Thursday, July 17, 2014

RYACA "Dufashe Isi / Let's Save the World" Video

Here's a video on protecting the environment done by RYACA (Rwanda Youth Alliance for Climate Actions). I helped them prepare proposals / grant applications and reviewed the lyrics. Turned out great. Congratulations everybody, especially Landry Ndriko Mayigane, who really drove the project. Funding from US Embassy.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Community Engagement Exercise

On June 28th, we held a community charrette for a new Early Childhood Development and Family Centre in Mbuye Sector, Ruhango District. The event was organized as part of “umaganda”, the monthly day of service that occurs on the last Saturday of every month across Rwanda. We started with two hours of community work to start leveling the site and prepare it for construction. Approximately 300 people, mostly men, showed up to work each with his own shove, hoe, or rake. The architects and myself had already staked out the site and were around to help direct the work as well as lend a hand with the digging. There is about 5 meters of elevation change from the top of the site to the bottom, which is about 25 meters away. The community is going to remove 2.5 meters from one side and add it to the other side before construction starts. The district will hire a contractor to build retaining walls at the top and bottom of the slope and then UNICEF will execute construction of the facility via an agreement with a partner organization.
After site leveling, we gathered for some dancing and then community engagement activities. UNICEF partnered with Imbuto Foundation to assist with these activities and they started by explaining the idea of the Early Childhood Development and Family Centre, which incorporate health, nutrition, and sanitation programmes to benefit young children, their families, and the community at large. When complete, the centres will belong and be operated by the community, with support from UNICEF and Imbuto for training and developing an operating plan.

Once Imbuto explained the goal of the project, the architecture firm ASA described the current design using a wooden model as a visual aid. Since the site provided is long and narrow, the seven buildings will have to be oriented in an S-shape instead of the circular orientation used in areas with larger sites. The idea is to provide three stimulation rooms for the young children (ages 0 to 6), a covered multipurpose room, demonstration kitchen with storage area, an administration building with two offices, and an “ecosan” toilet that separates solids from liquids and uses both as soil amenities. The entire site is fenced in to provide security and children are provided with custom playground equipment. Rainfall from the roofs of all buildings are piped to a 30,000 liter underground masonry tank, similar to what is commonly used for methane digesters.

After hearing of the basic design, community members were broken into small groups and given a series of cards showing related images side-by-side. One card for example showed a built-in masonry stove for the kitchen as well as a free standing metal and concrete stove. Other topics included the finishes on the walls (exposed bricks vs. plaster), ground covering for the central courtyard (exposed soil, grass, brick pavers, or gravel), and even the animal they’d like to see incorporated into the design of the slide (elephant vs. cow). The groups were asked to review the two or four pictures on each card, select the one they would most like to see in their ECD&F centre, and fold the card so that image was face-up. All selections were set on the ground when the group was finished and our team walked around taking photos of the selections and the people in the group. Everybody seemed very excited to be able to contribute to the eventual ECD&F design and there was lots of great conversation about what would be best for their children. There were groups of men, women and children participating in a total of approximately 26 groups.

Once preferences of all groups had been recorded, we explained how the information would be used to improve the ECD&F design and customize it for their preferences. ASA compiled the results to share with the team and will finalize the design based on this feedback. A copy of the results is included below. Many of the results confirmed what we had already assumed, for example 88% of respondents indicated they prefer a built-in masonry stove over a free-standing traditional stove, 92% prefer the latrine to be located far from the front entrance, and 89% would like to have a dedicated water fountain. There were also some results that may necessitate design changes. When asked about preferred landscaping options, the majority of groups preferred brick pavers, which were not included in any of the initial designs. Almost three-fourths of the respondents preferred an option for playground equipment than what we used in this first round of ECD&F construction. Nearly two-thirds of people would rather have a reed ceiling in the stimulation rooms instead of the exposed clay tile roof we’ve been providing. Perhaps most surprising, the majority of groups preferred the S-shaped site orientation over the circular shape because of the feeling of it being more open and inviting. Our initial thought was to always provide the circular shape unless space constraints forced the S-shape. This valuable feedback will help us tailor the design to the local context while also encourage a sense of empowerment and ownership to the community.

The District and Sector officials were extremely happy with the event and took a large group out to a celebratory lunch during which they indicated their excitement about the project and appreciation for employing such a participatory process. We committed to sharing the results of the charrette and having ASA visit the site on a weekly basis to direct the site leveling works. UNICEF and the District representative will visit at least monthly to monitor progress.