Next Aid Child Support Center
by Joe Kennedy

I have been intimately involved in creating sustainable settlements in South Africa and my efforts to create models of dwellings that could serve the poorest in South Africa have intensified.

In 2003 I was approached by the NextAid organization to help them create a child support center in a rural town outside of Johannesburg called Dennilton. Dennilton is faced with extreme poverty (95% unemployment) and a 40% HIV infection rate. This center, for a group called Youth With a Vision , will eventually incorporate an orphan/elder ecovillage, performance and study spaces, a micro-enterprise element and sustainable food production systems. It is our hope that this center can be the first of many to serve the over 27 million orphans of the HIV/AIDS crisis in Africa.

In November/December 2004 I traveled to South Africa to do initial research, meet my "clients" and co-lead an intensive design session with the children and local community leaders to clarify their needs and desires. This trip was intense, exhausting and very successful.

I co-led a team of builders and educators to initiate construction of the center. NextAid has purchased a 16-acre piece of land that will be the site of the center. During the 2½ week design/building and training intensive in July we developed the design of the center and initiated construction of a house and general purpose space to be used by Youth With a Vision.

We used local materials such as earth to minimize costs and make the building systems available to the local community. We worked with a local builder who will continue to work with the community. I also worked for several days with colleagues in Cape Town to develop housing strategies for the crowded townships and informal settlements there.

Joe using scraps found on site
to create the earth bag filler

Laying the first layer of the wall

Level 3 of the earth bag wall

End of the first week

new foundation

future community kitchen

Filing the bags on top

The progression of the walls

Performance Space in Progress

Performance Space Progress

Putting wire on before plastering

Structure with plaster

Performance Space May 2006

master thatcher at performance space

finished performance space

Administrative Office

views of nearly
completed administrative office

Donations are tax-deductible, and can be made to Village Renaissance, my "social profit" institute founded in 2004. If you wish more information about my work with Village Renaissance, please let me know, and I will send you my latest update report.

Joe Kennedy

Joe Kennedy is co-founder and former director of Builders Without Borders , an international network of ecological builders dedicated to serving the underhoused of the world, with projects to create affordable housing with sustainable and local materials.  He received degrees in Architecture from UC Berkeley and the California Institute of Architecture.  He is co-author and editor of The Art of Natural Building (New Society, 2001) and Building Without Borders: Sustainable Construction for the Global Village (New Societ, 2004).  An associate producer on The Straw Bale Solution video, Joe has also produced a grade 6-8 curriculum about ecological design and natural building entitled Homeward Bound. Traveling and consulting around the world, Joe has participated in numerous building and research projects. He co-designed a space station habitability module for NASA; participated in a National Endowment for the Arts -sponsored ceramic house project: studied ancient stone towers on the island of Sardinia with Earthwatch ; and co-created a site-built earth art project with Japanese artist, Nobuho Nagasawa, in Prague, Czech Republic. In addition he has been a principal designer for the Tlholego Development Project , an ecological teacher-training center for basic needs in South Africa, where he helped build several prototype structures based on ecological design principles. 


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