Agathe interview, founder of Joya Eco Orphanage

Agathe interview, founder of Joya Eco Orphanage

Dec 20, 2017

Thank you for your time Agathe, we would like to know a brief backstory of your life!

Hi I’m Agathe, I am 31 years old woman who loves construction and wants to develop a concept for autonomous orphanages. While still at a young age, I left my home in France for an educational pursuit in London. There, I was able to complete my master degree in Education and Sustainability. Following my studies, I worked in various elementary schools in England to pay off my student debt. It was in this episode of my life where I also started working for Earthship Biotecture , an international construction company. Before I knew it, I was travelling from one place to another, and eventually fell upon Mazunte, Mexico, a place that I had officially fallen in love with. So I decided to buy a plot of land.

Let’s talk about your project, how did it all begin?

Wondering if any one wanted to tag along with my project, I posted an announcement on Facebook to build a self-sustaining orphanage. By the month of September 2017, five people decided to follow through with my plan and came to action. I had an awesome team that was composed of individuals from Chili, England, Iran and from Mexico itself. I couldn’t have been luckier to have such a wonderful and supportive team right from the start. We started off with building a place to store our equipment. I then contacted a construction company called Domegaia to build a dome onto the land. By December 2017, the once an idea in my head became a reality and the workshop was completed!

Construction of the shed - September 2017
The shed completed - December 2017

For someone who works for Earthship, why did you choose Domegaia for help?

I would definitely attest that Earthships are the best at making dreamy-like houses. That said, they come with a hefty price tag. Since my budget was limiting, Domegaia was able to help me for the fraction of the cost. I couldn't afford an Earthship team to come over and build me whatever I wanted. This type of framework in my mind enabled me to save up the best I could, accepted funds online to sustain my project and got me motivated to look for a team that would help me achieve my goal through a workshop. Maybe one day I'll organize a workshop and have the opportunity to build one myself?

How did the workshop go? Are you happy with the end-results?

The Aircrete workshop of Domegaia went rather well. The participants were pleased by the location and in the end, I got a dome. However, I did notice that Domegaia was rather unorganized and I didn’t really get exactly what I had hoped for. Domegaia sold me a dome, with three rooms and plumbing. What I got was an empty dome, no rooms, no plumbing and I even had to make the foundation myself! The founder/CEO of Domegaia slept the whole afternoon, he was also inappropriate to some people of my team… The company’s forms were not on point and they did little to no effort in organizing their crew or students. In fact, Domegaia usually travels with three of their personnel but only one of them oversees 35 students. I had asked for a maximum of 28 students to come but instead I was overwhelmed with a whopping 34! Keeping the large group satisfied was a difficult task for me. I had to find a way to have more food, enough water for everyone and find adequate transportation. By the way, Domegaia charges $1200 USD per volunteer for the 10 days workshop and this price doesn't include food neither lodging.

A third of the group being transported to the building site

What type of advice would you give to someone who wants to host a workshop?

Good luck! I would suggest hiring an engineer that would oversee and manage the project-in-action. Also, expect the possibility that you might not have a move-in ready home by the end of the workshop. Another important thing to note: properly explain to the volunteers what tool is used for which type of job. In my case, I ended up with a bunch of broken tools because they were not used the right way.

After the 10-day workshop, was your dome completed?

NO !!!

What would be the next steps to take in both short and long-term?

On the short term…finish up the dome, start planting more trees and make sure the property is ready for constructing a class room and a dining room for kids.

How can people help? Will there be other workshops?

Yes, financially speaking, I could use some help since constructing a building is rather expensive! I accept donations through Self-sustainable orphanage, Mexico . I’d ideally like to have another workshop in July or November 2018. I will continue to post photos and the project progress in our Facebook group as well as on our website .

If you had a magical wand, what would you change about the workshop?

Honestly, that Domegaia had more teachers. I believe that a lot more would have been done if the students had been more organized.

Why Mazunte?

Because it’s beautiful here, calm, secure and diverse, people from all over the world come here to visit.

Bonus question: What book would you say has changed your life? Do you have any book/s that you recommend people to read?

Mmmm… Be Here Now is a book that has left its mark on me, although recently, The Hidden Life of Trees was a total revelation in my life! Happy reading!


Translated by Caitlin

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