Job done in Lusaka

Our two courts were finished just in time for us to hold opening ceremonies at both before we left Lusaka, making for a great finish to an amazing six weeks.

Although the majority of the work at Fountain of Hope was completed a couple of weeks ago, the finishing touches took a little while longer. Over several days the ball catchers, bollards, lines and basketball posts were added or finished off. With the court so close to completion it was hard to keep the children off! The top coat of bitumen is also proving slow to set and is still soft in the afternoon sun, making it necessary to delay full match play for another week.

Opening Fountain of Hope
The netball and basketball teams were eager to play on their new court
The finished court at Fountain of Hope

At Kaunda Square the final work included finishing off the new drain, replacing the concrete apron for the outside tap, installing bollards and dressing the lower slope adjacent to the court with aggregate. Despite talking through the line painting plan with the contractor several times, they still added one too many lines! A last minute repair job with bitumen solved this in time for the opening.

The finished court at Kaunda Square

The construction team at Kaunda Square

We were delighted to open the courts in front of the children, teachers, netball and basketball coaches and directors of Sport in Action and the church at Kaunda Square. Jamie and Alexa got the lucky jobs of cutting the ribbons and officially handing the courts over to their new owners. It was humbling to hear the directors speak about how the courts will benefit the local communities and it brought us back to the reasons for being here in the first place.

Over the last six weeks we have discussed the appropriateness of being here and spending money on a recreational facility when adjacent to it are unhygienic toilets and dysfunctional taps. Many of the local children come from poor families, some of whom may eat only one meal a day. Unemployment is high and we were asked several times for help finding jobs or ways into the UK. HIV and alcoholism are also common.

While it may therefore seem naive and misplaced to spend our £17,000 on courts instead of measures to tackle these severe social problems, those problems are exactly why courts are needed. Such facilities provide a place for children to play, exercise, develop a skill, make friends and, most importantly, stay off the streets and away from drugs, alcohol and crime. Some children may, and already have been inspired to become professional athletes or take up leading and coaching in their communities because of the opportunities offered by Sport in Action.

We believe this year’s project has been successful in creating more assets for Sport In Action to continue their great work. We hope this will lead to expansion and development of the project from all parties involved in the years to come and we are already working on ways to improve the project’s sustainability, efficiency and effectiveness.

Thanks to our donors for making the project possible and to all those who have helped along the way – we are incredibly grateful.

Update from Kaunda – drainage and water supply

Drainage and water supply has been the focus of our attention at Kaunda Square this week as the court nears completion with exactly one week until the Bath team leaves Lusaka.

The asphalt has been laid and is currently being compacted. The concrete apron is complete and the major tasks remaining are the laying of a bitumen layer over the asphalt and painting of court lines.

Compacting the asphalt

Early on in the project we decided to add a drainage channel above and beside the court to direct rainwater away from the court and adjacent school building. This is part constructed but the discovery of a water pipe beneath the channel has slowed progress slightly.

The drainage channel runs on two sides of the court and is constructed from cast in situ concrete.

We decided to redirect the water pipe so that it runs adjacent to the drain, rather than under it. This will eliminate the chance of the pipe being damaged during construction of the drain and allow easier access to the pipe if it has to be repaired in the future. The pipe supplies the school with all of its water, so we have to do all we can to ensure a constant supply.

The tap will remain in place, but a new pipe will be laid further from the drain

We are keen to make the most of our last few working days in Lusaka, so we’re arranging visits to previous Bath construction sites with our contractors to obtain quotes for repair and maintenance work. Although it’s unlikely we will have time to carry out the work this year, the quotes will help the Wallace Group and Sport in Action to decide which sites to focus on next year.

Livingstone / Sustainability

After three weeks of hard work on the courts and on sports placements, the Volunteer Zambia house was ready for a well-earned break and all 20 of us headed to Livingstone for a long weekend. The town is on the borders of Zambia, Botswana and Zimbabwe, but is also right next to the Victoria Falls, making for stunning scenery and endless activity options.

Sadly, the journey from Lusaka to Livingstone is not easy at the best of times, and a leaking fuel pipe on the bus turned it into a 12 hour slog, but spirits were quickly raised with a great dinner at Cafe Zambezi. The majority of the group headed out on safari the next morning in Botswana and were rewarded with elephants, giraffes, hippos and more… Others took a bike tour of the lesser-known areas of the city and saw its less prosperous side, which was a wake-up call to the inequality and deprivation still so present in Africa.

