Scene 3: If You Build It They Will Come


The WPI project team came into Flamingo crescent on Monday with the aim of creating movable play elements for the young children to play with in the settlement.

Cast of Characters

WPI Project Team
Flamingo Crescent Residents: Elizabeth, Mark


The Flamingo Crescent informal settlement


With blueprints in hand we prepared ourselves to build. While we had a number of ideas of what to build – drums, swings, and ladders – we narrowed our sites on developing a rolling log made of tires.

Building this structure would require four similarly sized tires and a mechanism – bolts, washers, and nuts – to secure them together. A meeting with a city parks official had previously fallen through and we found ourselves with no supplies to create our vision. However, shortly after arriving, members of the community, and more specifically Elizabeth, directed us towards a warehouse where we could select tires for our use at no cost. Using Reggie and his van as a means of transport, the settlement soon found itself the proud new owner of a dozen tires. We were still lacking our bolts so we were forced to postpone our creation until the next day.

When we returned, we found our tires where we had left them in Lenrika’s shack. Since we had advertised our planned park creation, a mixture of community members were present and curious to watch or get involved. For the children this meant painting the tires. Through the combined efforts of ourselves (blue and pink craft paint) and our co-researcher Mark (white paint), the children had a means to express their excitement and creativity – painting not just the tires but themselves, each other, and the nearby shacks.

While we all were excited about the turnout by the children, we could not create the rolling log while the paint was still wet. The tires were hung out to dry and the children began cleaning themselves. We were off to get the nuts and bolts we needed.

It was now Wednesday, our third day of the construction phase. The tires were painted and dry and we had the tools we needed.

One of the students helping build

One of the students helping build

Work began slowly. Drilling through tires took much longer than expected as there was metal reinforcement contained within them. Tightening the bolts and nuts too proved difficult due to the small amount of space in the tires for the wrench. Seeing our difficulties (and laughing a little bit) Mark walked over and offered assistance. Sticking his whole head into the tires, he quickly and easily tightened the bolts we had been toiling with. From this point the process was streamlined and the four tires found themselves turned into a single painted rolling log.

Naturally, we had to try it out. Again Mark was all too eager for this as well. Both he and Zach went up on the log and walked a few feet backwards and forwards. The log did not break or buckle and they did not fall. It was built.

One of the community members helping build

One of the community members helping build

Seeing their community leader playing on the rolling log, the children immediately surrounded their new play toy. Before we knew it a child had crawled through the log and three sat on it. Others were gathered around. The excitement in the air was tangible.

When we returned the next day we were greeted by a child using the rolling log. They had used it all night. It was a success. The next step, build more.


These four days were very important to our project. Rather than simply plan what we were going to do, we took those plans and implemented them. The community rallied with us in our efforts, working together where possible. They learned from us about simple designs using local materials and they taught us practical techniques for creating those designs. Repeated comments of “this is for the children” and “you are the first people who followed through with their promises” echoed in most community members voices too. Both we and the community felt motivated to do whatever was in our means to better the living situation in the settlement.