Children's Centre XEWA SOWE
Village of Sowé (Glazoué), Benin
image: ©L'Harmattan architecture | CC-BY_black.png some rights reserved
i
Location:
Village of Sowé (Glazoué), Benin
Category:
education
Phase:
in use
Updated:
7 August 2021
XEWA SOWE is a multifunctional project for the people and the children of Sowé village and around. The Centre has built with local techniques and natural materials at the initiative of the community. It has a library with study room open to all, a kitchen and a refectory, three houses to help the most underprivileged children, and the coordinator's house. Finally, the Centre contains a vegetable garden in permaculture and a field of artemisia. 
follow
share on:mail linkcopy link to clipboardShare via LinkedInShare via TwitterShare via FacebookShare via Facebook
Introduction
The history of the Children's Centre  is the fruit of a long adventure, marked by the friendship between a small Brussels association, Oasis N'Djili, and the community of a village in central Benin, Sowé.  

As series of cholera epidemic touches the village from 2000 to 2010 generating an unusual proportion of orphanages. In 2008 a Belgian teacher and a Beninese specialist educator became friends, together they developed the idea of a Children's Centre, then it became a programme, then finally a construction in 2019. 

To create a place, we believe that  architecture must be anchored in its territory, first of all materially, but also from a social and symbolic point of view. For this reason, the Centre has committed to local architecture. Its design is the fruit of exchanges with traditional territorial institutions and it was built mainly with resources from the region, respecting the climate, traditions and traditional craftsmanship skills. 

Moreover, XEWA SOWE is a social project, by integrating the village community from the design to the construction site. And by organising social and cultural events during all  the construction phase (workshops, conferences, cinema…).

Finally, we have adopted an ecological approach, using natural and sustainable materials and, since the concept and by using the principles of  low-tech. The Centre aims to food and energy autonomy thanks to solar equipment, a borehole and, above all, an agroecological garden.
View of the center

image: ©L'Harmattan architecture | CC-BY_black.png some rights reserved
i
Impact
The village of Sowé is characterised by a great solidarity and active community that at the time of the needs. At the time of the cholera epidemics, the population was organized: host families take in the most fragile children and women cultivate a vegetable garden on a piece of land donated by the community for the benefit of orphans. 
The XEWA SOWE project is a continuation of this energy of the villagers and for this reason it is a place that benefits the whole community. At the time of writing, the Center is opening its doors to the first children of the village and the community. It is expected that in a few years we will be able to reach the maximum capacity of 24 children. 
Aware that such infrastructure is a generator of urban development, public toilets and a well have been installed outside so that the neighbourhood can also benefit. The Center is also a meeting place, thanks to the library open every day and to events organized by the Oasis N'Djili Benin association. This was officially created during the construction and today is directly involved in the decisions of the Center.

Last but not least, 80% of the total amount of the construction went to the local worker and business. During its construction, and now with its operation, the Centre has generated local economic spin-offs necessary for the life of the village, as well as insisting on the need to extend the use of local know-how as a lever for resilient development.
sdgs
Core team
A successful project must generate and be generated by a community. To achieve this, the team of four architects from L'Harmattan architecture, the Oasis N'Diji Belgium members, the Oasis N'Diji Benin association and the people of the village worked together every day for more than four years.

The Center wanted to become a place open to all, a place of gathering and sociability. In this perspective, the construction site was a meeting place, a scene of cultural and social activities. During the construction period, the Center became a place with its own identity and soul, gradually building its place in the community.

To anchor the project, the team of architects had to understand the local social fabric as well as possible and go to meet those who shape and structure the village territory: authorities, traditional or institutional, inhabitants and craftsmen and divinities... 

To do this, three study trips preceded a fourth, dedicated to construction. The first, in January 2017, had been an opportunity to meet village authorities and understand which interlocutors could be involved. The second trip was an opportunity to meet artisans, to better perceive the ways of living and apprehend the local constructive cultures, target materials.

