Victoria supports construction of Kiribati community youth centre

A community youth centre project for Kiribati youth, co-developed by Dr Rebecca Kiddle from Victoria University of Wellington's School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences assists, requires resources to begin construction.

Members of Betio Youth, Kiribati, sit around an architectural drawing of their city, planning their new community centre.
Members of Betio Youth, Kiribati, plan their community centre.

A Victoria University of Wellington researcher has provided inspiration and practical help to a community group developing a youth centre in Kiribati.

Rick Steele, Director of the not-for-profit agency ChildFund Kiribati, contacted Dr Rebecca Kiddle, from Victoria’s School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences, after hearing about her UNESCO-funded project, Imagining Decolonised Cities. ChildFund, along with Field Studio of Architecture & Urbanism, is helping the community of Betio, Kiribati, develop its community youth centre, as well as helping to raise funds for the project.

Betio, although small, has a high population density. Two fifths of the island’s population live in and around Betio, and a combination of overcrowding and lack of resources in these communities contributes to high youth unemployment rates.

Dr Kiddle says the researchers collaborated with experts from Field Studio, a Christchurch based practice that uses participatory design processes. They began by talking to the people of Betio about their wants and needs.

“Participatory design focuses on the needs of everyone involved. Working with Betio youth and their community, we facilitated community discussion and workshopping where concrete values and action points emerged that they wanted the centre to revolve around and achieve. This included things like preserving their cultural identity, an accessible place of education and health, and also creative expression and fun.”

The multifunctional community centre will be used as a place for youth to develop employment skills in trades and other areas of need in the community, as well as an activity and education centre.

“It was really important for us that the youth of Betio were driving this process,” says Dr Kiddle. “It’s not our centre, it’s theirs. We’re simply here to provide as many resources as we can, but we want it to be something that they can call their own, that they’ve had input into, at every step of the way.”

Not only have the local people steered the conversation and development process, the actual construction and maintenance of the centre will provide work and focus for many of them.

Two different concepts were developed through the workshopping process.

“What developed are plans for structures that incorporate the values that emerged from workshops with the Betio community, and are multifunctional, comfortable, and emphasise traditional and contemporary architecture,” says Amiria Kiddle of Field.

“In Kiribati, there are beautiful traditional buildings or tin sheds and not much in between. We want to create a space that the youth of Betio will be proud of.”

Construction of the building depends on adequate resources and funds. ChildFund relies on support from individuals and groups for its projects to succeed. Even with a generous donation from the New Zealand Aid Programme, there is still a long way to go.

“We need building supplies, resources—because Kiribati is a remote island, most materials need to be shipped in, which is where a lot of the expense lies,” says Shona Jennings of ChildFund.

“We’re really relying on the generosity of others who share our values and want to make a difference to our Pacific communities in need.”

For more information about the Kiribati Project and how to donate, contact Rebecca Kiddle at or Shona Jennings at ChildFund,