tirsdag 7. september 2010

fredag 30. juli 2010

Phase 5- "Building it"

After analyzing, experiencing and working in the three sites, we had envisioned to complete a small physical intervention in each area. We thought that an intervention in the area would give them a feeling that things will definitely happen if they continue working together; in addition it could inspire others to continue the transformation process within the community.
Realizing we didn’t have enough time to build in each area, we decided to complete at least one intervention. The decision regarding which area could have the most impact in the community was a difficult task due to the fact that every site presented many possibilities, but at the end it was the character of the residents who made it easy for us to choose the working area.

After the second movie night at the Rotary court and while we were wrapping up our stuff, some children from the football court 2, came to us and told us that they really wanted to realize the rendering picture we had done together after the workshop. We got very excited by their initiative and agreed to meet them the next day under the condition that we were not buying anything, and that it was their job to find tools and materials. We gave the kids the homework to negotiate with their parents about lending us tools and materials to make the bench. On our way home, we began to plan how we could transform the court and how we could develop the drawings the kids had done in the previous workshops.

Since the beginning of the project we have tried to include everyone in the activities as well as to make use of the available means we find on-site. This may show them that they have everything they need to improve their surroundings, and we are only playing the role of catalyzators.
Next morning we met the children at P Kao’s house. It was very pleasant to see that some of them had brought some tools with themselves and they were ready to start working. We had earlier discussed with them the possibility of building a bench that could incorporate plants, garbage bins and a roof. Since there were no final drawings or clear ideas about it, we planned a last drawing workshop where they could portray their ideas and wishes. For this matter we had printed some pictures samples we found on the Internet, in case they needed extra inspiration. First, and based on the rendering we had done previously with their ideas, we asked them to draw proposals for the bench. Almost all of them drew very similar benches to the one we had showed them that morning and it was difficult to convince them to draw their own wishes. After everyone was done with their drawings, each one of them presented their ideas to the rest of us. The same exercise was done for the garbage bin. When we were done, we placed all the drawings against the wall and asked them to vote for their favorite ones. When the winner proposals were chosen, we told them these were the ones we were going to build after the lunch break.
It was important to show the children that we take their work seriously and that their effort plays a decisive role in the future of their community.
When we came back to the court, more children had decided to join the activity as well as some adults leaded by P Pae, who had earlier showed interest in helping us to build the bench. We then decided to divide the team in to groups: one formed by the small children and the other one by the teenagers and the adults.
While the small children began to collect garbage from the surrounding areas, we gather the adults on one side and told them that the bench we were building was the result of the children’s work. They all were excited about the activity and began to discuss among themselves the dimensions of the bench and how it should be built taking in consideration the available materials.
After a while the children got tired of picking up garbage, so we decided to go ahead with the construction of the bench and introduce a new activity for the children. As the number of children continued to increase and it was already not possible to have control over them, we divided the area into two. This was done to optimize the work as well as for security reasons. One area was reserved for teenagers and adults doing the woodwork, while the rest was for small children who were painting two metal sheets we found onsite.
P Pae called a friend who is carpenter and who had some extra tools that we could use for making the bench. This was definitely a major contribution since we had very simple tools. As we began building the bench, the carpenter began to cut and fix the different parts ¨in his own way¨. Mario became very sceptical of this method and tried to explain him through Ploy that we should measure and fix the parts in a more conventional way. Since he was sure about his methods, he didn’t really pay much attention to our comments, and did it his way. The quality of the work wasn’t the best one, but we did realize that the structure of the object was really ingenious and it was better they way than we had thought about it. This incident was very meaningful because it reminded us that this project is as much a learning experience for us as it is for them.
We all worked until late, but were not done so we agreed to meet again next day.

This time not so many adults were back, but a new group of children joined us. Since the structure of the bench was done, we only had to “cover” and decorate it. We didn’t have much wood left and the pieces we had were either of very good quality or completely rotten. As we improvised with the tools and materials we had, we realized that it wasn’t going to be possible to get it done unless we bought some materials. Before we headed towards the shop and once again P Pae came and saved the day. He brought some wood pieces from his home including a plywood sheet so that we could finish the bench.
We divided the group so that everyone had something to do. The teenagers were responsible for the bench, the smaller children for cleaning the area next to the court, while the rest were breaking floor tiles that we later use to cover the soil. Removing the garbage from the area next to the court brought us another problem. With the rain, the soil was constantly coming out making the area muddy, so we had to improvise and made a “barrier” of stones and wood leftovers. This part of the activity as well as the cleaning took less time than the bench, and the children began to run around, not letting the teenagers finish with the bench. Taking advantage of the paint buckets we had from the previous day, we began a painting activity with the children. Using each one of them as a model, we made a group composition were all of them were standing next to each other. We then asked them to decorate it with the color paintings we had. By the end of the night the bench was done as well as the wall and we all were very satisfied with the results.

