Building for Health by Bertholdus Sibum (Netherlands)

    Bertholdus Sibum - microscope two 16After working for five years again in the Netherlands as a project engineer, it was time to do something else and Africa was calling me. So I went there to work as an engineer/architect in the Dutch Medical Team in Niamey, Niger. I worked on a project financed by my Government.

    The buildings I was working on were hospitals, built for isolation in case of contagious tropical illnesses and a delivery clinic with a nutrition information kitchen. The food for the patients in the hospital was cooked by their family on the hospital ground. So families learnt about cooking in a healthy and better way.

    In several parts of the region, we built different local consultation offices with a policlinic including a house for nurses. Otherwise the people had to travel or walked thirty to fifty kilometers for healthcare.

    I designed the buildings specific way. The inside temperture of the building was about eight degrees celcius less than outside, just by the design, the use of material and location. I didn’t use machines or air conditioning. Later on I became the construction supervisor.

    The main desease were: malaria, contagious tropical illnesses and malnutrition. There was a girl who’s face was decomposing itself because of the malnutrition. There was a big hole in one cheek and one could look inside her throat. The doctor had to operate on her and had to succeed. Later, her face was still damaged but she survived and that was a miracle. A lot of children were desiccated and therefore vulnerable for diseases, you must drink water in this climat. The medical team gave information and materials to various people in the villages, to diagnose the first indications of for instance malaria and to give the proper medicines, the so called “barefoot doctors”. The indigenous doctors took part. It was a very revealing period in my life.

    I lived and worked for more than two years in Niger (1978-1980), first in design and later on building hospitals in the region of Tera. Working as a structural project engineer in a medical team. I was confronted that the population had a lot of health problems and I saw the most awful things by the lack of health care. I was very impressed and I knew that good health facilities were a necessity. Perhaps that explains why, many years ago I started to paint a lot of microscope impressions.

    I am a pensioner structural project engineer (born in 1948) and I have a master in anthropology. I lived and worked for several years in Ivory Coast, Niger, St. Maarten (Dutch Antilles) and in The Netherlands. As long as I can remember I have made paintings, drawings and music to express important issues in my life. Art and music give me all kind of emotions and are for me an expression of my deeper emotions. In my paintings, drawings and music, I use available material and I often combine the two disciplines

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