Last week, a team from Architecture for Humanity (AFH) spent four days in Haiti with Wyclef Jean’s non-profit organization, Yéle Haiti, hoping to help with new design and building projects. Though Haiti has long been recognized as the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, many international aid organizations state that they are tired of sinking resources into a failed state and investors are shying away from the risk and social turmoil. But as Wyclef says, “My response to the critics is, you know, past the danger is opportunity,” and if there is an opportunity to seize, Yéle Haiti and AFH, together, are the ones to do it.
Rooted in the philosophy that innovative architecture does much more than put a roof over your head, nonprofit design and building firm Architecture for Humanity believes that “design is the expression of a community’s vision for change.” In its decade of existence, AFH has created a Youth Sports Facility and HIV/AIDS outreach center in rural South Africa (for which they won the prestigious Index Design Award), a women's center in Tamil Nadu, India, and emergency shelters and clinics in Grenada after the devastation of Hurricane Ivan (in 2004, AFH also teamed up with Worldchanging to raise $500,000 for rebuilding in post-tsunami Sri Lanka); in total, AFH has created spaces that directly improve the livelihoods of an estimated 700,000 people.
Yéle Haiti is no less ambitious or inspired. Wyclef Jean, Haitian native and world-renowned musician, founded the organization in 1995 to improve the lives of Haitians through education, sports, the arts and the environment. As he describes it, “The objective of Yéle Haiti is to restore pride and a reason to hope.” Yéle Haiti has already provided thousands of student scholarships and partnered with the Pan American Development Foundation to run a garbage-clean up campaign, generating 2,500 jobs in Port-Au-Prince. A recent 60 minutes video reveals more about Wyclef's impact:
Though the exact projects haven’t been revealed yet, Yéle Haiti and AFH will be working as what co-founder of AFH and Worldchanging contributor Cameron Sinclair calls tugboat NGOs; they don’t spend the most money, they don’t organize the biggest projects, but through smaller, smarter, and more locally connected investment, they are transforming the most desolate communities into empowered communities.
By: Christa Morris
Photo credit: flickr/vanessabertozzi, Creative Commons license.