The Ubuntu Blox concept was invented by Harvey Lacey of Texas, USA. The project was taken up by Haiti Communitere in October 2011 as a means for community outreach, and is currently being run by Tim Overton and Roxanne Duigou, two dedicated volunteers from Canada. The Ubuntu Block project is serving a dual purpose – to clean up the streets and build up the city.
The Ubuntu team are implementing street clean-ups and rubbish collection points to take Styrofoam food containers and film plastic out of the canals and drains around Port-au-Prince to repurpose as building materials. The materials are packed into rice bags and compressed into uniformly sized building blocks using a manual compression machine. The lightweight, flexible nature of the blocks makes them far more earthquake resistant than typical brick or concrete structures. A model Ubuntu home was recently tested for seismic resistance, and passed a simulated 8.2 earthquake with minimal damage.
A month-long community training session began on March 5 at the Resource Center with a group of 24 women from Cite Soleil, teaching the entire Ubuntu process including collection strategies, cleaning methods, using the machine and building structures. Cite Soleil experiences a disproportionate amount of backlash from trash filled canals, since the food containers from more affluent communities collect there on their way out to the ocean, which is why this community has been chosen to pilot the Ubuntu training. Each daily session is aimed at building awareness of the technology, ‘training the trainers’ to take the knowledge and skills back to their community, and empowering women to make a difference for their country. Throughout the training, the Ubuntu team hopes to gain Haitian feedback and perspective on the concept and process.
Robyn is an artist documenting the collapse of America’s economy with a focus on those who are rebuilding life within it. I had only been in contact with Robyn through email when she pulled in to the driveway. She arrived in her pseudo housing/diesel jetta in which she has been not only traveling through the country in, but also using as her developing studio. She showed me a box full of portraits of people who have managed to surpass the decaying infrastructure with a grassroots spirit.