Scene iii: Breaking Ground


The Sizakuyenza Safe House yard includes a water feature to help provide a calming atmosphere for the women and children. The water feature consists of a trickling fountain and a large, circular pool. The fountain stopped working in 2011 and since then foliage has taken over. A large fig tree has flourished, overtaking the main section of the pool. A small, thorny bush has filled up and clogged the fountain. The brush must be removed and the fountain cleaned before water can run through the system again.

Cast of Characters

WPI Safe House Team

Golden: Caretaker and handyman of the Safe House. His experience was helpful with large projects and acquiring tools.

Robert Raw: Financial manager at Sizakuyenza. He was invaluable to procuring funding.


In seemingly minutes, we went from sitting in the cool dining room of the Safe House to mercilessly tearing roots from the warm dirt. On our third day at the safe house, we had taken a quick five minute walk through bustling streets crowded with vendors and beeping taxis with a Safe House resident and Golden. We were on our way to Cashbuild, a large construction warehouse, looking for tools and gloves to start construction. The remainder of the day was spent in the yard producing clouds of dust as we prodded at the tarp, which supported the old, nonfunctional water feature.


Planning in regards to the water feature began extremely experimentally. We gained all of the available knowledge from the caretaker, residents, and Mama Pilisani. From their input, we were able to paint a picture of how it used to look as well as the current state. Our plan began by trimming back the tree centered within the basin and making an informed decision from there. Our plans ranged from patching of the lining, to complete replacement and an overhaul of the area.

The state of the water feature upon arrival

The state of the water feature upon arrival

Actions and Observations

At the beginning of the day we met with Robert Raw, the financial manager for Sizakuyenza. We discussed our plans for Sizakuyenza and the Safe House. He expressed a great amount of interest in getting the Sizakuyenza website back in running order and discussed possible avenues for this. We agreed to take a look at it and, depending on its complexity, work to improve it and make it professional and easy to navigate. One area we will work on is the “donate” button, which is currently a dead link. Robert informed us that it would be useful to tackle this, even if we must turn the rest of the website over to a professional.

After meeting with Robert, we met the caretaker, Golden, to discuss his roles and responsibilities in Sizakuyenza. He takes care of the facilities and works around the house as needed. He showed us the fountain, pump, and electric fence so we could determine how to best repair them. We did not have the necessary tools, and consequently made a trip to a local hardware store. We consulted with Robert for approval to spend money on the tools.

At the hardware store, we bought clippers, a saw, a pair of pliers and a few pairs of gloves. We used these for the rest of the day to clear out the brush and debris from the fountain and pool area. After about two hours of intense manual labor from the team, Golden, and a few women, the vision for the relaxing area was much clearer. Once the pool was cleared out, we found no pump and realized we would have to purchase one.


Today, the team had the opportunity to meet with two important staff members of Sizakuyenza. Robert, financial manager for Sizakuyenza, told us logistics of funding and website ideas. We also developed a relationship with Golden, overcoming a language barrier and connecting through clearing the water feature for repairs. It is clear that Golden works very hard to upkeep the facilities of the safe house, but has not had the time or funding available to keep up with some projects. It was incredibly satisfying to see some physical progress being made so early in the project. Watching our work inspire Golden was a very uplifting and bodes well for our future endeavors.

The group removing the debris and overgrown plants from the ripped tarp basin of the fountain

The group removing the debris and overgrown plants from the ripped tarp basin of the fountain

Scene iv >>