Small changes can help transforming the character of a place. Some days after the bench was done, we stopped by and were positively surprised by the fact that the court had become again quite popular and children were using the bench. The activity was a success due to the fact that many people got involved and everyone had something to give. The materials were found on the surroundings while the tools were lent by the residents. Letting the children become a more active part of the workshop can also give them a greater sense of ownership and responsibility towards their community. This example could be seen in the construction of the bench were the kids were both the designers and builders.

Phase 4 - "Designing and Cleaning"

With the information collected from the previous phases we were now able to understand and judge the qualities of the different meeting points from a more personal perspective. Each site presented enormous potential, but it was time to reduce the number of areas in order to focus on those that could have the greatest impact to the community. We visited each site one more time and compared the feedback we had gotten from the residents with our own perception and chose three of them: the Rotary court, the football court 2 and the Boxing Court.

By developing a set of workshops that could work as communication interfaces between the community and us, we tried to understand more about the community, its people and the direction of our future steps.

The workshops were aimed to everyone. However we started working with kids because they are easier to approach and don’t have so many life conditions to worry about, compared to the adults. The workshops focused in two main processes - designing and cleaning, which come from thinking and doing.

Having workshops in 3 different areas has introduced us more and more about the people, the character of the areas and the stories behind them. These are considered very important information that we need to know and understand so that we know what the next process should be and what kind of tools we should use to deal with the situation of each place.

From the workshops on 3 areas, it seemed that we were more connected to the people in the Football 2 side than the rest. The number of people interested was not the first criteria considered in this case, but the will to start and really want to do something that they showed us was more important to tell us where the next step should take place.
Second, the capacity of the adults in charge of the children through the workshops we had together was the second criteria as it is very important that we, the outsiders, are not playing all the roles of the activity. Some roles have to be shared and we do not know so much about the character of the children and how to control them, so we need them to help to flow the process.
Third is the group of people who are willing and interested to improve their area still remains the same faces. This is very important for the starting process as it ensures us that they are learning and improving together with us, otherwise we have to start it again and again and not moving to bigger steps.

In this post there is no reference to how we did these workshops in each place, considering that the first posts in the blog present them with text and stop motion videos.

Description: Three spaces to do something

With phase 3 “spaces” we got to understand better each public space which we found out about in phase 2, how people use them, what are the favourites places and the less popular and why, as well as the ones people inside the community would chose to improve. We visited each site one more time and compared the feedback we had from the residents with our own perception and chose three of them: the Rotary court, the football court 2 and the Boxing Court.


Looking in and out of the Football 2 area, along the wall is full of trash

The old and abandoned library just opposite to the area

Location, appearances and its surroundings:
The football 2 court sits by one of the entrances to the community, and right behind the shop blocks along the Damrong Phiphat street. It is right in front of the former library and opposite to the kindergarten in the area most people call for ‘The buddha image side’. This empty space was once a popular gathering place and football court for teenagers and adults, but nowadays it has been become an abandoned area for drying clothes and parking food carts. The site is sometimes used by some children to play football, but it is mainly known for being the meeting point for the children addicted to sniffing glue. It has a concrete ground, and a broken steel mesh fence on 3 sides. The other side is a concrete wall belonging to the shops. Along the wall there is a strip of about 1m of width, where garbage used to be piled up. The garbage has been removed and it now has a bench and some free space. There’s one spotlight which is still working, but since there is no such a thing as public lighting, it is connect to a neighbouring house.

At the moment, the kids addicted to the glue seem to be the main users of the space, both during day and night. Other small kids use it to play football, but not regularly. A week before we left, a food stand opened taking over the space in front of the library, attracting new temporary users. Other users are the neighbours who park their motorbikes along the fence and the ones who hang clothes on the fence during the day.


