Manila Chapter active on the ground, while HQ develops its response

Posted by Yuko Okamura on Jan 2, 2014

Related program: Typhoon Haiyan Recovery

Two months since Typhoon Haiyan ripped though the Philippines, the latest statistics show that 14.1 million people were affected, with 4.1 million of them displaced*. While in most areas basic community services are being restored, key resources such as health, nutrition and sanitation related services are still lacking.

The Reconstruction and Resiliency team at Architecture for Humanity has been working with local architects to develop a long-term response to the Typhoon’s devastation. Real recovery takes years. Real recovery doesn’t mean a quick fix. It means empowering local communities with stronger building codes, better buildings, and hope for the future.

How does the Reconstruction and Resiliency team respond to a disaster?

The first several weeks following a disaster are called the relief phase. Here our team works on gathering funding, building partnerships, and assessing conditions and needs on-the-ground, working with our local chapter. Information-gathering and knowledge-sharing is critical for organizations to identify the challenges that lay ahead in the response and long-term recovery phases of disaster. The best resources in any disaster are always local, which is why our response focuses on supporting local architects, rather than displacing them.

Typically, we send a team of post-disaster reconstruction experts to the field to assess building damages and identify future projects or initiatives to help build back better. As our team gains clarity of the post-disaster situation, we develop guiding principles for our response in cooperation with local architects.

What is Architecture for Humanity doing on the ground?

Architecture for Humanity Manila, a volunteer-run Chapter has been active on the ground by visiting a number of the affected cities since Typhoon Haiyan. Our chapter members are local professionals driven to help their communities by volunteering their time and skills to those around them. Members are conducting assessments of these areas, and meeting with community leaders to identify local and multi-scale projects.

What is guiding the Haiyan response?

The following guiding principles are helping drive our response:

  1. Create educational platforms for sharing disaster rebuilding expertise and knowledge with local building professionals and community groups leading rebuilding initiatives in the affected communities.
  2. Provide community design, planning and construction expertise for local agencies, enabling the rebuilding with smart resilient techniques to mitigate damage in communities at risk.
  3. Build back better. Lead long-term solutions thinking, that aims to support the local economy, create equity and resist future threats.

What’s next?

With many affected areas slowly shifting their focus to the recovery phase, two key headquarters personnel will carry our response forward by heading to the Philippines. Disaster expert Eric Cesal, Reconstruction and Resiliency Studio Director, and Jacob Ehrenberg, Program Development Manager will be heading to the Philippines in mid-January to meet with key stakeholders.

Eric holds years of experience working on and running international disaster reconstruction programs. He will assess long-term needs and determine how our resources can make the largest impact possible. His experience in disaster reconstruction with Architecture for Humanity began with volunteering in Biloxi, Mississippi and New Orleans, Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina. Following these experiences, he joined Architecture for Humanity full-time in 2010 after the Haiti Earthquake where he became the Regional Program Director for the Haiti Rebuilding Center. After spending two years as program director, he became the Director of the Reconstruction and Resiliency Studio in 2012. As Director of the studio, he manages the Haiti, Tohoku, and Hurricane Sandy rebuilding programs, Resilient Oklahoma program, National Resiliency program, and now the Typhoon Haiyan response.

Jacob’s development & project management expertise will help lead conversations with key stakeholders and organizations. This will be a key process for advancing the cause of long term resilient building in the Philippines. This past year with Architecture for Humanity, Jacob has established strategic partnerships, run programs with major corporations and enlisted the support of major sponsors securing valuable funding opportunities.

Please stay posted for more updates from our team’s field visit.

*source: Government of the Philippines, Department for Social Welfare and Development, December 30, 2013,
(image by Illac Diaz on his visit to Tacloban City)

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