When Anthony Benjamin was chosen as
project manager, he wasn’t sure if he was
up to the task. “Initially I didn’t want to
because I didn’t have any experience or
knowledge about construction,” he says.
But he had served as a volunteer for
projects in some of Sri Lanka’s poorest communities. And he tapped into that experience
to build bridges among community members.
The mostly Islamic residents of Kirinda
are surrounded by a predominantly Buddhist
population—and the tension between the two
groups is palpable, says Mr. Benjamin. Many
Buddhist residents couldn’t understand why
resources were going to help a minority
Muslim community, he says.
Mr. Benjamin knew he’d have to look
beyond the borders of Kirinda.
In the beginning, it was difficult to secure money for
the project—people preferred to donate directly to the
Red Cross or other non-governmental organizations.
But Mr. Bay and his team worked to secure project
funding from Colliers offices in Europe, the United
States and Asia. “Support comes when others see
it’s going to work,” Mr. Bay says. In the end, about
90 percent of the budget was raised through Colliers
offices, he says.
Acclaimed architect Shigeru Ban, known for his use of alternative materials, designed the buildings with sustainability in mind,
says Mr. Bay. “He brought a very sophisticated approach to the
project, focused 100 percent on local materials,” he says.
The use of native materials such as coconut wood and teak
helped keep the project eco-friendly and affordable, Mr. Benjamin
says. Kirinda is also believed to be the first Asian village or town
to have 100 percent solar-powered street lamps.
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A New Direction
The team’s attention to local stakeholder interests at every
phase helped thwart some potentially costly missteps. In one
instance, two full-size model homes were constructed. But
after residents raised concerns about the orientation of the
lavatories, design plans were changed to ensure the facilities
faced away from Mecca, per the residents’ Islamic faith, Mr.