Saturday, January 15, 2011

Haiti Plus One Year: “Gimme Shelter”

It was one year ago this week, that Haiti was struck by a devastating earthquake, one which displaced most of the population. As this is written, progress toward recovery has been extremely slow, with millions still living in makeshift tents. This despite an unprecedented international response. Critics blame a corrupt and inept government infrastructure, resulting in a lack of effective logistics -- basically, getting the aid from the helpers to those being helped -- and the pre-existing state of poverty among the majority of Haitians.

Most immediate solutions, such as tents, do not translate well into the long-term, especially in a country where, in addition to earthquakes, there are also heavy rains and tropical storms. Meanwhile, the much-needed long-term solutions are ever more encumbered by the aforementioned logistical challenges. Faulty building methods, among other things, have also contributed to the scale of the disaster. (Chile, with an earthquake of greater magnitude later that year, suffered far less casualties and/or damage.)

Into the scenario, we are introduced to Shelter2Home, the brainchild of Donald Stevens, a Maryland native who now makes his home in Winchester, Virginia. His company was inspired by his experience in Sri Lanka, with various relief organizations' transitional housing programs. Something needed to be set up quickly, within a few hours, by a minimum group of people, which would not only provide immediate temporary shelter, but would eventually serve as the nucleus for permanent housing.

The result was a systematic approach to providing standardized housing to those displaced by natural or other disasters. His system is the only emergency shelter system that can be converted to a permanent home, and/or upgraded over time. Through a comprehensive training program established in Haiti by Stevens' company, the Haitian people can learn to help themselves in rebuilding their homes and their lives. More information can be found in the accompanying video clip, or by contacting the company in Winchester.

We look forward to the continued success of this company, and to innovators like Donald Stevens, who leave the world better than they found it, and help others to do the same.

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