IUPUI student designs safe house for children in Swaziland

  • Feb. 18, 2014

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

INDIANAPOLIS -- An interior design student at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis has designed a “safe house” that will be built to protect child-led families in the Kingdom of Swaziland in southern Africa who desperately need safe places to live.

A full-sized section of the safe house, built by the Indiana/Kentucky/Ohio Regional Council of Carpenters, will be unveiled at 6 p.m. today at an exhibit of photographs that explores the lives of these children, "Hope Seekers: Survival of Southern African Child-Led Households in the Shadow of HIV." The section of the safe house will be displayed in the main lobby at Hine Hall from Feb. 19 to Feb. 25.

"The exhibit tells the stories of these children and really allows people to enter into an experience of gaining more of an intimate look at the child-led households in South Africa," said Cynthia Prime, CEO of Saving Orphans through Healthcare and Outreach. SOHO is an Indianapolis-based nonprofit organization taking a leading role in efforts to help educate, nurture and feed the child-led families.

The exhibit, hosted by the Herron School of Art and Design at IUPUI, runs through Saturday, Feb. 22, in the Marsh Gallery at Eskenazi Hall, 735 W. New York St.

The number of households in Swaziland led by children, some as young as 8, is mushrooming, resulting from an HIV/AIDS pandemic that is creating a new orphan every 14 seconds.

Prime talked at the beginning of the fall semester to an interior design class in the Purdue School of Engineering and Technology about the need for safe houses to protect orphans who not only are forced to undertake the responsibilities of independent adults but face dangerous, violent living conditions.

Each of the12 students in the class designed a safe house, with Hayley Earley's design chosen by SOHO to serve as a model home for a new village in Swaziland that will be called the Village of Hope.

The class lecturer, Beth Huffman, plans to take the class to Swaziland in the summer of 2015 to construct a safe house.

The 800-square-foot sustainable safe house will be constructed of local materials and feature a single sloping roof and a rainwater collection and filtration system. Safety features include windows placed high on the walls and an outdoor courtyard surrounded by high walls. Six orphan girls will live in the safe house that provides communal sleeping and living spaces.

In a written presentation of her design, Earley wrote that the children of Swaziland have very few adults to cherish and protect them from the dangers of their world. “This is why the sustainable housing units are such an important endeavor to start to build the nourishing community these children so desperately need. Building this groundwork to create a safe haven and a means to a more thriving reality is hopefully just the beginning for these six girls that will occupy this homestead.

“As AIDS cheats these kids of parents, it is common that the surviving family also will cheat them out of anything moveable or of value from their remaining homes,” Earley said.  “Everything the children knew to be theirs is ripped away from them along with their parents. For this reason, it’s essential that furniture be built into the walls of the home or fixed together resulting in immobility. It is my goal that the young girls of the homestead will feel safe, secure and confident in their permanent dwelling.”

In addition to the Indiana/Kentucky/Ohio Regional Council of Carpenters, exhibit sponsors are Herron School of Art and Design, Josef Kissinger Photography, Saving Orphans through Healthcare and Outreach, IUPUI Office of International Affairs, WFYI, IUPUI Solution Center, IUPUI Museum Studies, Department of History at IUPUI School of Liberal Arts and Society of Student Constructors.

Section of safe house under construction

Section of safe house under construction

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Richard Schneider