This Organization Uses Floating Buildings To Raise The Standard Of Living For Underserved Communities
A nonprofit near Lagos, Nigeria is using floating buildings to raise the standard of living for underserved communities.? HOPE BUILDS, founded in 2009, is made up of a team of design and medical professionals who are building healthcare and houses on water to achieve their mission of becoming “catalysts for a better future.”? We spoke with founder, Akin Afolayan, to find out how he got the idea for the remarkable organization, where they plan to expand and how you can help.
Hope Builds partners with “under-served?communities to raise and sustain their standard of living through healthcare, permanent housing and community empowerment”. Why the focus on these three areas?
Akin Afolayan: We believe the lack of access to housing, health and job opportunities in underserved communities are interrelated and require a holistic approach to solving them. Bringing health services to underserved communities builds trust, which in turn can be applied towards building homes, clinics, schools and community centers.
Community involvement starts slowly and is a continual process fueled by small successes.? Once the community realizes it can affect change, a sense of empowerment becomes a driving force. The key is to focus on women and the youth, as they both anchor the home and provide hope and energy for a better future. For continued access to healthcare and affordable homes, the community needs to be empowered by training and job opportunities from within.
And how are you defining “underserved communities?”
Afolayan: Underserved communities, by definition, are communities lacking basic services required to maintain a minimal quality of life. These communities [include] informal settlements such as shantytowns, slums and large illegal settlements, and are found in and around large metropolitan areas as well as remote rural areas.
How did you decide on the name ?Hope Builds??
Afolayan: Hope Builds is a reflection of the evolution of our organization, which started as a project to build a prototype of a floating building that would serve as a clinic, which we called Hope Floats Initiative. It quickly became apparent that the concept of floating buildings was too narrow in scope. In order to achieve our objectives, we needed to broaden our reach to cultivate and motivate change in the underserved communities we hoped to affect. Building community involvement and spirit to provide the hope necessary for change were the core concepts we tried to capture with the simple message ?Hope Builds?. A small, experimental project has evolved from focus on floating homes to providing solutions in [the areas of] health, housing and jobs.
How in the world did you come up with the idea of floating homes and a floating medical clinic? What was your “aha” moment?
Afolayan:? Floating or stilt supported homes have been used in various forms for hundreds of years from floating fishermen villages in Cambodia to the village of Ganvie in Benin, which was established by villagers escaping attacks from rival tribes. The concept of using amphibious dwellings to redevelop slums was the outcome of my master?s thesis research in 2006.? Self-sustaining amphibious/floating homes were a response to the constant threats of eviction, extreme weather events and [were] a way to protect the environment.
What’s been your impact in Nigeria and how has the government responded?
Afolayan: We built a prototype floating structure in Makoko, Lagos in 2009. Our goal was to prove that the concept works. Our mobile surgical team has carried out more than 20 missions and provided over 3,000 free surgeries in communities in Nigeria and Cameroon. With the support of our partners at Medshare and Map International, we have delivered 4 containers of medical supplies valued at over a $1,000,000 (3 to Nigeria, 1 to Cameroon).
We have received a lot of interest from the state and local government authorities and a few of them have become reliable partners in our missions.? A special mention must be made of the Osun State Government that has committed to a long-term partnership with our mobile surgical teams. It has been a challenge to establish partnerships in housing. A possible reason is the lack of political will to help constituents who are considered illegal squatters, but we continue to develop sustainable design proposals in partnership with academic institutions.? We have always hoped our limited accomplishments would provide the groundwork to demonstrate that small change can lead to a larger impact. Incorporating and actively involving local government is key to long-term stability.
Are you working with any local organizations or professionals in Nigeria to achieve your Hope Builds’ mission?
Afolayan: Working with local professionals is the focus of our organization. No one is more qualified and committed to make a change in their communities than those heroes. We now have close to 200 medical professionals volunteering in our mobile surgical outreaches and are constantly adding more. This response has been most gratifying!
Do you plan to expand outside of Lagos? If so, where?
Afolayan: We constantly seek partnerships with like-minded organizations to expand our efforts to affect long-term positive change. In 2011 we worked with the African Women?s Development Foundation USA to carry out a mission to Limbe, Cameroon. We are employing the strategy of building upon our small successes to help us develop bigger projects and programs and to expand our services regionally from Cameroon to Kenya.
You spent your childhood in the former Soviet Union as well as Nigeria. How did your experiences there impact your decision to start a nonprofit?
Afolayan: In every part of the globe I have lived or visited, I have always found people who inspired me with their generosity, irrepressible spirit, faith and their service and compassion for the less fortunate.? I have also witnessed incredible dignity and selflessness of people, even in the midst of the most difficult conditions.? Such encounters leave a deep impression and [act as] motivation to contribute in a little way to making the lives of our neighbors and communities better. I would be unable to do so without the support of like-minded individuals; my family and friends. It is truly a team effort and more powerful due to the synergy created by common goals and aspirations.
Who are some of your influences?
Afolayan: Immediate and most profound influences are obviously my parents, who have been a source of inspiration in selfless service. As mentioned earlier, I have been fortunate to meet and learn about amazing individuals doing incredible work.
What keeps you going?
Afolayan: Knowing each and every one of us can make a difference and that the challenge is so enormous it requires each one of us to act.
What?s next for you, both personally and with Hope Builds?
Afolayan: Our work continues and I am just happy to be part of this movement.
Hope Builds surgical team is comprised of over 100 volunteer medical professionals. This dedicated group is led by retired and active senior medical consultants, many of whom have their own private practices
How can we contact Hope Builds if we want to volunteer or make a donation?
Afolayan: You can reach us at?www.Hope-Builds.info or our Facebook homepage,
Contributor: Rae Oglesby is a freelance multimedia journalist and the Founder + Chief Storyteller at Oglesby Communications Consulting.? She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org