Homelessness in EstoniaIn the mid-90s and early 2000s, Estonia, a country in Northern Europe, oversaw a housing reform. This reform sought to improve the living conditions for Estonians and reduce the number of people who were experiencing homelessness in Estonia. Here’s the situation today:

6 Facts About Homelessness in Estonia

  1. A small percentage of Estonians are homeless – The Institute of Global Homelessness reported that around 864 Estonians were homeless in 2011, which amounts to 0.06% of the population. However, in 2018, the European Journal of Homelessness estimated that 1.5% of Estonians are homeless, which amounts to between 1,900 and 2,100 people.
  2. Unemployment can be a major influence on homelessness in Estonia – A 2014 study in the European Journal of Homelessness found that 5.5% of Estonians are unemployed (2% of which reside in Tallinn, the capital.)
  3. Alcohol dependency can inhibit self-subsistence – The percentage of Estonians who are homeless with mental health issues is increasing, and some of these issues may result from alcohol dependency, alongside other factors. Alcoholism can make it more difficult for people who are trying to gain self-sufficiency.
  4. Testing (for respiratory diseases such as COVID-19) is insufficient for homeless shelters in many European countries – People in shelters who test positive for airborne illnesses must be isolated, according to a report by members of the European Federation of National Organisations working with the Homeless (FEANTSA), yet self-isolation is not always easy in shelters. In an Estonian shelter, after one individual in the shelter tested positive for COVID-19, testing was made available for the other residents, and 56% of those who lived in the shelter tested positive as well. FEANTSA argues that “housing must be reaffirmed as a human right” in order to help those who are experiencing homelessness in Estonia.
  5. Certain shelters and programs provide the homeless with residential services – Shelters like the one in Nõmme District in Tallinn provide the homeless in Estonia with a resocialization plan where residents work on gaining work skills to be able to afford residential spaces of their own. Half of the shelter’s residents pay their own fees that they gained from employment to stay in the shelter, and if a resident cannot pay, the city pays on his/her behalf. This plan lasts for six months, though residents are allowed to stay for longer if they aren’t able to afford their own place of residence at that time.
  6. Housing has improved for Estonians since the 90s – In 1989, there were more households in Estonia than there were residences. From 1994-2004, a housing reform took place, and by 2011, the number of residences was 16% greater than the number of households. Though factors such as rising rental costs can still make it hard for a struggling family to afford to live in their own residence, living conditions have improved overall.

As Estonia’s government has been working to reduce homelessness, programs that have helped reform housing have been effective in reducing homelessness in Estonia since the 1990s. Yet there is still work to be done – lessening the situations which cause homelessness is imperative.

Ayesha Asad
Photo: Unsplash

Living Conditions in Luxembourg

Luxembourg is one of the richest countries in the world, but how is that reflected in the living conditions in Luxembourg? It has been acknowledged as one of the most livable places in the world, however, that wealth does not extend to everyone who lives in the country.

