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.