Subsequently, during the 9-month construction site, a relationship was forged with all the craftsmen and workers in all the neighbourhoods, helping to federate a large and strong team of more than 150 people, all with the same goal.
Teamwork in the construction of earthen walls

image: ©L'Harmattan architecture | CC-BY_black.png some rights reserved
i
Image gallery
Preparation of the earth mixture for the walls

image: ©L'Harmattan architecture | CC-BY_black.png some rights reserved
i
Construction of earthen walls by a craftsman

image: ©L'Harmattan architecture | CC-BY_black.png some rights reserved
i
The carpenter Paul who built the structure of the library in ebony

image: ©L'Harmattan architecture | CC-BY_black.png some rights reserved
i
Construction of the refectory with the carpenter Jérôme

image: ©L'Harmattan architecture | CC-BY_black.png some rights reserved
i
The team of straw at work for the roofs

image: ©L'Harmattan architecture | CC-BY_black.png some rights reserved
i
Earthen plaster's test with the craftswomen of the village

image: ©L'Harmattan architecture | CC-BY_black.png some rights reserved
i
Emilie one of the craftswomen of the team for the earth plasters.

image: ©L'Harmattan architecture | CC-BY_black.png some rights reserved
i
The library under construction

image: ©L'Harmattan architecture | CC-BY_black.png some rights reserved
i
On the left the administration with a terrace and on the right the library with the study room

image: ©L'Harmattan architecture | CC-BY_black.png some rights reserved
i
Inside view of the library

image: ©L'Harmattan architecture | CC-BY_black.png some rights reserved
i
View of the houses from outside the Centre

image: ©L'Harmattan architecture | CC-BY_black.png some rights reserved
i
View of the houses

image: ©L'Harmattan architecture | CC-BY_black.png some rights reserved
i
Interior of one of the children's houses

image: ©L'Harmattan architecture | CC-BY_black.png some rights reserved
i
The refectory

image: ©L'Harmattan architecture | CC-BY_black.png some rights reserved
i
The administration with the terrace

image: ©L'Harmattan architecture | CC-BY_black.png some rights reserved
i
The technical buildings

image: ©L'Harmattan architecture | CC-BY_black.png some rights reserved
i
The kitchen

image: ©L'Harmattan architecture | CC-BY_black.png some rights reserved
i
Activities with children

image: ©L'Harmattan architecture | CC-BY_black.png some rights reserved
i
Events organized on the construction site during the construction

image: ©L'Harmattan architecture | CC-BY_black.png some rights reserved
i
The Children's centre

image: ©L'Harmattan architecture | CC-BY_black.png some rights reserved
i
Technical drawings
Masterplan 1:500

image: ©L'Harmattan architecture | CC-BY_black.png some rights reserved
i
Ground floor

image: ©L'Harmattan architecture | CC-BY_black.png some rights reserved
i
Roof plan

image: ©L'Harmattan architecture | CC-BY_black.png some rights reserved
i
Library section

image: ©L'Harmattan architecture | CC-BY_black.png some rights reserved
i
House section

image: ©L'Harmattan architecture | CC-BY_black.png some rights reserved
i
Help bring our project to life!

There are no updates yet.

Help bring our project to life!
Where are we now
The Center is today completely build and  since September 2019 it’is operative. The final equipment and furniture arrived during last year thank to the help different private associations or simply by people believing in the XEWA SOWE project.

 

There are 10 children leaving from 5 to 9 years old, they live in the house and they go to the near school in the village. Three employers are working, Gisele, the coordinator , leaving in the site with her family, Maria a “maman” charged to cook and  guide the children to their everyday life, Mohamed  a young  gardener and Charles the garden. 
An indication of our team’s capacity:
95% funding already raised
90% expertise already found
90% materials / equipment already found
100% builders already found
Stuff: Materials
The main needs today are related to the maintenance of the building, especially for the straw roofs and the plaster fort he walls. This kind of work is necessary fort he durable of the project made with natural materials. An everyday maintenance is organised with the local association and the Mohamed and Charles, but the one a year, after the rain season a bigger action . We are looking for donation of good straw in large quantity this kind of help that will guarantee the quality for a long time of the equipment.
Straw !!

image: ©L'Harmattan architecture | CC-BY_black.png some rights reserved
i
Help bring our project to life!
Location
show earth plate boundarieshide earth plate boundaries