8 facts about living conditions in Luxembourg

  1.  There is a significant shortage of housing in the country. This is due to many factors such as an increasing population, a lack of new housing, rising housing prices, etc. To combat this, the government is encouraging construction of affordable and subsidized housing.
  2. As the most desired location to live, Luxembourg City is quite expensive. The monthly cost of a one bedroom apartment is approximately 1,397 euros. Since areas such as Luxembourg City are known for high rental costs, many people in the country go to neighboring countries such as Belgium, Germany, or France to live because they are close in proximity and offer much cheaper housing costs.
  3. 66 percent of people in Luxembourg, ages 15-64, have a paying job. This is slightly lower than the average of 68 percent for other countries in the region. Although, this percentage rate is fairly high and shows that employment opportunities exist for people of all ages in Luxembourg.
  4. The education system has a 100 percent adult literacy rate, and students must graduate with full fluency in German, French and Luxembourgish. Students register for state schools with their Social Security, and children of expats usually attend international schools, which can go up to almost €19,000 per year. University fees, however, are much less expensive.
  5. When it comes to finding a job in Luxembourg, an education and specific skills are important and often required prior to applying. While the unemployment rate is 2.4 percent, higher than the average set by the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) at 1.8 percent, the wages earned are the highest rate in the OECD at $63,062 a year on average.
  6. As mentioned previously, Luxembourg has very high living costs, which is why many workers choose to live across the border. This means that workers have a tedious and sometimes complicated commute to work. Most of the workers have no choice but to deal with the commuting difficulties since they cannot afford to pay the housing and living costs in Luxembourg city.
  7. The healthcare system in Luxembourg is public, meaning that a basic version is free for everyone. Employed individuals have to pay 2.8 percent of their earnings to the healthcare system monthly. Every worker that lives in Luxembourg has to contribute to healthcare. The rates can vary based on the type of employment and the risks involved with the job. Private healthcare is also available.
  8. Employees pay towards their pension and health insurance directly via their salary, but the majority of social security and pension is paid for by the employer. Those that earn less than  €11,265 a year do not have to pay taxes, with the maximum paid being 42 percent on an income that is greater than €200,004.

Luxembourg may be a rich country, but its citizens experience hardships meeting the costs of daily living, which has forced many outside its borders.

Haley Saffren
Photo: Flickr

Top Ten Facts About Living Conditions in Serbia

Formerly a part of Yugoslavia, Serbia is a small landlocked country located in southeastern Europe between Macedonia and Hungary. Serbia has an extremely tense history with its neighboring countries as a result of the breaking up of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s. Today, Serbia is quite different. Here are the top ten facts about living conditions in Serbia.

Top Ten Facts About Living Conditions in Serbia

  1. Pollution: Serbia is currently subject to environmental issues in the form of pollution. The capital city of Belgrade is particularly susceptible to air pollution. Water pollution is also an issue throughout Serbia as industrial waste from the cities is known to eventually flow into the Danube. Management of all kinds of waste — domestic, industrial and hazardous — has been poor.
  2. Ethnic diversity: More than 80 percent of the population of Serbia identifies as Serb, with the main minorities being Hungarian and Bosnian Muslims. The Roma people also make up a small minority, along with other people from neighboring countries. Serbians essentially speak the same language as Croats, Bosniaks and Montenegrins, but with slight variations in dialect.
  3. Economy: Serbia’s economy saw huge growth between 2001 and 2008 because of domestic consumerism. However, because of the rapidness of the growth, the economy experienced instability and both internal and external imbalances. The economy has steadily increased since, and as of 2018 is projected to continue in surplus.
  4. Power: Serbia has no nuclear power stations. Instead, they use hydroelectric power and coal as their main energy sources. The largest coal-burning stations are located in Belgrade, and much of the hydroelectric power comes from the Djerdap dam.
  5. Population: With a population of just over seven million, the most heavily populated area of Serbia is the capital city of Belgrade wherein more than one million people live. Despite the large population, the unemployment rate among Serbian youth ages 15–24 is 29.7 percent, which is quite high. As a result, many young Serbians go to other countries to find work.
  6. Trade: Serbia’s main trading partners are Italy and Germany; however, Russia, Switzerland, China and Hungary are also partnered with Serbia. Many countries are not interested in trading with Serbia because of its infrastructure decline. Additionally, Serbia faces problems with corruption that leave potential trading partners skeptical.
  7. Health Care: Healthcare is provided to pregnant women, babies and children up to 15 years of age. Also, students up to the age of 26 are allotted healthcare. All Serbian citizens are granted treatments for diseases and mental illnesses. Yet, one-fifth of the population remains without healthcare.
  8. Family culture: Serbia is a staunchly patriarchal society, as was instilled under the Ottoman rule and can still be seen today. Family loyalty is very important in Serbian culture. Nepotism is a common problem in workspaces and perpetuates the patriarchal motifs.
  9. Leisure: Belgrade and another city, Novi Sad, are the cultural hubs of Serbia, offering extensive nightlife as well as other cultural hotspots. Various cafes, sporting events and galleries are open across the cities to give those living there — especially the youth — plenty to do. The countryside also has a lot to offer with its abundance of places to go if one wanted to experience traditional Serbian life.
  10. Housing: Housing in Serbia has been a problem since the period of civil unrest and throughout the 1990s; hundreds of thousands of people were left homeless. Although Western nations sent aid, only part of the problem was alleviated. Currently, housing is particularly a problem for young people in urban areas.

