Building community one brick at a time

Volunteers of all ages bonded at the end of the session by forming a circle.

There was a bit of magic in the air in a parking lot close to the community centre in Joe Slovo Park, on Saturday February 18, when a group of about 50 adults and children cleaned up the area and used litter to make colourful eco bricks.

There were smiles, laughter and a general air of bustling activity as the community watched how to push discarded waste paper into plastic bottles to make the eco bricks.

The eco bricks are to be donated at a later stage towards the building of a storage space at Masikhululeke Educare Centre in Joe Slovo, said Clotilde Angelucci, of Cobute, a construction company, which teamed up with Waste-ED for the project, dubbed “The Building of”.

Ms Angelucci said the “bricks” offered good insulation.

“They are protective and can be made into a number of items aside from being used in building,” she said, pointing to a low stool made from bottles.

“Besides building,” she added, “we wanted to raise awareness about plastic pollution and how to reduce it, in the short term”.

In 1990, Nukuzola Dlabantu, then 39 years old, a mother of two and a qualified pre-school teacher, decided that the many children roaming between the shacks and rubbish heaps in Joe Slovo needed a safe place where they could be taught hygiene, receive guidance and regular meals.

Driven by her strong vision, she managed to get help to lease a piece of land and erected a one-room building in Hlosi Drive and registered the Masikhululeke Educare Centre, which acquired NPO status in 2011.

Today, the centre has 100 kids in two creche classes and one Grade R class. It is also a refuge for youth after school hours, and on Thursday afternoons, there are workshops about environmental issues.

“I want to keep young people away from crime and drugs, so I welcome them here after school hours, so that they can brainstorm ways to improve our current challenges” says Ms Dlabantu.

Ms Angelucci says the eco brick represents a symbol for a zero-waste system. The brick originates in South America and empty plastic bottles can be filled with many unrecyclable items that litter the streets, like sweet wrappers, straws and chip packets, meaning they aren’t destined for landfill sites and are transformed into valuable resources.

“The objective behind ‘The Building of’ is to re-connect with our environment and together think of solutions, while reducing the increasing pollution rates we, as South Africans, produce every single day”, she said.

Children spent a fun-filled hour sorting through the litter collected to make the colourful and valuable eco bricks.

Mamela Siyongwana, a social work student from UCT came all the way from Phillippi to help with the project. “It’s a great initiative and shows people how to live in a better and healthier environment and I wanted to be here to make a difference,” she said.

Ithemba Matshabana, who lives in Joe Slovo, said she took part to show how beautiful the future could be and also to work towards the success of the project.

* For more information and if you want to contribute to the building project, contact The Building of team on their Facebook page (@thebuildingof), or Clotilde at or Candice at