Scene i: Off to a Rocky Start


As an outcome of the interactive yard design activity, the team learned the women would like to have a fence in the yard. The fence would create a small separation between the area geared toward the children and the one aimed toward the interests of the women. The team discussed the fencing possibilities with the women and decided that a small fence that was easy to see through, but difficult to climb would be the best option.

Cast of Characters

WPI Safe House Team

Safe House Residents



While the women finished the painting in the kitchen, we broke up to set things in motion with the next two projects. Jon and Jake headed to CashBuild with a materials and tools list to begin working on the fence. Jon and Golden cut the wood into appropriate sizes while Jacob planned the layout for the supporting posts and they all began digging the respective holes. Chrissy, Samantha, Julia and Th sanded the timber to prevent any splinters, then applied a waterproofing coat.


Involvement from Th. was integral in getting the fence built.


Jake and Jon realized the ground is much tougher to get through than they had previously expected soon after they began digging. The two groups collaborated whenever possible to give each other breaks and guidance. Th. showed those digging a useful trick to expedite the digging process. As it turned out, many of the rocks are sedimentary and can be broken into a fine dust by hitting them with a hammer. While a hammer is not usually high on a list of tools for digging, it was that day.


Digging holes for the fence posts.

The boys were able to find a spare piece of rebar and used that to crush the rocks that got in their way. Th.’s trick turned out to be a huge time saver and helped through their task quicker.


The staff hopping in to help finish the fence.

Actions and Observations

Jake and Jon worked to dig out the hole, with help from Th. She seemed more comfortable waterproofing the posts with Chrissy, Sam, and Julia. As a group, the team hoped there would not be too much of a divide between gender roles. It would be ideal if the women continue to help as much as they can, even if some yard work is not necessarily what they are used to.

One new experience for the team was quick decision making. For the most part, the team has had everything very thoroughly planned out, and had not run into any complications. Things have begun to change. At CashBuild, Jon and Jake were unable to find the kind of timber they had hoped to get, but they decided on an alternative on the fly. After recalculating costs and briefly considering what the final product would look like, they decided to change from 25 x 114 mm wood to 38 x 38 mm slats. This decision helped keep us productive without too much deviation from the plan.

Reflection and Observation

It was exciting for the team to be able to move on to new projects outside of painting. We were eager to advance on other projects as the term’s half way point just crawled past. It will be exciting to see how our connection with the women develops with time. There are a lotof new projects in the near future and it may be interesting to see how we face these challenges with the women.

Notes for Future Scenes

We have to remain flexible throughout all aspects of the project. Plans once thought to be set in stone can easily change and we must plan for the fluidity of the Safe House and Cape Town environments. Critical thinking and decision making may be key in the upcoming weeks.

Scene ii >>