

View kevinw's profile


199 posts in 5073 days

#10 posted 06-20-2010 04:01 PM

Great idea. Hope it works out.

-- Kevin, Blue Springs, MO

View BertFlores58's profile


1698 posts in 4255 days

#11 posted 06-20-2010 04:23 PM

Hope for the best. Some of the wood species in a tropical areas can withstand years of rain and decay. Only we need is to segregate them in a dry land or even soak it in water… An easy way to know these trees is by getting the specific gravity… let say greater that 1…. you have to save this wood… expensive and exotic lumber.. During my time in the ship, we call this kind of lumber as SINKERS… meaning it does not float in water because it is more denser… Please keep this trees once cut and wait for the time the lumberjocks can cut them. It will take years and years to decay….but easy for the lumberjocks to make a project out of it..
Thanks for saving the earth..

-- Bert

View Jim Bertelson's profile

Jim Bertelson

4275 posts in 4498 days

#12 posted 06-20-2010 05:24 PM

I keep reading about relatively simple innovations for more primitive societies that have major impacts on lives. Such things as low pollution stoves that are normally vented straight into the home (was that India?), solar cookers, etc.

Just using logic, which frequent fails when faced with the particular realities of a situation, you would think these people could:
1) Learn to make and use hand tools.
2) Start small cottage industires using power tools

Would it be feasible to have people donate old hand tools? Shipping looks to me to be a problem there. Thinking about what some societies do with old cars and oil barrels, rudimentary metal work is another possible skill.

Recently read ‘The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind’, by Brian Mealer. In Malawi, at age 14, a boy built a wind mill that generated electricity for his home, from junk. If you haven’t read it, you should, just to jog your brain for ideas.

Good luck on your endeavours. Back in the seventies, I almost ended up in Kinshasa, medical field, within a hair’s breath actually. Hinged on decent housing, the tolerable places were maxed out, so we didn’t go.

Alaska Jim

-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

View Dez's profile


1176 posts in 5411 days

#13 posted 06-20-2010 07:43 PM

Good Idea! Good Luck!

-- Folly ever comes cloaked in opportunity!

View canadianchips's profile


2632 posts in 4330 days

#14 posted 06-21-2010 02:09 AM

Even small steps is a step forward. Best Wishes on your project with local people.Not everyone needs power tools and modern technology, you may find some “untapped skills” from these people..

-- "My mission in life - make everyone smile !"

View Kindlingmaker's profile


2659 posts in 4860 days

#15 posted 06-21-2010 07:52 AM

Your a good man sir!

-- Never board, always knotty, lots of growth rings

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