The Rankin Wosiwosi Desk

mark-with-desk-prototypeIn 2009, Penny’s brother, architect Mark Rankin, accompanied her on a field visit to Lake Natron. Heading for Wosiwosi, they got badly stuck in mud, and Mark found himself clambering up a wild hillside trying to get high enough for cell phone reception. He never found it; but he did find something more important: a deep appreciation for the beauty of Natron’s rugged landscape, and for the resilient people who welcomed him.

Later, in Wosiwosi’s simple mud and wattle nursery, local women presented him with an orange and white beaded crucifix. He wore this until his untimely death from cancer on March 9th, this year.

While in Wosiwosi and Makat, Mark first conceived the idea of a school desk appropriate for such remote locations. Currently, the desks used in both villages (and donated through the NHP and Mark’s Rotary Club in Godalming, UK) are bulky, heavy, expensive and difficult to transport. Mark envisioned a lightweight, slot-together design, with sustainable material either sourced regionally, or cheaply imported. If successful, the desk could have universal application.


Mark worked with Skillways, a UK charity devoted to training young men and women in practical crafts, to produce a small model of a design that fitted the concept. This was later created in a 1:5 model by Tom Gorringe, a friend of the Rankin family and an Architecture student. It was able to be cut from one single sheet of 8 x 4 material and could be transported flat packed after cutting, for assembly at the user’s site.

Penny, NHP and the Godalming Rotary are working to make his dream a reality, with donations from his funeral funding a prototype. We look forward to the day when the first Rankin Wosiwosi Desk is put together in Wosiwosi. A piece of Mark will long remain in that beautiful, harsh and remote place.

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