I volunteered to help construct a straw-bale home on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation in Montana for the Spang-Medicine Bull family with Red Feather Development Group. I experienced a design-build project that was culturally and environmentally sensitive, affordable and impactful. I also had the opportunity to visit the Red Feather offices and see firsthand how flexibility, adaptability and collaboration are vital to the successful planning of volunteer-based project within the nonprofit sector.
Red Feather Development Group is a non-profit organization that partners with American Indian nations to develop and implement sustainable housing solutions within their communities. I volunteered with Red Feather for the building of a sustainable, single-family home on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation in Montana for the Spang-Medicine Bull family. The purpose of my involvement was trifold. I wanted: hands-on experience in sustainable construction to better understand how design decisions are implemented, and adapted in situ; exposure to the workings of a non-profit with a specific interest in how they advocated for and educated about their mission; and an authentic and close interaction with a disadvantaged community. I participated in their Sustainable Housing Initiative, helping to construct a straw bale home, assisted in mentoring high school boys as part of the Youth Builder's Initiative and spent time at the Red Feather officers in Bozeman, MT, observing the ins and outs of a non-profit. My photos and notes do not adequately express the effect this experience has had on inspiring my outlook on the opportunity for a design to be an agent for translating opportunity into impact.