Sydney students aid Kenyan school project

11 December 2007

Building a new high school for girls in an impoverished village in Kenya is the first project for an organisation set up by five Sydney University architecture students.

In 2005, fewer than one in three Kenyan students found a place in a secondary school. In the Katolo area near Lake Victoria, just 12 per cent of girls continue from primary school to secondary school. Encouraging more girls to continue their schooling could be as simple as building a school for them to attend.

Georgia Bowen, Amber Lush, Kirstin Hume Grimm, C.C. Ip and Harriet Stone have all completed a Bachelor of Design (Architecture) and are now in their final year of a Bachelor of Architecture. They formed the organisation 'bricks + cartwheels' through their mutual interest in social architecture and community-driven design.

"We wanted a name that related to architecture and urban planning, but also something fun that didn't take us too seriously, because we do appreciate that we are young and still relatively inexperienced," said Amber.

All the girls have worked in architecture firms or on community development projects in Australia, Costa Rica, Bolivia, Kenya and South Africa, mostly during their recommended year off between degrees.

"We all decided that we wanted to do something positive and constructive when we finish uni," said Amber. "Bricks + cartwheels is something that has developed naturally."

Amber and Georgia came across the Katolo school project during a trip to Kenya in their summer break of 2007.

"The Katolo community had already started to think about how they were going to construct this secondary school, and had begun the process of securing a site. We were invited to attend on e of the community meetings and said, 'We have design skills. Is there anything we can do?' And it grew from there," explained Amber.

"There are basically five of us but the team seems to be growing by the day," said Georgia. "We have a fundraising committee, others doing research, and others still doing the final business proposal and figuring out he budget and the practicalities."

Bricks + cartwheels has several fundraising activities in the pipeline and the secondary school project has been listed by Rotary Australia World Community Service (RAWCS) as one of its international projects.

The students will work in partnership with the community of Kotolo to design and oversee construction of the new school.

Georgia said: "Our ultimate aim is for bricks + cartwheels to develop into an organisation that can be the focus of our careers."

At the moment, though, all efforts are concentrated on Katolo. "When you see the local people working so hard to achieve better things for their lives, it inspires you," said Amber.

Bricks + cartwheels held its first major fundraising event on Thursday 29 November at the Marlborough Hotel in Newtown. For more information go to