Though Serbia is a beautiful country and its tourism rates have risen in recent years, the country still harbors a lot of tension because of its past conflicts. These top 10 facts about living conditions in Serbia showcase that while the country has made great strides and developments, there is still room for improvement.

Emily Cormier
Photo: Flickr

Build ChangeBuild Change, a nonprofit based in the United States, is helping people in developing nations build earthquake and typhoon resistant buildings.

The nonprofit was founded by earthquake engineer Elizabeth Hausler in 2004. The issue of resistant housing in developing nations had been on her mind ever since the 2001 earthquake in Gujarat, India. About 20,000 people were killed in this earthquake due to their unreinforced stone masonry housing collapsing.

This event made her realize the urgency of teaching safe construction methods to people living in developing nations that are at risk for natural disasters such as earthquakes. In an interview, Hausler said, “When earthquakes happen in the U.S. or Japan, very few people are killed. It costs a lot of money but there are very few deaths in earthquakes. But in developing countries thousands and thousands of people are still killed by earthquakes.”

In order to effectively introduce safer building alternatives to people in impoverished communities, Build Change takes a variety of approaches in the communities they hope to improve.

For example, it trains local builders, engineers, homeowners and government officials to build resistant houses and buildings. The organization makes sure the changes are simple and affordable for the community, yet effective. By introducing new construction methods that also involve new materials, Build Change creates more jobs in engineering, construction and materials production in the places they work.

Additionally, it works with governments to develop building code enforcement. It makes sure there are building inspectors within the society that ensure buildings are built according to the safety code.

The nonprofit also helps homeowners get access to the money they need to either strengthen their existing house or build it to be earthquake-resistant. They do this by by partnering with local governments to provide people access to microloans.

So far, Build Change has helped build 51,296 safer buildings, trained 27,857 people and created 12,303 jobs.

It currently works in Colombia, Guatemala, Haiti, Indonesia, Nepal and the Philippines, and has worked in Bhutan, China, India, Ecuador, Iran and Peru in the past.

Thanks to Build Change, thousands of people living in earthquake and typhoon-prone areas can now sleep peacefully at night, knowing they are protected if a natural disaster strikes.

Anna Gargiulo

Photo: Flickr

Israel, a small country wedged between Africa and Asia, is one that has faced many challenges. The country was created as a Jewish state in 1948, but ever since, it has worked towards developing a strong and stable economy. With this economy, Israel is a country that isn’t the cheapest to live in. Despite the high price tags for things such as housing, transportation and groceries, Israel has easy access and relatively low costs for things such as healthcare and education. Here is a brief rundown on the cost of living in Israel:

What’s Expensive?

The cost of living in Israel can be high, especially in a nice area. For the Israelis, that means living in the center of the country, Jerusalem, which comes at a high price. In order to purchase a two-bedroom apartment in Jerusalem, one must pay a little less than half a million dollars. Additionally, the down payment required in Israel is normally 40 percent. Due to this high price tag, many people in the country find it difficult to afford their ideal home.

After securing the perfect home, Israelis are faced with the challenge of transportation. While the country does have public transit, it is known for being unreliable. The next option is purchasing a car, but this is unrealistic for many people who are living on a budget. The price of cars in Israel are drastically more expensive than other places in the world. For example, in order to buy a Volkswagen Golf, one must be able to pay about $38,000 plus about $7 per gallon of gas. In contrast, the same car would cost about $20,000 in the U.S.

