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Group spotlights third-world, block-making skills during Clinton Climate meeting

Source: Build Change, Denver

In its continuing effort to build earthquake-resistant houses and change construction practice permanently in earthquake-prone developing countries, non-profit social enterprise Build Change announced its Commitments to Action for this year at the 2011 Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) Annual Meeting in New York on September 20. The organization commits to training vocational teachers in earthquake-resistant building techniques in Indonesia and to improving block-making skills in Haiti.

"Indonesia is one of the most earthquake-prone countries in the world, experiencing at least one deadly earthquake per year since the late 1990s," said Dr. Elizabeth Hausler, Build Change founder and CEO. "Yet earthquake-resistant design and construction is not currently a component of vocational training programs at technical high schools."

Build Change's Indonesian effort is based on expanding its program of earthquake-resistant design and construction training to technical high-school students and their teachers in West Sumatra and beyond. Through the financial support of the Caterpillar Foundation, the organization works with teachers and educational institutions to incorporate Build Change's training courses into the regular school curriculum. Over the next year, Build Change will train, mentor and guide at least 150 instructors to teach the course on their own and mentor these instructors through their training of at least 1,350 students in safe building.

To fund this initiative, Build Change is looking to raise a minimum of $170,000 over the next year to expand the number of teachers reached and begin to develop an internship program. "Having a pipeline of builders trained in safe construction methods will go a long way towards our goal of making earthquake-resistant construction in Indonesia the norm," added Hausler. "If we can raise more money for the program, we can change building practices faster, and include an internship program for the most promising students who can lead the safe construction movement in the future."

Build Change's Commitment to Economic Empowerment in Haiti is based on expanding a successful pilot project with Save the Children that provided technical assistance and training to Haitian owners and workers at concrete block manufacturing facilities. When the pilot project ended in August 2011, Build Change had mentored nine Haitian small and medium enterprise producers of concrete blocks to increase the quality and profitability of their production. "[O]ver the next two years, Build Change, [original pilot program] Save the Children, and other partners propose to expand this successful pilot, continuing to mentor these nine producers and reach at least 51 more block manufacturers with technical assistance, ultimately providing support to 60 manufacturing enterprises."

On average, each block manufacturer can produce and sell enough blocks for nine housing units in a month; in a year, 60 manufacturers can sell enough blocks for 6,480 housing units, which could meet the needs of 20,000 people. Since each manufacturing enterprise employs on average 10 workers, the program can also lead to increased incomes of 600 Haitian workers.