Location, appearances and its surroundings:
The Rotary football area is located in between soi 2 and 3 of lock 1-2-3 and it is the natural meeting point for the community every time there is a big event. The lack of free open space within the locks has given the site the ´honour´ to become the hosting site for elections and thus known among most residents. It is also a popular meeting area for kids, teenagers and adults who come to play football daily.
The area has a square shape and consists of a football court and a community house. The building was built in the year 2000 by the Rotary Club and given to the community as a multi-functional building.
Nowadays it is just another abandoned building storing garbage from the residents. The building is a reinforced concrete structure with a steel structure roof. The roof tiles are broken at some spots. The building has sinked about half a meter towards the facade walls while the side walls are starting to tear apart.
The court area is a blue painted concrete slab used as playground and football court. Due to the nature of the ground and its proximity to the pond, it is uneven and it gets completely flooded every time it rains. The steel mesh fence on 3 sides encloses the area and offers 2 entrance doors on one of the sides. The court used to be locked during the mornings and the community leader was responsible for opening the area on the late afternoon, preventing the dogs to enter the court and pooing around. At the moment it is permanently open due to the community political situation. The area limits on the north with the pond and with houses on all the other sides
Another name used by the kids to refere to this area is Gong Sye which means Sand Hill.

The court is used daily by the adults from 5 to 9 pm to play football. The children used from 3- 5 when they are back from school. The Rotary is also the main venue for special occasions that require a lot of space such as Thai New Year’s Day ceremony, election, becoming a monk ceremony, etc. Dogs are also one of the major users here. They use the building to sleep and poo inside.


Location, appearances and its surroundings:
The boxing area is located on the north side of the community near the Thanon At Narong road and under the 3119 elevated highway. It is the main gathering point for small kids of the area as well as the training centre for teenagers practicing Thai boxing. This site is privately owned but its owner has opened it for everyone, so that kids can have a safe location to play and train.
The site features a boxing stage, some boxing equipment such as sand bags and boxing gloves, and an open area for the kids to run around. The stage has no ropes around making it dangerous to fall in between the gaps. The roof covering the stage has some holes and it get very wet every time it rains. The stage is made from mattresses stacking on top of each other and covered with vinyl fabric. The benches and plants are use to fence around the area. A small food booth just opened inside the area and has area for eating and a TV for adults to sit and watch while the kids are playing. The owners rent the area from a private company and make a living by renting the surrounding area for parking.
On one side of the area is the rail track with a broken fence and a big tree that gives shade to the area. On the other two sides there are the columns holding the expressway. Nothing is allowed to be attached to these columns in order to keep the structure safe. The boxing area also has a house for the security guard to take care of the parking lots and one ´public´ toilet.
Before the construction of the highways, it used to be a youth club. The actual owner was one of the members when he was young and he decided to continue it for the community.
This boxing area was said to be a famous boxing house and famous boxers used to come and train here. Unfortunately, it is becoming less popular as more resident boxer became drug addicts. Very few children come to train and most children just use it just to play.

The owners are always there as they rent out the car park and need to take care of it. The lady has also opened a food booth, so she is always around and having an eye on all the children. Most children who come to use the area are between the age of 4 to 12 years old. There are also some volunteers coming to do activities with the children such as a drawing workshop, story-telling etc. There is also an uncle who is the security guard of the parking lots. Other adults who are the friends of the owners also come here to eat and relax. Some others come also to train some of the kids.

Phase 3 - "Spaces"

With the information we got from phase 2, we focused our questions in the public spaces and asked which ones people would improve, how and what they would change. The spaces we focused on were The Rotary court and the Pond next to it, the Boxing court, the Ton Sai area, The Library; the football court 2 next to the Library; and the Community Comitte house.

From the places given, inside the community, which ones would you improve? Do you have suggestions of how and what to do?

Girls living near the Rotary Court discussing where should be improved and how dirty the pond near the Rotary Court was

P Ui looking and thinking where should be improved, also noted that it should be everyone's responsibility to take care of it. If not, it's not going to worth improving anything.

Most people chose the Pond, mainly because is too dirty, due to the high amount of garbage, because of the smell and because it is dangerous for children to fall into it. The suggestions are to clean it; to make a fence so people cannot through garbage inside and also to prevent kids from falling inside; to plant grass and other plants; and to fix the walkway between the Rotary court and the Pond which keeps sinking. However they do not know how to keep it clean because it has to be collaboration between everybody otherwise it won’t work.
The pond has served also as a deposit to extinguish fires, however, due to the increased amount of garbage in it, it became a garbage dump site instead. From this, another suggestion from the community is to keep it as a pond, but clean, to work as a water deposit for fire extinguisher.

