Scene i: The Home Stretch


With only one day left, there wasn’t much left to complete. We all were excited to be completely finished with the projects we had planned and had most of the needed material. The swings and stepping poles were the only small projects left to complete until the yard was finished.

Cast of Characters

WPI Safe House Team

Safe House Residents


  • A.
  • K. 
  • N. 


We drove to drop off the Flamingo team first this morning as Samantha noted, “This is one of the last times we will take this drive”. The shacks flew past the windows as each of us nodded solemnly and reflected. Our time here had been so quick but yet each task seemed to take years. The relationships we created felt like they had been solid for decades. The Safe House yard had definitely changed. The air throughout Sizakuyenza felt like hope. And we had changed. But this bus, and this route, it was solid and consistent. Lance took our wrinkled maps and veered off our normal path to pick up the final element: swings. The bus passed by dozens of houses in a neighborhood that all looked identical. It was funny how fascinatingly uncomfortable a suburb was for our packed bus and paint-covered jeans. The bus finally screeched up to a garage as we happily jumped out to retrieve two seated tire swings and one rope swing from Playventures.

Actions & Observations

The manager handed us a scribbled receipt, and getting back into the bus on our way to the Safe House, the closing of our project was near. Once arriving, we were greeted by our newest colleges, A. and K. They had certainly been the most involved the past few days outside. Their eyes widened at the sight of new play equipment. The team immediately divided to conquer. Chrissy and Julia picked up a hammer and stapled the new rope swing into the end of the play frame while Jonathan and Samantha worked on the opposite side removing the damaged swing. A. and K. jumped around excitedly, quieting every few minutes as they remembered they had to be patient. We knotted the rope for easy climbing, trying it out to guarantee fun. The new swings were bolted in, and A. and K. tried them out, smiling that now two people could race on the swings. Jacob was assembling a handmade standing swing out of the remainder of a gum pole and some ski rope. Intended for the older children, this swing introduced some challenge into the feature. Samantha showed the children how to hop on and reported to the team that it was definitely fun and challenging. N., the older daughter of one of the women came out to try the new features, laughing with A. and K.


K. having fun on the newly installed swings.

The children played as the team assembled the next element, the stepping poles. We placed the already cut and sized poles in each hole, temporarily fastening them with string to keep them leveled. A. and K. noticed the work that had to be done and helped Jacob and Jonathan mix the cement. Golden, the groundskeeper, wasn’t on site, so the four boys decided to try mixing on their own. The result was very successful, as they poured and the girls held the posts in the ground.


K., Jonathan, and Jacob mix cement for the first time without Golden’s help

As soon as the posts were stable we came up with the vision together to paint the alphabet across the balance beams and stepping posts to create an educational aspect to the new playground features. We incorporated K.’s footprint into one balance beam and A.’s into the other.


Balance beam painted and ready to go.

The rest of the afternoon we spent making final touches. Jonathan cut drainage holes in the tires for when it rained, and Jacob and Christina cut extra rope off the new drying line structure to make it easier on the women. Afterwards, we celebrated with the children by jumping rope with the extra ski rope and playing with them on all of the new features.

Connecting (Jonathan)

Today while we were wrapping up at the Safe House I had a very challenging conversation with A. and K. As usual they asked me if I would be back tomorrow and I said yes, but that it would be our last day at the Safe House. Then they asked if I would be coming in on Monday or Tuesday or not again until January. I tried to explain to them that tomorrow was our final day and then we probably would not see them again because we would be heading back to the United States. Both of them seemed very upset. They said in unison they would miss me and K. said he would cry for me leaving because he would miss me so much. Both of them said they would try to sneak on the bus so they could spend some more time with us.

The look on their face was very difficult to see because I knew they were so upset. To a degree I felt really badly because they had been uprooted from their homes when their mothers moved into the Safe House. We made friends with them over the past few days, but now we would be leaving them and they would go back to having that feeling of loss. It was extremely difficult to think about while we were walking out the door.

I continued to think about the incident during the bus ride home even though I was trying to think about other things. After a while I realized there was a silver lining in the situation. The connection we built with A. and K. was over the course of only a few days and I do not think they entirely understood why our team was there. If what we were doing could have such a strong impact on a couple of kids in only a few short days, then hopefully the changes we made could have a similar impact on every woman and child who comes through the Safe House. I know that is our team’s goal and knowing we could positively influence so many people’s lives is an incredibly uplifting feeling that I hope the rest of my team can share.

Reflection & Learning

It is a great feeling knowing that we have successfully wrapped up the project. Each team member has done a truly exceptional job as we have been working extremely long days out in the sun, only to return to the lodge, plan out the next day and complete all of the necessary paper work. Each of us has been able to share some of our unique experiences with the women and children and we all hope we have been able to teach them something new as they have taught us.

We all will be able to remember this amazing experience and look up to the women and children for what they are: a symbol of perseverance and hope. Each person we met there has faced more hardship than most of us will ever come across, but still they are happy and smiling. They were able to open up to us and trust us, which has been a truly eye opening experience. Completing the final project today was a huge step for us and for the residents. They have shown they can work together and will continue to carry on in life without letting their past get the best of them.


Finished play structure.

Notes for future scenes

Our last day on site will be tomorrow, 12 December. For the last day, we only plan to go through the yard and do a quick comb for trash and other left over materials. Once we finish cleaning, we have planned a small celebration with the women and children of the Safe House. We are going to bring in some assorted cookies to share with them.

Scene ii >>