Dec 21, 2009

Gingerbread House Project


Every Christmas for several years, I have had the joy of making a gingerbread house with street kids. I do this as a group at the Lifeworks drop-in center. It teaches planning and cooperation and gives the kids a chance to practice expression and patience. It is so much fun to get kids ages 18 to 23 involved in something that is so child-like. They really didn't get as much a chance to be a kid as perhaps they should have. Getting to see them enjoy making this house is something I look forward to at Christmas.

The project starts by my giving them cardboard flats (re-purposed from our stream of paper to the recycle center) and duct tape. They make the "plot of land" and then decide how big the house is to be and where it to be situated. Then I supply then with "siding material" of graham crackers, "mortar" of icing, and "roofing material" of cereal. And of course a wide assortment of candy, cookies, and other things that I've learned sometimes make for good gingerbread house makings.

As we do the project--this year it took 2 days--we talk about Christmas. Some hate it. Some love it. Some have fond memories. Some have terrible memories. But they all agree that building the house is making some good memories for this Christmas.

I also ask them to make up a narrative to go along with the house. It begins with how the house came to be in the hands of a former street kid. Then I encourage them to think about how this kid decides to help street kids all over by doing something with the house. And then I ask them to imagine how they live. And finally, I ask them to imagine how the town might react to so many street kids living there and what their plan to react will be. Here is this year's story.

Enjoy the slide show and story. May you make a few happy memories for this Christmas. And may you enjoy relationships with your family, with your neighbors, and, perhaps, with a stranger or two. Christmas is all about relationships. It began 2000 years ago or so to commemorate the most important relationship ever--Jesus Christ as a little baby in relationship with the world he helped bring into being with his Father and redeemed by his arrival, death, and resurrection! Merry Christmas and peace to you.




A street kid got a plot of land in Oregon because it was abandoned and nobody wanted it. It was in a town of about 100,000.
He built a house on it. He didn’t need money to build it because he salvaged all the material for the house. He dived in dumpsters and collected used materials from demolition. The core of the house was made from cardboard box bales. It is sealed to prevent fires.

He lived there with other traveling kids and people who don’t have a place to stay. They lived together in sustainable ways. They made part of the roof into a solar collector. It looks kind of wild, but it works.

They compost and garden. They obtain food from local sustainable sources.

They built a composting outhouse for a toilet.

They collect rainwater from the roof and store it in an abandoned tank.


Some of the kids prefer to pitch their tent outside.

They built a skating rink and garden.

They have walking paths where people can enjoy nature.

The town didn’t really like the idea of all “those people” living in the house, so they became uncomfortable. The street kids responded by doing community projects for the town. They organized a neighborhood watch and begin to crack down on vandalism and theft. They cleaned up graffiti in the town and painted murals on abandoned buildings that were eyesores.