Tuesday, April 07, 2009


It’s a joy to be here at Ebenezer Care Center in Johannesburg, South Africa with the 150 volunteers from Urban Saints in the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada. Bill Hebner from Urban Saints has set up two tent cities, one for the males and another for the females along with kitchen and bathroom accommodations.

Tommy and Shirley, the Directors of Ebenezer have their busy as they can be as they support the regular 135 residents of the orphanage and in addition to the 120 refugees that have just arrived. The UN Representatives arranged to have 8 families come out to stay at Ebenezer. When the buses and trucks arrived, they brought more than 120 refugees. These are people that had lived in South Africa for many years, had their own businesses and for the most part supported themselves. Then their homes and businesses were burned and torn down because they were not “true South Africans”. Tommy and Shirley just couldn't turn them away. “We just couldn't turn them back . These are human beings with no place to go”, stated Tommy. The South African government has arranged for them to stay until the end of April, then the financial aid ends and Tommy must send them on their way. Financially Ebenezer just can’t survive supporting this many residents without additional financial support. Over 20 of the refugees have jumped into help pouring concrete and helping in any way they can to help build the Amor homes. The rest lie around waiting for their fate. When they leave they will be given 2,000 Rand (approximately 200 US Dollars) to start anew.

Currently five homes are being built by Amor's participants using two different styles of building materials. The first is Maxi Block. This is a cinder type block that is set with concrete. The second method is Taws Styrofoam block. This process is much like putting together Lego blocks. Rebar is set vertically in a concrete foundation and Styrofoam blocks or sheets are fitted over the rebar. Then concrete is poured inside of the blocks to form a very secure, very insulated wall. The third method which is under review is Panel W. This is a sheet of meshed steel rods that enclose strips of Styrofoam. This is a very lightweight panel that is coated with concrete to form a very sturdy, very insulated wall that can withstand hurricane force winds. Although this third method is not being implemented here in South Africa as of yet, it has been highly successful in the Amor homes built in Yucatan, Mexico.

Amor continues to move forward with the construction of housing for the poor with an eye toward new technologies that will make the homes we build, stronger and cheaper. They must also have the ability to be constructed with un-skilled labor. “My goal is find a building material that not only makes sense culturally but it has to be financially feasible so that volunteers can build it. It needs to be a home that I would be comfortable living in”, said Steve Horrex V.P. of Global Expansion of Amor.

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