A House for a Victim, Rwanda

Ed Dale-Harris, a Diploma Unit 6 5th year student has been working with REACH, a local charity, whose mission has been the reconciliation of Rwanda post-genocide. They have now trained over 22,000 rural Rwandans in peace building, starting over 30 cooperatives made up of victim and culprits. One of their most successful programmes is a restorative justice house building program.

This involves recently released prisoners and perpetrators of the genocide. Perpetrators meet their victims and victims’ family, and build them a house. They first take part in a 3 month seminar training programme consisting of 9 full days of lectures and discussions. At the end of the training they discuss what they can do next. The perpetrators often want to do something restorative to say thank you for being forgiven. In this case they offered to build a house for the family of one of their victims.

After visiting and studying rural house building methods and visiting the prior houses REACH had built in the area, Ed offered his hand in designing and building an improved house, with the same budget (£3000) and same locally available materials.

The proposed site in Arete, is located in the South of Kigali, in the Bugesera District, up the hills by the Nyabarongo River. This river was once a dumping ground for Tutsis during the genocide – many bodies were thrown into the river, with perpetrators saying to the dead Tutsi “go back to Ethiopia where you came from”.

On the other side of the valley is the sector Ntrama and up on the crest of the hill lives a farmer called Rutaganda. He lives in a wattle and daub house with a corrugated metal roof with his wife and two children. He is living on his father’s land on the plot where his father’s house used to be. His family was killed during the genocide and his father’s house was destroyed. He is the beneficiary whom we are building a house for.

Squire and Partners Collaborated on the project in various capacities.

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Interlocking compressed earth block

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Block making shelter – process

IMG_6434_LRThe bridge test – compressed earth blocks holds strong with 80 kilo weight applied

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Detail wall section – CEB house proposed design – with porch threshold with over hanging eaves.

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Site Plan to Section – family homes past, present and future

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Site atmospheric- whispers in the landscape

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Construction sequence


Approaching the house – goat shed (right) – wattle and daube existing home (left)


Entering the compound – compound marked by planted fence


The House – reinforced wall strength by adding four masonry columns


Entrance Threshold – overhanging eaves to protect the wall and people outside from the rain -concrete slab being laid


back yard compound – main house (right) – latrine, kitchen, shower and store room (rendered left) – Adobe block house added by owner as a guest room


Latrine door

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Interlocking compressed earth block wall – no mortar – no cement – sturdy as rock


lime rendered interior of living room – timber door ways – ceiling zone to added at a later date


New latrine floor – concrete slab with foot ridge for squat toilet


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Geological valley section – a resourceful landscape


resourceful landscape


Water a scarce resource


Testimonies mapped – explaining the story of who two of the co-operative members who were once enemies, then met, prayed and  and reconciled their differences to become friends, volunteers and colleges.

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house compound section from front (left) to back (right)


Detailed section – adobe sun baked earth block construction


Wall Construction Types 1. Thatched wall – climatically and environmentally good – hygienically poor- maintenance high 2. Wattle and Daube – climatically and environmentally good – hygienically poor – maintenance high 3. Adobe block -climatically and environmentally good – hygienically poor – maintenance medium 4. Fired brick – climatically and environmentally ok – high fossil fuel demand – hygienically ok – maintenance low 5. Cement block – climatically and environmentally poor – very high energy – hygienically good – maintenance low 6. compressed earth blocks – climatically and environmentally very good – hygienically good – maintenance low

more photos please check out my blog – as it happend!



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