In­no­va­tive shel­ter for Addo chil­dren

All sec­tors of the com­mu­nity in­volved in home project with un­usual con­struc­tion method

The Herald (South Africa) - - FRONT PAGE - Guy Rogers rogersg@times­me­

THE con­struc­tion of an un­usual chil­dren’s shel­ter is ben­e­fit­ing the whole com­mu­nity. Si­t­u­ated on the R335, 10 min­utes from the en­trance to the Addo Ele­phant Na­tional Park, Lang­bos Chil­dren’s Home is be­ing built us­ing sand­bag or su­per-adobe tech­nol­ogy en­sur­ing jobs, the trans­fer of skills and the op­por­tu­nity for ev­ery­one to get in­volved.

The build­ing grew out of the ex­ist­ing Lang­bos Com­mu­nity Cen­tre founded by Sun­days River hu­man­i­tar­ian dy­namo Muffy Miller and is be­ing spear­headed by Intsikelel­o.

But the com­mu­nity has taken own­er­ship of the project and ev­ery­one from go­gos to young­sters are mak­ing it hap­pen, Intsikelel­o pres­i­dent Chris Grava said.

Su­per-adobe was de­vel­oped in 1984 by Nader Khalili, of the Cal­i­for­nia In­sti­tute of Earth Ar­chi­tec­ture, and a stu­dent from the in­sti­tute vis­ited Addo to help with the ini­tial train­ing.

With su­per-adobe, propy­lene agri-feed bags are stuffed with earth and an op­tional por­tion of ce­ment. They are then stacked on top of one an­other to make walls and domed roofs.

Barbed wire is laid be­tween the bag layers to strengthen the struc­ture, and then the fin­ished stacks are plas­tered over.

The earth is ex­ca­vated from an ad­ja­cent site and this re­source ac­ces­si­bil­ity was a key ben­e­fit of the method, Grava said.

“Su­per-adobe also en­cour­ages cre­ativ­ity be­cause the walls can be formed and curved in what­ever way you like,” he said.

“But be­cause it’s so sim­ple in en­gi­neer­ing terms it puts the em­pha­sis on labour and, in a place like Lang­bos with all its un­em­ploy­ment, that’s a beau­ti­ful thing.”

There are many dif­fer­ent roles – dig­ging, sift­ing, mix­ing, pass­ing, tamp­ing down – so a whole range of dif­fer­ent peo­ple with dif­fer­ent lev­els of strength can take part.

“Sup­port­ing our main 30-man team we’ve got ev­ery­one from old women to young men com­bin­ing, solv­ing prob­lems and work­ing like a well-oiled ma­chine,” Grava said.

“Lunch is pro­vided for project par­tic­i­pants and for im­pov­er­ished peo­ple this mix­ture of hard work, good food and sense of pur­pose is im­prov­ing phys­i­cal and men­tal health.”

Just 25 and an Amer­i­can by birth, Grava came to South Africa five years ago to join his brother and they co-founded Intsikelel­o, which is aimed at help­ing or­phans and vul­ner­a­ble chil­dren in South Africa.

He also makes videos and, with spon­sor­ship from Go-Pro, he made one about the Lang­bos Com­mu­nity Cen­tre.

The video reached mil­lions of peo­ple, many of whom do­nated funds, and with this money the shel­ter project was launched.

About R1.8-mil­lion has been raised so far and the project, now four months down the line, is near­ing com­ple­tion.

The hope is that be­tween R100 000 and R200 000 more will flow in to al­low the shel­ter to be fin­ished in about six weeks time.

Grava said the aim was to strive for an en­vi­ron­men­tally eth­i­cal build­ing as well, with the re­cy­cling of grey wa­ter, gut­ters and tanks linked for rain­wa­ter har­vest­ing, elec­tric­ity com­ing from so­lar pan­els and a biodi­gester that would process live­stock and hu­man waste.

Miller said with the com­ple­tion of the project’s first phase, the shel­ter would be able to ac­com­mo­date five boys, five girls and a care­taker who would work shifts with a col­league.

There was a des­per­ate need for such a shel­ter in Addo, she said.

“We have a high pres­ence of Aids, dys­func­tional fam­i­lies, the in­creas­ing prob­lem of drugs and many dis­carded chil­dren eat­ing off rub­bish dumps,” Miller said.

BAGS OF BEN­E­FITS: The su­per-adobe sand­bag Lang­bos Chil­dren’s Shel­ter build­ing is near­ing com­ple­tion

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