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After Disaster, They Rebuild

Emergency Relief Organizations That Provide Housing and Construction Skills


When earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, and other horrific disasters strike, architects and designers play important roles in the recovery process. From constructing new homes to designing essential medical clinics and schools, volunteers help rebuild devastated communities. While dozens of organizations do wonderful work in relieving human suffering, the non-profit agencies listed here are remarkable for their ability to provide desperately needed construction materials and technical skills. Did we leave out your favorite architecture charity? Add to our list.

1. Architecture for Humanity

Post Tsunami Housing
Post tsunami housing in Anderagasyaya, Sri Lanka. Photo cc Kirinda UDA Planning Team / Architecture for Humanity

Founded in 1999, Architecture for Humanity helps build emergency shelters and necessary buildings after natural disasters and war. The non-profit organization holds design competitions and workshops to encourage economical, sustainable reconstruction and to promote humanitarian and social design. Partnering with other relief organizations, Architecture for Humanity provides financial aid, construction materials, and pro-bono architectural services.

2. Mercy Corps

Although not specifically focused on construction, Mercy Corps deserves very special notice because of its outstanding efficiency. More than 91% of the agency's resources go directly to programs that help those in need. Working with local organizations, Mercy Corps provides a wide range of assistance, including agriculture, economic development, health, housing, and infrastructure.

3. Article 25

Article 25 is a UK charity that designs and builds shelter and manages building projects for impoverished or disaster-stricken communities around the world.

4. Appropriate Infrastructure Development Group (AIDG)

The Appropriate Infrastructure Development Group (AIDG) helps communities in need develop essential infrastructure: electricity, sanitation, and clean water. The group focuses on business incubation, education, and outreach to achieve its charitable mission.

5. The U.S. Green Building Council

The U.S. Green Building Council is a non-profit organization that works to make green buildings available to everyone within a generation. The council also helps reconstruct homes, schools, hospitals and infrastructure in disaster-struck communities.

6. Habitat for Humanity International

Working in 100 countries, Habitat for Humanity International is a nonprofit, nondenominational Christian organization that helps people in need build simple, affordable houses. The new homes are built by the homeowners and volunteers under trained supervision.

7. Relief International

In addition to constructing shelters for people in need, Relief International offers a variety of services for communities in crisis. RI's programs include health, education, agriculture, and food. The primary mission of this non-profit organization is to bridge emergency relief and long term development.

8. Domes for the World Foundation

Monolithic dome homes in the village of New Ngelepen on Java island, Indonesia
Monolithic dome homes on Java island in Indonesia. Photo © Dimas Ardian/Getty Images

Domes for the World provides training, tools, and methods for constructing economical, eco-friendly, storm-resistant Monolithic Dome housing for communities in need. A contribution of $2,500 builds a new house for victims of earthquakes and other disasters.

9. Shelter For Life International

Shelter For Life (SFL) is a Christian relief organization that helps people in crisis rebuild after disasters. SFL specializes in providing sustainable housing for displaced persons, refugees, migrants, and disaster victims. The non-profit organization also helps build infrastructure projects such as schools, clinics, roads, bridges, and water supply systems.

10. Without Borders

Since its founding in 1971, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières has been a model for humanitarian assistance. The organization's success, including a 1999 Nobel Peace Prize, has spawned other volunteer organizations unrelated to medicine. The goal of promoting responsible, sustainable development practices through volunteerism is one held by all of these organizations:

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