Next to the Pond, the Rotary court is a central area and a big open space. However, it gets constantly flooded; the fence is broken and dogs go inside and mess the court; and the building inside is sinking and only has been used as storage. The community committee used to organize events and activities in this court but not anymore and also due to “conflicts” between different areas inside the community, people that are not from this area, just do not use the Rotary. The suggestions are to clean it and to fix the fence. To do something with the building it has to be reconstructed because the exiting one is sinking.

The grandmothers saying that maybe the Football 2 area should be improved and thought that it could be nicer to pass and look at after the improvement

About the Football next to the Library some people pointed out the garbage inside and suggested to clean it and to repaint the floor.

About the Boxing court, someone explained that some time ago “boxers” had reputation of being addicted to drugs so, it became less popular and nowadays it is used more for small kids to play around and not really for practicing boxing. But it is a good space, so if it is improved, should be announced as a new place. It is close to the big open area under the highways and might be easier to attract people. The program should be related with sports and because it is used by many kids, there should be more playground structures for them instead of just having an open space.

For the Community Committee house, only some people referred to it as a disorganized space, but too small to create a public area.

This phase allowed us to get to know more in detail the different public spaces inside the community, being able to choose three of them to go deeply in the next phase “designing and cleaning”. Therefore we selected the Rotary court, the Football 2 next to the Library and the Boxing court to intervene.

Phase 2 - "Routes"

As we have started to get to know the area and our relationship to the site and to people expanded, we began to search for clearer answers and more detailed information. In Phase 2 we aimed to get a better understanding of the residents lifestyle and their relationship to the spaces and other people inside the community.

In order to make it fun for kids and interesting for adults to participate in our workshops, we have tried to use some interactive solutions. Using a site plan, wool strings, and color stickers helped us mark out the resident’s daily routines and to point out sites of interest such as their favorite and worst places as well as the ones they spent most time at.

Routes in different colours showing different daily route of each person

1. How is your daily routine?

(What do you do after waking up in the morning until you go to sleep? / Where are the spaces that you go to? Where are the spaces you like hanging out with friends and why?)

2. What is your favoutite place?
3. What is the area you don’t like most?
4. Where do you spend most of your time?
5. Places to improve inside the community and suggestions of how and what to do.

This exercise has been very enriching for everyone: it has showed the residentes who were actors in these workshops, a different perspective of their community and their lifestyle apart from the spaces that they have to use, and it has given us more detailed information about how they use and move within and outside the community.

The workshop was firstly conducted at three known gathering sites mentioned in the first phase (Rotary court, Boxing court and Ton Sai area), however it was mostly children who participated. In order to get the same information from a wider age perspective, we walked around the site to make the same with teenagers and adults. This part of the workshop took place mainly at the entrance of their homes. Most adults were glad to participate, and became very engaged as we interacted with them. People from all ages have participated in the workshop giving us a broader perspective of the residents and the sites.

Through these questions we have noticed that people tend to stay around the areas where they live and do not use other spaces inside the community. The community has been sub-divided by its residents into smaller areas, but these boundaries are invisible and vary according the social aspects of each person. Many residents rather go outside the community than using other spaces not belonging to “their area”. If people go outside the community is mainly to work, to go to the market to school or to video games shops.
Working with adults in making their own daily routes

In general, for the adults, the daily routine takes place at home for the unemployed ones and at work for the ones who are employed. For the last ones, most have temporary jobs and this uncertain working hours lead to an unstable income and therefore an unstable daily situation. Most jobs are connected to the port, therefore the convenience of living at Khlong Toei and being at home during most part of the day. Also some people use the Rotary or the “Wales pond” to exercise, depending on their residential area but most of them do not leave their “area” and rather go outside than to another “area inside the community”.
As favourite place people chose the Rotary because they can exercise, keep the children occupied inside the community and because it keeps the community energetic and “alive”. Others chose the space under the highways because is windy; others, their own home and some didn’t have an opinion about it or didn’t have any favourite place inside the community.
As worst place most of people didn´t answer or didn’t have a worst place inside the community, others pointed out the Rotary and the area near the Library because of the high amount of people addicted to drugs.
The place where people spend most of their time is in front of their home or near friend’s house, specially gathering outside, in the sóis, with neighbours and friends. We experienced that the favourite gathering place for adults is at someone’s house. Most interaction happens by the entrance of the houses and the public street has become a real extension of the house.

