Architect and builder Mike Pond creates custom, contemporary furniture and structures from concrete. When he isn’t at his workshop in Somerville or on-site around New Jersey, he’s overseas—primarily in Liberia—offering his expertise to local craftsmen while building schools with More Than Me, a foundation that empowers Liberian children through education. The foundation is run by Pond’s longtime friend, Bernardsville native Katie Meyler.
Pond made his fourth trip to assist Meyler during the 2014 Ebola crisis. He flew in to convert one of the More Than Me schools into emergency housing for children orphaned by the disease. He slept nightly at the job site. “I just figured, when Ebola takes a break, I’ll take a break,” Pond recalls. The crisis ended, but Pond still jumps at every chance to assist Meyler’s efforts.
Liberia, like many developing nations, uses concrete as its primary building material because it is durable and doesn’t require power tools. “In America, we are so much more used to building with wood,” says Pond. “There’s nothing like that in Liberia.”
The work is never easy. Pond and his team get stuck whenever rain swamps the dirt roads they use to transport supplies. He barters with electricians who demand bribes. Sometimes, the Liberian workers struggle to embrace Western construction techniques. “People thought I was a little bit crazy at first,” he admits. Ultimately, Pond taught them to save time and money using concrete.
Pond made his fifth trip to Liberia in September, working on six new More Than Me schools and mentoring members of his team. He has developed lasting friendships with many builders there, some of whom are former child soldiers from Liberia’s civil war.
Pond devotes the same diligence to the schools in Liberia as to his paying projects in New Jersey, adding unique design elements that combine form and function. He hopes his efforts will help local workers and students realize their lives are equally special.Click here to leave a comment