Ukumbi ry is a Finnish non-governmental organisation established in 2007 by three Finnish architects - Saija Hollmén, Jenni Reuter and Helena Sandman. They all have extensive experience of development cooperation projects in several African countries.
In the course of their work they realised that culturally knowledgeable and skilfully designed architecture is a tool that can be used to improve the living conditions of communities and to mitigate poverty. Ukumbi was recently awarded the State Art Prize for their work.
The mission of Ukumbi is to offer architectural planning and design for underprivileged groups. Often such groups include women, children or young people whose opportunities for participation in society are limited. Improving the status of women in particular has proved to be an efficient way of supporting community development. In addition to cultural sustainability, Ukumbi also seeks to create ecologically sustainable architecture. The use of renewable energy sources, recycling, the utilisation of local materials and local skills are among the pillars of Ukumbi's planning philosophy.
The founding members of Ukumbi have designed a Women's Centre, completed in October 2001 in the suburb of Rufisque, Senegal. The women's centre offers facilities for the activities of the various organisations formed by the women. The idea and the spatial programme of the centre were born in co-operation with local women's groups. According to the West-African custom, the building is grouped around an internal courtyard; the line between private and public is clear but flexible. The simplicity of the street facades adapts the building to its surroundings; the corner facing a road crossing forms a small public square where the facilities reserved for trading are located.
An ongoing project by Ukumbi is the TunaHAKI Centre in Moshi, Tanzania. TunaHAKI Centre is a shelter for AIDS orphans and street children in Moshi, Tanzania. The Centre provides each child with shelter, food, clothing, medical care, and ensures that each child attends school. It also encourages training in the arts, using acrobatics, dance, music and drama as life-saving tools.
Ukumbi is at the moment working on and looking for funding for the KWIECO Women's Shelter project in Moshi, Tanzania and the Agaseke Educational Activity Centres-project for women in Kigali, Rwanda.