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News and Resources

Architecture Students Work With Social Housing Project in Yaoundé, Cameroon

News and Resources

By Rooftops Canada

Last year Rooftops Canada’s partner CONGEH hosted Canadian youth who not only brought home new understandings to their work in Canada but left behind a lasting impact.
CONGEH is a coalition of non-governmental organizations in Cameroon working in the area of human settlements. The purpose of the visit was to help design a low-cost housing project adapted to local realities and constraints. The project aims to provide affordable and secure housing to relocate poor families who have been evicted or are threatened with eviction from their homes in Messa-Carrière, a sprawling informal settlement in Yaoundé marked for government “urban revitalization.” Thousands of homes of the poorest and most vulnerable face demolition.  
For six weeks from May to June 2009 four students from the architectural technology program at Cégep Lévis Lauzon in Quebec helped build partnerships between CONGEH and housing academics and professionals in Cameroon. Under the guidance of Professor Martine Hubert, architect and Rooftops Canada board member, the team worked with local counterparts. They did research, planning, design and costing for a housing project funded in partnership with SELAVIP, a foundation that works to shelter very poor urban families in Latin America, Africa and Asia.
Martine says,
In six weeks we accomplished a lot, including understanding the families’ culture [and] the way they occupy space, the informal sector operations, the costs of labour and materials as well as land tenure and land zoning regulations. We had to blend all we learned with our academic and Canadian experience in order to propose different housing models and building strategies. We left behind some tools that will be picked up in the subsequent phases of the project for financing and construction.
Students Krystina Tremblay, Joanie Vachon, Anne-Gabrielle Poulin and Stéphanie Giroux left Yaoundé with distinct memories and learning experiences.
Krystina was pleased to be able to visit several families in informal housing settlements in Yaoundé. Joanie noted the importance of the opportunity CONGEH offers to these residents – to build their homes in stages on land that they will eventually own and cannot be evicted from. Anne-Gabrielle felt fortunate to live with a host family and to explore Cameroon and different aspects of the country’s culture, including taking djembé (drumming) lessons. Stéphanie emphasized the transformational aspect of the study visit. She says, “This experience made us reflect on our priorities. We have a lot to learn from Africans about respect and the importance of family and community.”
Before leaving, the team presented a site plan, four housing model plans and a budget to community members. Land has been purchased and is being cleared to settle 50 families from the Messa Carrière eviction zone. An additional 260 families have been mobilized for future phases of the project. CONGEH’s relationships with the community, local authorities and university and professional resources have also been strengthened.  
 If you would like to support the project, please click on donate now or send your donation to Rooftops Canada, 720 Spadina Avenue, Suite 313, Toronto ON M5S 2T9.