The One Heart Village, a children’s village designed by Melbourne architecture practice ClarkeHopkinsClarke, has been recognised internationally for utilising education and a supportive home environment to empower disadvantaged children and alleviate poverty in Kenya.
In a novel approach to international aid work, the One Heart Village has been specifically designed by the practice to incorporate local materials, workers and customs to provide a built environment that is authentic to its culture and region, whilst providing opportunities for education to inspire long-term change.
The village is the brainchild of Dean Landy, a partner at ClarkeHopkinsClarke, and the founder of One Heart Foundation. One Heart is a ‘for-purpose’ foundation based in Australia and working in Kenya. The organisation’s primary focus is to change the future of orphaned and abandoned children living in poverty in Kenya through a sustainable community development model, and in turn see whole communities transformed through education, leadership, empowerment and most importantly, love.
The foundation is responsible for operating the village, and is currently working to establish more schools and homes in Kenya based on this unique sustainable model.
“If we are truly going to try and break a poverty cycle in any part of the world then we need to consider long-term, sustainable, generational change,” Mr. Landy said.
“Even more so, we need to address the issues facing the most disadvantaged children, otherwise they simply get forgotten and history repeats itself in the next generation.
“The real needs are quality education, provided in parallel to creating a loving and supportive environment to raise the empowered leaders of tomorrow.”
The ever-growing One Heart Village presently hosts a primary school with 180 students, houses 75 orphaned and abandoned children across three family homes, and is sustained by a surrounding 21-acre farm providing an income to the homes.
The structure and design of the village has been kept deliberately humble, utilising traditional masonry construction techniques and local materials that are cost effective and easy to build within the given environment.
“As much as possible, we look to use locally source materials, and look to employ locals for tasks ranging from construction labour through to drivers and teachers,” Mr Landy said.
A team of 32 locals along with full time social workers manage the day-to-day operations of the village, which includes running the homes, school and the on-site farm.
In September 2016, the One Heart Village project was awarded a ‘Special Citation’ at the International Exhibition of School Planning & Architectural Awards in Philadelphia, USA, hosted by the Association for Learning Environments.
The Association for Learning Environments is the world’s largest juried exhibit recognising exceptional planning and inspired architectural design of high quality learning environments.
“This recognition helps to build the profile of the school, which is important for attracting incoming fee paying students, that help offset the running costs for caring for all of the One Heart children,” Mr Landy said.
It’s Mr Landy’s belief that architects and Australian businesses hold incredible potential towards supporting and bettering the lives of those less fortunate.
“There is real opportunity for design professionals to become more involved in the design and development of new urban communities, and to assist the rapidly growing population in African cities to create more healthy and sustainable communities.”
By establishing the One Heart Foundation and village, Landy has paved the way for other businesses looking for genuine opportunities to contribute internationally but don’t know where to begin.
“One Heart has been able to provide that link to allow building companies here in Australia to directly fund the construction of new classrooms, for engineers to send teams over as part of their professional development, and for other groups to sponsor education scholarships for children whose lives are now transformed because of the direct impact individuals and businesses are making in the villages of Kenya,” he said.