Sunset over the Victoria Falls

The highlight of the weekend for many was white water rafting on the Zambezi River. Local guides took us down 21 rapids with names like Commercial Suicide and The Washing Machine… Needles to say it was an incredible adrenaline rush!

We returned to our sites on Tuesday morning to find good progress had been made over the weekend. At Kaunda Square the excavation has been completed and stonebase laid, which is currently being compacted. The edge details are being finished off with backfill and a gap left in the kerb for machinery to enter the court has been filled.

Laying stone base at Kaunda. Also shown is the backfilled lower edge.
Kaunda Square

At Fountain of Hope the asphalt was laid over three days and a top layer of bitumen slurry added on Monday. This was all done by hand and compacted with a small vibratory roller. The concrete drain was also cast and the posts set in place to give a court which looks tantalisingly close to completion.

The finishing touches include painting the court lines and basketball posts, and installing new basketball backboards and hoops. We hope to be able to open the court with a ceremony before we leave Lusaka in just under two weeks.

Awaiting the final touches…
Assembling the ball catchers behind the nets

With our spare time we have been starting to develop ways of improving the sustainability of this project. Thus far, the Bath team has been asked to build a new court each year, sometimes ripping out an old one in the process (Fountain of Hope is a good example). This is an attractive approach because the courts are relatively cheap (the money can be raised by one group without too much trouble) and can be built within the six week placement. In the long run, however, this becomes expensive.

Using cheaper materials means the court structure doesn’t always last, so replacement becomes the only option. In any case, with no maintenance taking place, courts can deteriorate so far that repair becomes uneconomical. Of course, a balance has to be struck between cost, maintenance resources and lifespan.

To tackle this, we are considering if and how maintenance programmes might work considering Sport in Action has no in-house technical knowledge and rarely has funding for such work. When they do, it often gets spent on cosmetic improvements.

There’s a long way to go on this sustainability mission, but we can make a good start!

Courts are almost half complete!

Things have really taken off on the court construction front this week, with good progress having been made at Fountain of Hope and Kaunda Square, although it hasn’t been plain sailing… When not at site we’ve been enjoying local markets, football, netball and much more.

We have now split into two site teams, with Alexa and Jamie managing Kaunda Sq, and Tom and Nick managing Fountain of Hope. At Fountain the boundary kerb stones have been set in concrete and a stonebase laid, which will be compacted before asphalt is spread on top. The old basketball posts are being reused and new netball posts have arrived on site.

We have designed a ‘double kerb’ which is set deeper into the ground on the outer edge to prevent undercutting in the future, which has been an issue with other courts. The construction of this got underway yesterday along with a new drain at the edge of the court, which will carry water to the main drain in the road.

The deep outer kerb will prevent undercutting. A concrete ramp between the inner and outer kerbs will ensure easy access.
Concrete being poured for the outer kerb.

It’s been important to be at site this week to make sure the contractor does what was agreed – we have learnt the importance of exchanging dimensioned and annotated sketches the hard way! Fountain of Hope is an exciting place to be, however, with kids running around and asking us questions every day, so we’re never short of entertainment!

The construction of a new netball court at Kiine School, Kwanda Square is now into its second week. Significant progress has been made and the court is really starting to take shape!

Current state of the court at Kaunda… we are excavating to refill with stonebase.

Strip foundations have been cast in-situ followed by the placement of high quality kerb stones to protect the edge of the court. During our site investigation we discovered that the gradient of the ground was higher than expected, causing the design of our retaining edge to vary in different corners of the site. A retaining slope has been used to support the kerb stones but also to provide protection against erosion and undercutting of neighbouring soil.

Concrete was cast for the kerbs using formwork where it protruded above ground level.
Kerbstones ready to be placed.

We have decided to link the drainage system of the court with the adjacent building to reduce the number of channels running across the area between the school and court. Even though Zambia is consistently very hot and dry, large weather storms occur at specific times of the year. Storm drains are essential in urban areas to reduce the risk of flooding.

New drain adjacent to school.

