While most of the world would consider an empty plastic bottle destined for recycling, those with a keen eye for design see opportunity. In Nakivale, one of the oldest refugee settlements in Africa, the use of everyday objects – plastic bottles, sand, old tarps – have been applied to build functional structures, including a recording studio and pop-up retail shop. These buildings have become staples throughout the settlement, further establishing the sentiment that this is a place migrant populations can call home, while enriching the community overall.
Global humanitarian organization, Alight, celebrates these creative approaches to design, and they are taking it a step further by leaning on the community in Nakivale and the support of the A&D industry to help update the Reception Center.
“Outside of the humanitarian sector, we often hear about what happens that forces a person to flee their home and what life might look like in a refugee camp, however, there’s what happens in the middle – the experience of fleeing and arriving somewhere to seek refuge and safety – and we wonder if this might be the most important part to helping a person work towards a life filled with dignity, joy and purpose,” says Daniel Wordsworth, Alight CEO. “The Reception Center, also referred to as the Transit Center, is the first place a person arrives after what is often a long journey, by foot. What should be the most dignified place is currently not, which is why we’re working closely with the Nakivale community to reimagine this space.”
A recent example of a refugee-led architecture and design project at Nakivale that has made a positive impact is the Rubondo Secondary School. The Rubondo community is remotely located within the settlement and the nearest secondary school was over an hour away, inhibiting children to continue their education. In response, the community came together to build a secondary school, brick-by-brick. Word of the idea spread, and gained support and traction, which led to a more official construction of the first-ever secondary school in the outermost region of the settlement. Just 1.5 years later, the Rubondo Secondary School has grown from four students to 110, with students that are refugees and also from the neighboring Ugandan host community who previously had to walk 25 miles to access the nearest secondary school.
Knowing both the literal and symbolic importance of structures such as the Rubondo Secondary School, and appreciating the power of design, Alight is calling on the A&D community to help unleash the abundance and support creating a space filled with light and hope as these new families and displaced people enter into a place they can call home, beginning with the Reception Center.