The cost of living in Israel continues to be a challenge when faced with the everyday task of going to the grocery store. Monthly expenses for food and other grocery items cost the average person about $540 in Israel. In comparison, Europeans pay about $427 a month for their groceries. While this amount is a lot in itself, what makes it even more challenging is the low monthly income for most people. The average salary for an Israeli is less than $3,000 per month, making it hard to afford the steep costs of other necessities within the country.

What’s Cheap?

While many commodities within the country come with a hefty cost, the people of Israel are fortunate to have some basic things such as healthcare and education that come at a reasonable price. Israel’s healthcare system is praised by many around the world. The people of Israel have approximately 3-6 percent of their paycheck removed for healthcare, allowing for most of their medical needs to be covered by taxes. Additionally, all citizens receive the same healthcare for the same price, with extra costs for things such as going to the emergency room, remaining low.

Another positive toward the cost of living in Israel is the low expense for education. Parents who send their children to public school only end up paying a couple hundred dollars a year and those who send their kids to private schools, less than a couple thousand. When students then go to college, the annual cost of tuition is less than $3,000, making education accessible to many people throughout the country.

While the cost of living in Israel isn’t cheap all together, the country strives towards making things that are the most vital to their people affordable. When it comes to things such as living in the best part of the city or being able to purchase your own car, many people in Israel find the price to be too high. That being said, the price tag on healthcare and education is made easy for anyone, even those who struggle with finances.

Olivia Hayes

Photo: Flickr

refugee statistics
The refugee statistics are appalling. The last few years have seen the highest levels of refugees on record. The topic is everywhere — on television, online and on the minds of both those displaced and those trying to help. To grasp how big the world refugee crisis truly is, below are 15 statistics on refugees worth knowing.

Top Refugee Statistics

  1. Nearly one in 100 people worldwide have been pushed out of their homes due to war or political instability.
  2. Including 5.2 million Palestinian refugees, the total number of refugees in the world today is 21.3 million. This does not include internally displaced persons (IDPs) who have not left their country’s borders but were forcibly moved from their community. More than 65 million people are affected by war and power struggles, including IDPs.
  3. Fifty-three percent of refugees come from Somalia, Afghanistan and Syria. Respectively, 1.1 million, 2.7 million, and 4.8 million refugees are from these countries.
  4. The Middle East and North Africa host 39 percent of refugees. Africa hosts 29 percent, Europe and the Americas host 18 percent, while Asia and the Pacific host 14 percent. Turkey, Pakistan, Lebanon, Ethiopia, and Jordan rank as the top hosting countries.
  5. The number of people seeking asylum in Europe has also reached a record high of 1.3 million. Most of these refugees are from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.
  6. Germany, Hungary and Sweden have become the top destination countries in Europe for refugees.
  7. In the history of statistics on refugees, the last five years have seen the greatest rate of increase on record. The greatest rate of decrease occurred between the years 1994 to 1999. The lowest recorded number of refugees was in 1963.
  8. Nine out of 10 refugees head for neighboring countries. Most do not seek asylum in industrialized countries. About 86 percent are hosted in developing countries.
  9. Pakistan and Iran house nearly 95 percent of Afghan refugees.
  10. Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt house nearly 95 percent of Syrian refugees.
  11. The U.N. Refugee Agency was underfunded by $10.3 billion dollars in 2015. It is estimated that the annual cost of U.S. airstrikes against ISIS in Syria will be $10 billion.
  12. Several countries are doing their statistical “fair share” to assist in the latest refugee crisis. Canada is at the top of this list, receiving almost 250 percent of its estimated fair share of refugees. Norway is second, accepting 144 percent of its fair share, and Germany is not far behind, welcoming 118 percent.
  13. The countries that accept the least of their fair share include the U.S., Spain and France, all standing at 10 percent. Japan, Russia and South Korea rank last, having accepted zero percent of what would be considered fair.
  14. The largest refugee camps in the world include Kakuma Camp in Kenya, Zaatari in Jordan and Yida in South Sudan. Each of these camps hold more than 70,000 people, which is more than the population of Boston.
  15. Many case studies illustrate the need for clean water. In Kakuma camp, households that had access to 110 liters of water per day saw 11 cases of cholera; those who had access to 37 liters of water per day noted 163 cases.

