Making a Difference! Part I

It’s all happening thick and fast in Durban and we are very pleased to share this progress with you! It’s been a long time coming, a lot of planning, preparing and talking has been made, but now its finally happening and we are making a difference! There are three major events that we’d like to present in this edition, on the progress that has been taking place in the project so far. The first of this is making a difference to the lives of the MArch (Master of Architecture) students participating in the project, the second is making a difference in the community of Umbumbulu, and finally making a difference in the approach to Architecture itself.

Making a Difference to the difference-makers

Starting off on a sad note, it’s been very unfortunate that with the recent hostile weather in Durban, some families have lot their shelter and now have to work tirelessly to recover something inhabitable enough for them to cover their heads. Thankfully we are always looking out and ready to give our best to people who are victims of such calamities, and thus we identified one family, the Ngcobo family in Umbumbulu, who lost their house during a storm. For this family, we bought food and groceries and the reaction we got from them was overwhelming. They were beyond ecstatic, they sang songs and prayed with us. Yet this was only half of what was really touching about this instance.

The  real difference that was achieved during this time is in the very lives of those who are seeking to make a difference. It’s a known fact that probably what every architecture student longs for is to be known as the man/woman behind the tall masterclass building or sophisticated design of a residence. Yet with the short experience in this project, this view has been rapidly overturned and a community-oriented dimension has been even more rapidly assimilated. A few of the students have actually spoken out about the experience of this dimension, how it is life changing and how they want to pursuit it further  and do even more for the communities that cannot help themselves, rather than concentrate all their skills and creativity on luxurious buildings that are only accessible to a minority in the population

The Andrews University MArch group working on the half-house project
The Andrews University MArch group working on the half-house project

Making a Difference in the Community

The second major event of this week included the whole community of Umbumbulu coming together for a community meeting, and one of the highlights of this gathering was being graced with the presence of the chiefs and community leaders of Umbumbulu. One of the most touching elements of this gathering was also the fact that we had old women who had walked distances of about 10 to 15 km in rainy weather just to come and attend this meeting. This was a grand and rare opportunity for the people of the community to actually have a voice in how they would like the development of their community to be orchestrated.

Presenting at the Umbumbulu community meeting
Presenting at the Umbumbulu community meeting

Making a difference in Architecture

Lastly, we had one very special incident, and the striking thing about this one is that it was totally unplanned and unexpected. We visited the Mtshali family (one of the beneficiary families) and the idea was to share some lunch with them and other neighbors around. While this was happening, the MArch group just randomly decided to whip out the drawing boards, and before we knew it, we had ourselves a meeting, and very active in this meeting was the community members, who to a larger degree, had more to teach us than we had to teach them. They explained to us all the dynamics of their neighborhood, how they would like it to be designed and what important features would help lessen issues like crime and violence. This very unexpected and unplanned meeting turned out to be the very essence of what we had been hoping for all along, to engage the community, to offer our services and resources, but only in the way that they see best for them as a community, and not us as the helpers.

Meeting the community members
Meeting the community members

 

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