Potter finding his own daily route

Children are more active and therefore better known with the site, however, the answers changed depending on their age and the area where they reside. In general, their daily routine is between home, the open space more close to it to play different games, school and computer games shops (both inside and outside the community).
As favourite places they chose between their home and the place they spend most time, which is the closest open space where they gather with their friends or school or even the computer shops. For the worst places inside the community, the pond and the sidewalk next to it was mentioned because of the high amount of garbage; the rotary by some as well as the football court next to the library because in both areas, there is too many people addicted to drugs, acting aggressively.

As suggestions for places to improve, people pointed out the Rotary, the Pond, the Library and some didn´t answer the questions. For the Rotary, the suggestions were to fix the fence to avoid dogs getting inside and mess the space; and also to make it as a standard football court with a good drainage system to don’t get constantly flooded. The problem with using the Rotary is the quantity of people around addicted to drugs and alcohol so, it became a space for a specific group of users, a kind of a “private place” where people from other areas avoid to go. Also the walkway between the Rotary and the Pond because it is broken since quite a while and they have repaired it several times but it keep sinking. For the Library, the general opinion is that it is small, but is a good space for the kids is a good space, even if they don’t want to read, they have a space to play games. However, it is an area with a lot of kids addicted to drugs. Also someone referred that the boxing court could be a good place for an intervention but since it is a private space, is more difficult to intervene in it.

With this phase it became much more clear our idea about the spaces, how people use them and which places people chose to have an intervention, as well as why and how. From this we selected six places to use in the next phase “spaces”. The Routary court and pond (A), Boxing court (B), Library (C), football court 2, next to the Library (D), Ton Sai area (E) and the community committee house (F).

Route map showing most popular places

Additional activity

While doing this workshop, Mario was also organising the little kids who are too young to focus on the workshop to draw and paint with him, to draw attention from interfering the others while doing the route map. This process is also very important when the participants are children at different ages. Some are too little but wanted to be part of the workshop. So we needed to create another activity for them to be in the same place as the others, to make them feel that they are also part of it.

Picture of the Rotary Court drawn by the children in the Rotary Court area

P Mario drawing with the kids to draw attention from interfering ones who
were doing the routes

Phase 1- "People"

The first phase had the goal of understanding the community, not only the physical spaces but also the users and the way they connect between each other and with the spaces, in order to recognize sites of interest within the community.

Getting to know Potter and P Chan and letting them guide us through community and the people

WHAT WE SAW : On the other side of the community has a railway passing through, with people living the houses along it
The pocket green space along the very narrow walkway inside the community

WHAT WE SAW : The boxing court under the expressway, open for everyone but most are children. Some were not there to practice boxing but just to play and run around

In the first week we started interviewing people from locks 1-3. During this process we had to modulate and adapt the questions, along with our understanding about the environment, in order to collect as much information as we thought it would be helpful.

We made the questions to residents of the community and, in general, we tried to understand why people were in Khlong Toei, if they moved in or if they were born inside the community; the occupation; the level of studies; their daily routines; the likes and dislikes about Khlong Toei; their wishes for the community in the future; history or stories about the area and also if they were interested in joining the project, or even if they had suggestions of where and how to intervene.

Meeting with Musa and his family. Musa telling us about the history and the life of KlongToey, the flooding problems it has and how he had done to solve it so far

As part of workshop 1, we decided it was also important to widen our field of work and come in contact with some of the NGO´s working in Khlong Toei. We have followed the same process as with the residents and have created a set of questions that could help us understanding the organisation’s values, work, goals, and possibilities for future cooperation.

With the interviews we understood that locks1-3 are divided more or less into five areas with “invisible” limits, the Rotary court, the Library and football court 2, the Boxing court, the Tonsai area and the Budha image area. People circulate mainly around their area, not using other spaces inside the community. Due to the high density and the lack of space inside the private spaces, the streets are used not just for circulation but for gathering, working as a social network between residents. With this phase we introduced ourselves, we started to find some reference points, not just physical spaces, but some people interested in collaborate, willing to participate in our activities and that allowed us to get to know them better.

As we developed this phase, we felt the necessity of knowing more, the necessity to get to know this “areas” inside the community; the habits of people from different ages and different locks in order to understand in more detail how people use the spaces inside Khlong Toei and how they relate between each other. For that we came up with a second phase “routes”.

From walking along.....and what we found......

The very sacred shrine that most people respect, called Jau-ra-ke shrine (means Crocodile shrine)on another side of the communityand the building nearby

Many Internet and Games shops around, and a clinic
Houses and shops under the expressway, on another side of the community

Checking if there were interesting materials that were easy to find near or inside the community for future use and here what we found!

Where they throw........