These statistics on refugees show the extent to which this unprecedented crisis has affected the world. Certain regions are more affected than others, but affected most are the displaced persons themselves.

Michael Ros

Photo: Flickr

Scotland’s Eco-Village for the Homeless
Eco-villages are defined as communities whose members seek to live lives that have as little impact on the environment as possible. These communities have been popping up all over the globe for years now, their inhabitants dedicated to being more socially, economically and ecologically sustainable. Eco-village for the homeless can provide a safe environment for people to get back on their feet before looking for permanent housing.

There can be many environmental, economic, social and health benefits to living in an eco-village. The communities encourage local economies in rural areas and often farm unprocessed and pesticide-free produce. The villages reduce the release of CO2 and provide a natural habitat for indigenous ecosystems. The communities also promote less noise pollution and better air quality.

In Scotland, a local charity organization plans to implement an eco-village with the purpose of providing safe temporary housing for the homeless.

In 2015, there were over 28,000 homeless living in Scotland. Social Bite recognized the seriousness of Scotland’s homeless population back in 2012 and has been tackling social issues through business ever since.

The organization currently runs 5 different cafes throughout Scotland. The cafes run a “suspended” coffee and food program, where customers can pay for an extra beverage or lunch for a homeless person to enjoy later.

The non-profit Social Bite is also conscious about employing vulnerable members of the community. A quarter of their employees were once homeless and 100 percent of the business’s profits go toward solving social problems.

Social Bite’s most recent endeavor involves the construction of an eco-village for the homeless in Edinburgh. The village is set to be made up of 10 homes that are capable of housing up to 20 people. The city council spends about $21,000 annually to provide housing and food for one person at a shelter, so the village is expected to save the government massive amounts of money.

Aside from being fiscally beneficial and sustainable, the eco-village community will also provide basic social resources. This includes job training, therapy, financial advice, literacy training and basic education. The goal of the services is to help the tenants directly as they work to move onto more permanent accommodations.

Construction on the village is set to begin in early 2017 and is expected to be up and running by the upcoming summer. Aside from being ecologically friendly, the buildings will also be completely transportable and mobile if necessary.

Social Bite and their dedication to humanitarian work have attracted the attention of celebrities such as George Clooney and Leonardo DiCaprio. DiCaprio visited one of Social Bite’s locations this November to help raise awareness for the organization’s cause.

Overall, the construction of Scotland’s first eco-village for the homeless will provide a frugal and effective way of combating social stigma and homelessness in the country.

Peyton Jacobsen

Photo: Flickr

Five Myths about Social Safety Nets-Debunked!
When it comes to social safety nets, many myths and half-truths about the efficacy of these programs exist among citizens and political leaders. Social safety nets are programs that aid the poor by increasing their incomes, improve school attendance, provide access to basic health care and implement employment opportunities.

Even though some of these myths are inoffensive, they do have the potential to harm people who rely on governmental assistance programs. The New York Times reports, “One billion people in developing countries participate in a social safety net. At least one type of unconditional cash assistance is used in 119 countries.” Here are some of the top myths about social safety nets debunked:

Myth #1: The economy will do better if social programs are cut.

When governments decide to cut their social safety nets, many sectors within the economy begin to suffer. Governments inadvertently increase the unemployment rates within their countries when social programs are cut.

In 1981, President Ronald Reagan signed the Recovery Act, which cut social programs such as payments for individuals with disabilities and school-lunch programs. As a result, the largest projected deficit in U.S. history occurred leading the U.S. economy to its worst recession since the Great Depression. The American economy struggled to combat the resulting 14% inflation rate as well as the increased interest rates of the Federal Reserve Board.

