When we visited Sierra Leone in February of 2011, we met two brothers, Umar and Alpha Jalloh, who own the Hill Valley Hotel in Freetown. The brothers used to live in the United States. Umar was in the U.S. military before returning to Sierra Leone. They have been funding the construction of a high school with revenue from their hotel.

Public high school education in Sierra Leone lacks a standardized curriculum so the Jalloh brothers are trying to build a school more like the those in the U.S. Progress on the hotel has been slow but steady. The school construction is done as they can afford to purchase materials and pay laborers. The construction began more than two years ago and, while progress has been slow, they hope to take their first students in the Fall of 2012.

The brothers hope to have a place for boarding students from other countries. The finishing and equipment for the high school may be the most challenging stage of the construction as they intend to build a science lab, a computer lab, teachers continuing education, sports and more. They want the school to be close to what students experience in the United States. A model high school for the future of teenagers in Sierra Leone.

The guys in the photos use picks, shovels and their hands to excavate for the foundations. There is obviously no heavy equipment, forklift, concrete mixer, backhoe, etc. Everything is done by hand with a few old tools. Every single brick is made by this one guy and his two metal brick maker forms. It takes two days for each brick to cure before its ready for use in the exterior walls. During this process some usually break and its pretty frustrating for these guys. They don’t have the right cement and aggregate for the bricks. They work with the resources they have, building the school one brick at a time.

Alpha is also the guy helping us with our fishing boat operation. He manages and stores the boats at his hotel and oversees the operation. His involvement has been so important in sustaining the fishing boats, which feed so many families.