Unfortunately, we have managed to encounter underground services twice during our short time at site. Luckily these were only small diameter water pipes. However, these services will need to be redirected because if the pipe were to burst in the future then the structural integrity of the court would be highly compromised.

Water pipe awaiting repair and re-direction…

Currently we are excavating the internal area of the court so it can be filled and compacted with the appropriate thicknesses of materials. We are hoping that by the end of this week the subgrade will be level and compacted, ready for the heavy stone base layer that is scheduled to arrive at the weekend.

As well as managing the construction projects, we are responsible for reporting on the condition of other existing facilities managed by Sport in Action. This week we visited three courts and a swimming pool, which varied hugely in condition. Although we can give technical advice to SIA and make recommendations for repairs, the management of these assets will only be sustainable in the long term if inspections can be carried out by local engineers, who can then oversee the work when a Bath team is not here.

This is why we want to build a good relationship with civil engineering students at the University of Zambia. Natasha and William, both in their final year at UNZA, have joined us once or twice a week on site. They are contributing ideas and technical knowledge, but also as locals they understand the contractors’ ways of working far better than us! We hope they will want to become more involved in the project and improve its sustainability.

Working with William and Natasha at Kaunda Sq last week.

Please follow our Instagram account to keep up-to-date on our day-to-day activities at both Kwanda Square and Fountain of Hope!

Week one in Zambia


Taking up the old asphalt at Fountain of Hope.

We’ve had a productive first few days in Lusaka! Alexa, Jamie and Tom spent the weekend settling in and took a trip to Tiffany’s Canyon before Nick arrived on Tuesday afternoon. Alex Copping from the University of Bath joined us for a couple of days to meet the contractors and students at the University of Zambia, who will be assisting us with the projects.

We’re staying in a rented house with 14 other students from Loughborough, Durham, Stirling, Edinburgh and St Andrews universities. They’re working across Lusaka with children and young leaders to coach sport and facilitate social development. It’s great to feel part of a wider program of volunteering work!

After touring all of Sport in Action’s sites on Tuesday, we met the two contractors on Wednesday who will be building new netball and basketball courts at Fountain of Hope and Kaunda, an orphanage and school respectively.


Things have progressed quickly since then – we agreed the area to be excavated at Fountain of Hope on Wednesday and the excavation began there yesterday. The old asphalt has been removed and a layer of sandy gravel placed to level the site. A long time was spent in discussions with the contractor to decide whether to excavate further and remove a layer of old good quality sub base, but we chose to retain it and lay a thinner layer of aggregate directly on top. The resulting court will be slightly more raised than originally planned, but a ramped concrete apron will ensure easy access.

Dumping fine gravel to level the site.

We are getting used to the Zambian way of doing things… the buses are tiny and cramped, you can’t drink the tap water and people are rarely on time! But Zambians are very friendly and we’ve been made welcome by everyone we’ve met. We’re also starting to learn our way around Lusaka, the language and food! This week work will start at Kaunda and we hope things will progress smoothly at Fountain of Hope!

Chicken and nshima for lunch at Kabwata market.



We’re back!


The ACE2Zambia project is back for 2019! In our fourth consecutive year a brand new team of enthusiastic students is ready to plan, fundraise, manage and deliver another project for the Wallace Group and Perfect Day Foundation.

Once again we will be working in collaboration with Sport in Action on the ground in Zambia to construct a much-needed community sports facility. This year’s team comprises three civil engineering students and one architecture student from the University of Bath’s Architecture and Civil Engineering department.

This project is student-led and will be funded largely through public donations, sponsorship and grants. Our target this year is £7,000, which will pay for the necessary materials and labour for our scheme. Although our project is still being finalised, previous teams have overseen the construction of multiple sports courts, the refurbishment of changing facilities and construction of latrines. Take a look at our previous blog posts, Instagram and Facebook pages to discover more about what this project is all about and the enormous benefits it brings to communities in Zambia.

We are currently planning a series of fundraising events and exploring corporate sponsorship opportunities. If you’re reading this and are interested in becoming a sponsor or collaborator, please get in touch! We’d love to hear from you. Send an email to and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible. We will be putting our sponsors’ logos on t-shirts, a project video and a plaque at the project site in Zambia.

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