LEARNING – how to build a home

Being trained as an architect, it is always interesting for me to see the construction process in various locations around the world. Here in India, the majority of the work is done by hand, many hands to be precise. Pan after pan of concrete, sand, gravel, and the like are passed from one set of hands to another then another, over and over again until all of these pans of material begin to form buildings. The buildings that they are constructing now are the new dormitories for the boys and girls of the Gandinagar Child Haven Home in Gujarat State. 

Gujarat has some the strictest rules for governing children’s homes in all of India. One rule that is causing some issues here is that girls and boys must reside in separate buildings, not just separate rooms. Since we are currently in the situation of needing to rent houses and given the fact that not too many landlords like the idea of a renting to a house full of children – here in Gandhinagar the girls and boys houses are unfortunately about 4 km apart. Not only is this double the rent and double the staff, but by separating the children so much they hardly have any opportunity to mingle with their friends and relatives in the other house.

Several years ago Child Haven, with the help of a very generous donor, purchased a plot of land with the intention of building one unified home for these children with two separate dormitories for the boys and girls. It was a slow start, but the buildings are finally underway and we got the chance to visit them yesterday.

The new site is located about an hour from the current home location and on our drive out there we passed by a whole menagerie of animals. Cows, water buffalo, and goats of course, but also a whole family of monkeys and quite a few camels too (sorry for the lack of camel photos – we were either driving too fast or I was on the wrong side of the vehicle, but you all know what camels look like don’t you?)

Under the blazing hot sun we toured the site and received updates of the progress from the architect and contractor working on the project. They had already completed the small guard house and pump house, as well as a storage/future staff house. The two dormitories were up to the plinth level, meaning the foundations were finished and they were readying to pour the ground level slabs. They had also started work on the columns that will support the upper level. The plan is to have everything completed within the year. So…maybe when I come back next year this time I can help celebrate the grand opening – well, here’s hoping!

Thanks for reading!


(This post was written in the land of no internet and is being published in its delayed state from internet rich Hyderabad. Enjoy!)

4 responses to “LEARNING – how to build a home

  1. Rene, thanks for the pics! I bet it is awesome to see progress on something that will be so great for the kids and the people that work with them. Keep up the good work! I am so happy you are doing exacty what you want to do in life, you are such an inspiration to me!

    • Thanks Lonnie! I’m so grateful to be able to do this “work” as you say. It feels more like “play” to me – I’m very fortunate for the opportunities. It’s great to hear from you. Looking forward to seeing you soon!

  2. You may recall the orphanage project in Tanzanina, I worked on for Architects Without Borders. We had the exact same conditions dictated by the local elders. Boys and girls had to live in seperate buildings. And even then, someone had to keep an eye on them at night. Taken from previous boarding school experience though, I can’t blame them.

    • Yes, I do recall the Tanzanian orphanage. It is a good rule to follow. There are also residential staff at all of the homes, that stay with the children overnight. You can’t be too protective in such a conservative society.

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