Scene ii: Hidden Talents


With some significant internal projects complete, we were excited to keep up our momentum as we moved outside. Two of the significant changes that the women had requested were a fence and a new location for the garden beds. These had both been integrated in the interactive design process we worked through with them. Over the past couple of days, we went to CashBuild to get tools and materials for the fence and garden. We have had to make a lot of quick decisions and are now working out how to deal with the ones we made.

Cast of Characters

WPI Safe House Team


Mama Gloria

Safe House Residents

  • T
  • Sh


We were really excited about continuing our work outside, however we remained anxious over getting enough done during this short week. Time was passing quickly, and we new that working hard and efficiently would become more and more crucial. We were so excited to find several women energized and ready to work! Despite the sun shining brightly with the increasing heat of summer, we all spent the day working our hardest to get the different jobs done.


This was a huge day, for both us and for the women. We made a lot of progress on building the fence and clearing space for the new garden beds, with everybody contributing to get the work done. Things went much more smoothly than we had expected, since we were surprised by the hidden talents that the Sizakuyenza residents and staff had to contribute! Early in the morning, Jonathan was working on cutting some of the final slats for the fence. Mama Gloria came over and asked if she could help, then knelt down and sawed through the slats with ease.


Mama Gloria helping us to cut the slats.

When we asked her how she had become so good with a saw, she told us how she had built her house with her own hands. She is familiar with cutting wood, using mortar, and mixing concrete. Luckily for us, she was not the only one good at mixing concrete. Golden had worked at construction sites for the past six years and as a result was very handy when it came time to mix the concrete.


Golden taking the lead on cementing the fence.

We had been nervous about mixing our own concrete and cementing in the fence posts, but Golden showed us the proper way to get the job done. The end result was much better than we had hoped for.

Actions and Observations

We were extremely productive today, working alongside the women and Golden and staying two hours later than we planned. Everyone worked extremely hard and the results demonstrated the time and effort they had put in. Jonathan and Mama Gloria worked together in the morning to cut the rest of the timber, while Julia planned the first garden bed and Samantha, T., and Sh. worked to sand down the rest of the splintered slats. Meanwhile, Jacob worked to dig the next couple of holes for the fence posts and Mama Gloria began to paint the slats that had been sanded. Jonathan and Julia began uprooting the intricate sod system that is the Safe House lawn. After turning the soil of the first two beds, they broke to help out with digging the final holes for the fence posts. After making sure that the posts were lined up properly, we decided that cementing them into the ground would ensure a more long-lasting and stable fence. We went with Golden to CashBuild, and he told us exactly what we would need for the job. We got it back to the Safe House, where Golden led the charge to get the posts firmly cemented in the ground.


First step of the fence is complete.

It was fantastic to see this level of commitment from everyone, even when taking the extra time to make sure we got the concrete in and get everything done right took a lot of extra work.

Notes for Future Scenes

From here we will work to complete the fence, and we have one last garden bed to dig up before we can add new soil. We have a short week this week, only going on site Monday and Tuesday, but we will leave a few tasks for the women to complete while we are gone. We hope they will be able to repaint the playground structure as well as the tires we will get from Gershwin. These tasks are be a huge benefit to the project as a whole, and will hopefully keep up the momentum and energy that the women have had working with us!

Reflection and Learning

As a team, we realized that there is a lot more to the staff and residents of Sizakuyenza than can be seen initially. Although everyone at Sizakuyenza has countless abilities that we have seen, we have only scratched the surface of the talents and potential they have to offer! It was eye opening to realize how much of an asset those we are working with can be. The experiences of each of them can greatly contribute to our project and have taught us better than any research can. The people we work with have a lot to learn from us, but it is nowhere near how much we have to learn from them. We can’t wait to see what other hidden talents we uncover!

Scene iii >>