By Joe McCarthy and Dana Brandes-Simon
November 26, 2018
Photo courtesy Uday Khambadkone
As an emergency relief nonprofit, the organization All Hearts and Hands has found its latest task rooted within the mountain town of Barranquitas, Puerto Rico.
After the impact of Hurricane Maria in 2017, the town’s prominent concern, among other issues of health, electricity, and clean water, quickly identified itself: survivors of the storm sought out new roofs for their damaged homes. Thus, All Hearts and Hands’ recovery agenda and its volunteers centered their efforts on house repairs on over 1,200 roofs.
Volunteer and College of Environmental Design student Hasti Ahmadi (B.A. Architecture '19) quickly joined the group and found herself in Puerto Rico. New educational experiences and a desire to demonstrate social responsibility motivated Ahmadi to join the crew.
“When I first learned about All Hearts and Hands’ disaster relief project in Puerto Rico, I immediately knew I wanted to give back, so it was easy to turn down an internship to be able to make this trip. I thought helping to repair homes in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria would give me a different perspective on housing issues and the role of architecture in a different part of the world." Ahmadi said. “This opportunity also allowed me to put my design skills into real-world practice and learn new ones."
Every morning at dawn, Ahmadi’s team began removing the scattered remnants of homes and debris besides existing infrastructure which the volunteers then revamped to support a new roof. New roof additions incorporated stronger beam supports ridge beams, and rafters secured by plywood and purlins. Utilization of metal sheathing, screws instead of nails, and waterproof features increased the ability of the roof to protect against future disasters.
Despite the strenuous work, Ahmadi felt that volunteering was a priceless experience beneficial to her work at CED and her view on life.
“I loved the residents of Barranquitas who welcomed us with much love and delicious food, and patiently helped us to overcome the language barriers," she said. "Also, I loved the people whom I volunteered with; everyone was full of passion and love to help others. It was amazing to see that many people from all over the world with unique life experiences came together with one goal and one goal only, to give a lending hand to a community in need.”