Jason Shields, 28, is one of the 11 master’s of interior design students who developed conceptual designs for a new mental hospital in Somaliland.

Interior design graduate students are helping to build a Somaliland city’s first mental health hospital.

Working with Architects without Borders (AWB) Canada, 11 University of Manitoba grad students, working in groups of two or three, have developed early concepts for the future Regional Mental Hospital, which will be constructed in Borama, Somaliland.

Jason Shields, 28, is a first-year master’s student who worked on the project with his partner, Umid Abdullaev. He said it’s great that the projects won’t be simply forgotten after submission.

“It’s almost just beginning now,” said Shields, who put countless hours of work into the project. “The hard part was designing it all, but now that it’s been passed off to AWB, now we know that they will be going through all of the work.”

AWB, made up of experienced volunteer architects, will go through the five projects and pick and choose elements to include in the final concept. That concept will then be provided to the Dr. Abdishakur Jowhar Foundation.

The foundation approached Kelley Beaverford, executive director of AWB Canada and associate professor in the department of interior design at the U of M, for her experience with AWB and her work in other African countries.

“The AWB, most of us are based in Manitoba, and we’re not a design firm,” Beaverford said. “We help put together a strategy for the non-profit to get to where they need to be.”

The foundation, formerly the Horn of Africa Sick Children’s Charity, provides financial and technical support to the Regional Mental Hospital, which Beaverford said will hopefully be completed in late 2014. Dr. Abdishakur Jowhar was a Borama-born psychiatrist who moved to Canada in 1984 but continued humanitarian visits to his home country to help the mentally ill and to train medical student in Amoud University and the University of Hargeisa. Jowhar was killed in a car crash in 2012.

“(The students) are so focused and they work so hard,” Beaverford said. “While they are learning they are also producing really important documents that now AWB and the Jowhar Foundation can now use in implementation of the real project.”

Shields said the most interesting part of the project was researching and understanding the cultural differences and how they need to be taken into account when building the hospital.

“I’d say 90% of us weren’t adapted to design a lot for a completely different climate like that,” Shields said. “Especially one that is constantly hot and wouldn’t have the resources for expensive air conditioning systems or energy systems.”

Beaverford said the need for a mental health hospital is great in both Somaliland and Somalia.

“Both countries were quite unstable for quite some time and that led to some major mental health issues,” Beaverford said. “Schizophrenia, mood disorders, anxiety disorders, substance abuse . . . part of it has to do with the lack of existing mental health care in place.

“In the last decade or more (the countries have) had man-made and natural disasters, they’ve had floods, famine, war, and when you couple that with a lack of mental health care — here we would have treatment, but there this will only be the third hospital in all of Somaliland.”



  1. May Allah grant paradise to Dr. Abdulshakur. Even after more than a year or two after he passed away, Dr. Abdulshakur's name continues to be associated with good deeds. Lessons must be learned from this and people should think of putting forward ideas that will improve the lives of others and do less talk and refrain from political opportunism.

    Let us support those who are contributing to the development of our country and respect them while the are alive.

  2. Extreme I am very happy that Mental Health Hospital in Borama Somaliland.
    Blessing of ALLAH be with those who started this humanitarian initiative.
    Regards from Ismail

  3. May Allah bless his soul Dr. Abdishakur Jowhar was a true muslim and a true Somalilander. He was loved by all Somalilanders and this hospital would be a great of remembering his life and work for his people and country. Great people die dignified. That is Dr Abdishakur's legacy.

  4. Thank you Jason the people of Somaliland will always remember your kindness. And what a tribute to Dr Jowhar, a true hero of Somaliland weho never blinked, never wavered, never changed. A rock of principle, dignity and nobility.

    When we become prosperous, and we will one day, we will build a monument for him in every town in Somaliland from Erigavo to Zeila.