With fewer citizens being able to afford goods and services, overall manufacturing decreased while layoffs and unpaid taxes increased. It is recorded that in 1982, those unemployed reached a staggering nine million, 17,000 businesses had failed, farmers across the nation began to lose land and the poor, elderly and sick became homeless.

Instead of aiding the economy, social budget cuts on social safety nets result in a decrease in the overall finical health of a country’s economy.

Myth #2: Reducing government assistance benefits will make people get a job.

This myth is usually perpetrated by those who do not understand the demographics of social safety nets. More than half of all people who are enrolled in government assistance programs are those who cannot physically or mentally work such as the elderly and people with disabilities. Even if governments were to reduce benefits for those who can work, it still would not make a significant difference in employment rates.

According to the Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania, many people who are working and receive housing assistance still live in homeless shelters simply because they still do not make enough currency to afford a place to live. The Wall Street Journal further states that the four largest welfare recipients are those who labor as fast-food workers, home-care workers, child-care workers and part-time college faculty.

Reducing government assistance will not make people get a job simply because those who receive these benefits are either unable to work or are currently working in a low-paying occupation.

Myth #3: Welfare makes people lazy.

Though the majority of persons benefiting from welfare are employed, surveys show that individuals from around the globe believe that social safety nets waste revenue and make people lazy. However, in 2014, The World Bank reported that contrary to public opinion, individuals on financial assistance in countries such as Asia, Latin America and Africa rarely wasted money on alcohol and tobacco.

In addition, Abhijit Banerjee, the director of the Poverty Action Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, released a scholarly paper that tracked and documented the cash-transfer programs in seven countries. The results from this paper determined that out of the seven countries, Mexico, Nicaragua, Morocco, Honduras, Indonesia and the Philippines, these programs did not discourage people from working.

Moreover, people who receive benefits from social safety nets do not become lazy. Rather, people who did receive these benefits continued to work diligently while also not wasting funds on items such as tobacco and alcohol.

Myth #4: People can benefit from social safety nets for as long as they want.

Most government assistance programs have a limited amount of time that someone can use unemployment benefits. For instance, the U.S. used to allow people 99 weeks of unemployment assistance.

In recent years, states have limited the amount of time that citizens can use unemployment benefits to around 26-30 weeks. Currently, the only state that gives citizens 30 weeks of unemployment benefits is Massachusetts.

Myth #5: Certain demographics make social safety nets benefit one group and disadvantage the rest.

A majority of people believe that social safety nets benefit a particular kind of demographic while disadvantaging other groups within a society. Particularly, U.S. citizens feel that groups, comparatively liberals, benefited the most from social assistance programs. Yet, details from a 2012 survey from the Pew Research Center show that in regard to politics, liberals and conservatives used governmental assistance programs almost equally. There are 42% of liberals and 40% of conservatives using at least one governmental assistance program.

Despite these myths being detrimental to those who rely on social safety nets, it is worth noting that the U.S. economy is slowing improving. As of August 2016, unemployment rates in the U.S. are as low as 4.9%. Additionally, average hourly wages have increased between five cents and $25.59, with average weekly wages at around $880.30.

However, the best way to eradicate these myths about social safety nets is to advocate for legislation that protects these programs. Pay attention to laws that pertain to social safety nets and meet with local representatives about how social safety nets benefit society. Information about U.S. elected officials can be found on Common Cause.

Shannon Warren

Photo: Flickr

syrian_refugeesShowing no signs of stopping, the surge of Syrian refugees poses many issues for European and Middle Eastern countries, mainly housing, as the Northern hemisphere gears up for winter.

According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), since the start of 2015 more than 750,000 migrants have arrived by sea to Europe. The large amount of refugees has not only sparked international interest but also a crisis as many European countries struggle to cope with the influx of refugees fleeing to Europe for a better life.

