“Natural building changes the way people look at the world. It’s a way of living on the planet that shows we want to be here.”

That’s what Sarah Brooks, natural building instructor, says about the work. She is one of the hundreds of people worldwide who have collaborated with Janell Kapoor over the past 15 years. Now an internationally acclaimed natural builder, organizer, teacher and designer, Janell started building with earth in 1998. Since then, she has traveled the globe, standing up for human and community connection with the world around them by igniting natural building movements. She has shared these methods with people from over 52 countries, and she kicked off the natural building movements in Southeast Asia and South America, which have since grown into hundreds of thousands of people.

Janell is based right here in my hometown of Asheville, North Carolina, but even though we travel in the same circles, we hadn’t met until I called her two months ago to explore ways we could connect our work. In our process of collaboration since then, I have become more and more impressed and amazed by this community-building dynamo. She invited me to attend a planning meeting for the Women of the Americas Sustainability Initiative (WASI), a global alliance of women natural builders. WASI is a project of Kleiwerks International, a nonprofit that was started to support Janell’s work.

I heard a story of one of Janell’s five trips to Thailand. In 2002, she was invited to lead a group in building a 2,800 square foot community hall on a site that was one of the more challenging she’s ever worked on. With eight days and no translator, Janell was able to introduce the methods and get that building up! She says it was an empowering process that involved everyone who was present. With the help of the project host –a training organization that supported farmers in self-reliant living– and because most of the participants were leaders in their own communities, the methods quickly spread to 100,000 farmers across the country within the next twelve months. This is one of many success stories.

The methods that Janell teaches are simple: (1) get to know the land first, including the direction of wind, sun, shade, water, as well as human and animal pathways; (2) build with the earth and other materials from the land itself; (3) many hands make light work and it takes everyone to make it happen, including women and children; (4) make it irresistibly beautiful; and (5) it’s all about community — with the humans around you and the living land under your feet.
Janell is frequently invited by third world communities to weave this connection with place back into their lives. She has lectured and led projects in eight countries, from poor villages and landless people’s projects, to architecture and engineering schools. The outcome for all of these communities is powerful: They learn to build in ways that equalize everybody, no matter their race, class, gender or backgrounds. Bonds between groups are enriched and strengthened. The connection between each person and the land is bridged and a sense of belonging to place is reestablished. By getting people’s hands in the mud, Janell is changing the world.
Yesterday, Janell took the Sacred Fire Community’s Stand. I asked her how the Stand relates with her work in the world. She says,
“What would it look like if we showed up with the personal and collective intention, vision, wisdom and tools to create the world that speaks most deeply to our hearts? What would it be like to live in a world that works for 100% of humanity and Nature, 100% of the time?
Earthlings need basic and real connection with Nature, with this beloved planet. When we grow food, save seeds, catch water, and build with local and natural materials, we literally build our relationship with this living, breathing Earth that we are so inextricably a part of. We connect into the wisdom of the ages, to our cellular memory, and to a deeper peace that is essential to human happiness.
I’ve been a mud mama for 15 years, building earthen dwellings with people from over 52 countries. We pick up what’s beneath our feet, add water, and build homes, community centers, schools….whatever we want. At its core, belonging to place and connecting to our happiness is what this work is about for me. It’s a gateway into who we really are…into the sacred and interconnected Nature of all Life. I take the Stand with utmost allegiance and dedication. Thank you — it’s an honor!”

In addition to WASI and Kleiwerks International, Janell founded Ashevillage Institute & Sanctuary. All of these organizations facilitate regional community initiatives that put ecological design into action and create ultra-low-carbon footprint living.

Janell’s stand inspires hundreds of thousands of people, bringing communities and cultures into deeper connection. Her stand with the Sacred Fire Community does something similar. Taking this Stand will transform the world and our place in it. Janell Kapoor has taken her stand. Will you?

Forward this article to your friends now, and invite them to take a stand with you, me and Janell Kapoor.

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Learn more about Janell and her work in this video: