‘A House For a Victim’ Rwanda
Reconciliation through making
After observing rural Rwandan culture and construction methods for some months in the remote village of Ntrama and hearing testimonies from the genocide, our understanding of the sensitivities around the reconciliation process has grown significantly.
Reach Charity was founded by Philbert Kalisa, a UK and US-educated Rwandan priest who returned to Rwanda in 1995, one year after the genocide. Since that time, Philbert has been successfully creating ‘Unity Groups’ composed of both victims and perpetrators. Having completed the reconciliation process, the group agreed to volunteer 1 day a week to build a house for one of the victim’s families. Our role was to work with this group.
We assessed the design of a typical low-cost house and made improvements wherever possible. We also favoured working with materials which could be accessed locally. We sourced stone for the foundations , lime for the plaster from the hillside, timber poles came from the neighbouring fields, and excavated earth for the earth blocks came from the latrine pit we dug. As a consequence, only the cement and metal had to be brought in from the capital Kigali.
We taught the Unity Group how to make lime-stabilised earth plaster and trained them to use a compressed earth block machine so the earth that was dug on-site could be compacted and stabilised to make the blocks robust enough to build the walls. The Group now owns the machine and can use it as a means of income.
We also designed the roof to provide additional shelter, giving a generously-covered public space to the front. At the opening ceremony the beneficiary remarked on the strength of the blocks and the generous verandah, he welcomed all to visit him here anytime.