The IKEA Foundation, in collaboration with Better Shelter, has partnered to create safer, more reliable housing options for the thousands of Syrian refugees fleeing to Europe.

Focusing on cost-effectiveness, IKEA developed a tent that costs approximately $1,000. The tent can comfortably house a family of five and only takes four to eight hours to assemble. The structures come in two sizes: 57 square feet or 188 square feet of living space and will last up to three years. Comparatively, the United Nations (UN) shelters only last three months.

“This is just a tiny part of humanitarian aid. But it’s an important one when it comes to allowing displaced people to live with dignity,” said Johan Karlsson, the main Swedish Industrial designer.

Additionally, the shelters are equipped with solar panels that are durable against extreme temperatures. The solar panels were developed in response to the cited lack of electricity among refugee shelters.

A woman by the name of Mayada, one of many refugees seeking asylum, came to a camp in Jordan ten months ago. She said she never imagined having to live without the most basic necessities, particularly electricity.

“Nowadays electricity is life, and without it even the most simple things become a struggle,” she told visitors from the UN Refugee Agency.

The absence of light and power makes everyday living activities difficult, as well as dangerous, particularly for women. Mayada’s daughter is too scared to go to the bathroom at night and has to wake her parents to accompany her. The solar panels will help to quell their fears.

With the arrival of winter and light disappearing earlier in the day, basic daily functions, as well as communication among refugees, become more difficult.

“You can’t visit friends, the kids can’t do their homework. By nine or 10 o’clock most of the camp is in bed,” Mayada said.

In addition to the solar panels, the tents will also have mosquito nets, windows and a door that locks. The lock option for doors is a simple solution to help prevent sexual assault among refugee women traveling across the Middle East and Europe.

“People tell us it will make a huge difference to them just to be able to switch a light on again, making them feel more at home,” UN Refugee Agency Energy Advisor Paul Quigley said.

The UN has ordered 10,000 of the units to help reduce the Syrian housing crisis. Europe will receive 755 units and 2,600 homes will go to Iraq.

Mayada said when electricity is made more available to the refugee camps, she will no longer have to put on a brave face for the sake of her kids, particularly her daughter.

“I wish I could give [IKEA] all a big kiss between their eyes! It will mean everything to us!” Mayada said.

Alyson Atondo

Sources: PBS, UNHCR, Business Insider, BBC
Photo: Google Images

One of the largest and most difficult tasks that aid workers face in disaster relief is finding those affected shelters. When disaster strikes, it either forces people out of their homes or reduces residences to piles of rubble. As for the governments of the affected regions, there exists the enormously expensive logistical challenge of clean up. Structural debris and rubble are the largest solid polluter by volume. One Dutch company may have found a single solution to both of these problems.

The Mobile Factory is, as the name suggests, a compact, and portable concrete production facility. It fits into two standard size shipping containers, and can be sent anywhere in the world with relative ease. It is solar powered as well, and thus can be operated in areas with limited or damaged power grids.

Rubble is fed into the factory and it emerges as liquid concrete. This is only the first step. The concrete is then taken and molded into standardized bricks, called Q-Brixx, that resemble large Lego bricks.

Mobile Factory has pledged to instruct users in how to use the life size lego bricks to build, modestly sized, earthquake-proof shelters. The device allows communities to safely and affordably rebuild, while also removing environmentally and physically hazardous debris.

Mobile Factory is currently being tested on a small scale in Haiti. The 2010 earthquake left 1.3 million Haitians without a home and many of its towns decimated. The Mobile Factory is testing its product where it might be needed most.

The test village is being conducted in a town of 30 families. In addition to receiving Mobile Factory homes, the families are also being instructed in the factory’s operation and how to build the homes. Mobile Factory hopes that this instructional program will empower communities to teach each other how to rebuild.

Joe Kitaj

Sources: IndieGoGo, The Chive, The Mobile Factory
Photo: The Chive