Architecture for Humanity
By : Cynthia La Grou (AP Photo/Gregory Bull, Juan Barreto /AFP/Getty Images)
On Jan. 12th a 7.0 quake devastated the impoverished nation of Haiti. This was followed by more than 30 strong aftershocks. The destruction - beyond comprehension. There has been widespread major damage and a loss of life estimated to be over 200,000. There are projections of 2-3M without shelter.

When catastrophic disaster strikes, many wonder what the best long term use of donation or volunteer services might be. In this case, Architecture for Humanity may be one of your best investments of time and resources. Here's why:

Architecture for Humanity is a nonprofit design services firm celebrating 10 years of innovative service. They are building a more sustainable future through the power of professional design. By tapping a network of more than 40,000 professionals willing to lend time and expertise to help those who would not otherwise be able to afford their services, they bring design, construction and development services where they are most critically needed.

They primarily work in the reconstruction phase of post disaster situations and are focused on transitional and permanent housing and community structures. They do not do emergency shelter. In Haiti, they will be partnering with Yele Haiti, AIDG and other local groups by supplying them pro bono construction and design professionals, setting up community housing resource centers and support in the design and building of earthquake resistant structures.

Each year 10,000 people directly benefit from structures designed by Architecture for Humanity. Their advocacy, training and outreach programs impact an additional 50,000 people annually. They channel the resources of the global funding community to meaningful projects that make a difference locally. From conception to completion, they manage all aspects of the design and construction process. Their clients include community groups, aid organizations, housing developers, government agencies, corporate divisions, and foundations. Completed projects over the last year here

Here's AFH reconstruction plan for Haiti

1) Fundraise. After Katrina, it was the $10, $15, $25 donations that kick started their reconstruction program on the Gulf Coast and in New Orleans.

2) Create a central base. Send a team to identify a site to house a recovery center likely in Port-au-Prince.

3) Provide technical assistance. Use a small full-time team to direct volunteer efforts in damage assessments, safety training and basic building training. (first 6 months- 1 year)

4) Provide sustained, long-term design services from the recovery center to local groups, NGO's and local officials to assist and support the rebuilding process (6 months- 3 years)


Do not go to Haiti now unless you are a registered member of an emergency services team. The NGOs focused on rebuilding need to be aware that in areas of great need structures are usually rebuilt in unsafe ways by well intentioned volunteers. Transitional and long term reconstruction, is needed. If you would like to offer design, engineering or construction services you can sign up here.

The main concern right now is that NGO and volunteer groups will be coming to the area to rebuild. But do they really have the professional skills needed to build safely in a seismic and hurricane zone? AFH aim is to source volunteers to provide damage assessments, safety training and basic building training as they did on the Gulf Coast.

Rebuilding is a long process. It will take years and a lot of manpower. Once they get past the initial stage, they would like to get as many volunteer professionals connected to projects as possible.
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