Transformation: A sophisticated buzzword. It sits on the tips of tongues of executives in high-class dinners and in the minutes of board papers around the globe. The responsibility of giving a hand to the helpless is commended and respected, and yet there’s a deep sense in CEOs, humanitarians and scholars that there are more catastrophes than solutions that exist to address them.
Almost by mistake, I found myself engaged in conversations with impact workers and humanitarian toughs that pointed to the fact that we (humanity) were losing the battle to global disasters. It was like all the band-aids of compassion were being ripped off by another disaster, dictator or famine. Now, I hate losing, and so I wasn’t sure if this was something that I ever wanted to be part of or a problem that I wanted to try to solve. However, even though I was a hardline businessman, the more I heard about the shocking statistics of displaced communities the less enchanted I became with the corporate world and bullish power plays.
I was astonished to hear that millions of families were living in limbo. Limbo is defined as “an uncertain period of awaiting a decision or resolution”. If 1.2 billion people are living in short solutions for shelter then 1.2 billion people are in limbo. Waiting. Trying to hope. You don’t need a psychologist to tell you that it’s hard to dream in limbo and there are many studies that would say it’s near to impossible. Another interesting fact is that the state of limbo affects every generation. According to the NY Times articles that covered the post-disaster communities during the Grenfell tower fire in the UK, children suffered from confusion and mental instability living in temporary shelter and moving from place to place.
I did not want to be a short-term band-aid but I felt deeply compelled to do something that would pioneer a new story, develop a high-quality product in the form of an eco-housing structure. It must be a new story.
We embarked on a journey to bridge two worlds. The compassionate world and the progressive marketplace. I was from the world of wall street, where the bottom line profit was driven at any cost. Money alone seemed to be the driving force in every broken family and severed friendship. The people that made up my team were from the industry and the humanitarian world. All of them were well-travelled and had fascinating stories about human relief excursions ranging from the jungles of SouthEast Asia to the deserts of the Middle East. Collectively they had done work in over 100 countries working tirelessly with compassion-filled leaders to solve the humanities major crisis’.
One of our first meetings took place on Zoom (before it was a thing). We wanted to explore the possibility of merging our worlds towards one goal. After comparing notes we discovered how our paths crossed and how our passions were connected.
As a newly formed team, we agreed that four things were our common ground.
Every post-disaster community needs an eco-friendly and sustainable housing solution.
Community transformation starts with a thriving family.
A thriving family emerges from a place of belonging and stability.
The world is uncertain, but your home shouldn’t be.
From these points of common ground, it was clear to us that transformation does have a starting point, and that starting point is a home. Not just temporary shelter, but an “easy to assemble” house where a family can dream, thrive and belong. It has to be more than a tent and not able to be torn apart by a follow-up disaster. It had to be formidable and well designed.
In our vast amount of research, we also discovered that physiological distress in Japan’s record-breaking earthquakes was heightened by families living in temporary housing. So much so, that they needed to get mental health support later on. In addition to this, the reports after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 showed that people who were moved frequently and didn’t have stability had higher degrees of stress than those who were able to find something that was more permanent.
The fundamental goal that is important to us, was to see displaced and battered people given the opportunity to move into a stable and dignified housing product. A place to dream again. A Huffington Post article on the power of hope puts it well. “Hope affects human lives by alleviating the pain of uncertainty.” It needed a solution that put context into food relief, innovative ideas, and clean water projects. We knew that it had to be globally scalable and that our designs had to be based on sustainable development. The communities had to continue to thrive long after our homes were installed.
Today it’s no secret that there are more displaced people in the world today than at any other time in history. These families who have come from war zones, natural disaster locations, and nations with macroeconomic failures have scattered and congregated to find shelter. Any shelter. Fathers and mothers watch for the sun as it rises over their temporary dwellings, and children wait for the darkness so that they can block out the reality of where they find themselves. We must put an end to this.
Naomi Hathaway from Psychology Today says that “Belonging is like stepping up onto a platform and feeling like you are fully supported.” We don’t believe that the solution lies in providing temporary housing units. We are creating a platform for transformation, and rebuilding communities that make people feel fully supported. A starting point for hope is a home.
These innovative housing structures enable people to belong and thrive again. We are on a mission to see all displaced families in post-disaster communities have a place to call home.
Edward Brost - Trade Venture Development Group
https://www.huffpost.com/entry/the-power-of-hope_2_b_10007390 https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/between-cultures/201704/belonging https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/04/world/europe/uk-grenfell-tower-survivors-fire.html https://www.researchgate.net/publication/262694942_The_Impact_of_Housing_Displacement_on_the_Mental_Health_of_Low-Income_Parents_After_Hurricane_Katrina https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7352072/