Furniture & home building for child headed households

August, 2017 Upgrading and Service Delivery

By Dustin James Mason on behalf of People’s Environmental Planning:

August 10,  2017










Children all over the country face many of the same issues; homework, chores, looking after younger siblings etc. but for many children living in Khayelitsha and other lower-income areas in South Africa, this burden is compounded by the absence of both parents. Such is the case for the 27 child-headed households supported by the Baphumelele organization.

Baphumelele is fundamentally a children’s home, that provides shelter for around 110 children living without parents in Khayelitsha. Among Baphumelele’s many programs, is the Child Headed Homes project, a project that aims to support these children through mentorship & direct intervention. Support is prioritized into five key areas – food parcels, education&workexperience,emotional&psycho-social support, healthcare, and legal assistance.

PEP   was approached by Baphumelele early this year to join the Child Headed Homes and devised to run a series of workshops that would aid the children in upgrading their homes, based on their needs and aspirations. Initial workshops worked around introducing the PEP team to the children and establishing an understanding that PEP was there to assist in educating and technical support while we encouraged the children to take ownership of the assessing and upgrading of their homes.










The result of the measuring and drawing workshop, the residents supplied us with emotive and insightful illustrations of their own homes.

Clockwise from top left, Linda Sisusa, Pumla Famana, Vuyisani Ntasa, and Nkosiyazi Norholela.

The first exercise was to measure up and draw your home, include in the drawing everything that you felt was important and/or special to you, as well as issues that you faced living in the space. Many of the drawings we received, while not necessarily technical in nature, we’re an intimate and valuable insight into the home conditions of the children. We also discussed different materials, their strengths and weakness’s, availability and cost.

There   were   many   commonalities   that   the   children   appreciated   about   their home; watching TV, having a big bed, and sharing the space with their close family, but also many issues that arose around the existing structure, feelings of security and safety, and indoor environmental conditions. One thing that almost all the children remarked on was the lack of available space for them to do their homework.

The next workshop we introduced the idea of recycling materials, and how we could use innovation to solve some of the problems faced at home. Thinking only of readily available and affordable materials, such as packing pallets and plastic crates, we, together with the children devised a number of furniture solutions; desks, small tables, wardrobes, that could be assembled using low cost solutions like cable ties or wire nails.

We asked the children to come to the next workshop with as many recycled materials as they could find, in preparation for a practical furniture building workshop. Thanks also to donations from local business, the workshop was well equipped with packing pallets and plastic crates. Slightly apprehensive, but only at first, the children took up tools and materials and were soon building and innovating, and going off plan to solve problems as they arose. This workshop resulted in two examples pieces of low cost, end-user designed furniture, that was made entirely from locally sourced recycled materials.




Building on these workshops, PEP endeavors to maintain a relationship with the children, as well as Baphumelele, as we move forward to addressing some of the more structural issues facing the homes. We have already begun to assess more seriously the conditions facing the children, and to prioritize the homes that need more urgent attention. The first stage of work will deal with unfavorable floor conditions in the homes, relating to a lower inside floor condition than the outside ground level. Four homes have been identified to receive a new concrete slab floor, with a waterproof plastic membrane, to further deter water ingress. We hope to include the children in the practical upgrades to their homes and identify individuals that are interested and would benefit from the building trade.