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Engineers aim to improve Haitian infrastructure

| Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Engineering2Empower, a group of faculty and students from Notre Dame committed to a world in which all people have adequate housing, recently raised $16,000 in a day and a half for projects in Haiti and has its sights set on raising more, graduate student Dustin Mix said.

The group, which formed after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, wants to construct five houses with funds raised from its current IndieGoGo campaign, Mix said.

“Our mission is to facilitate access to housing by seeding a process that empowers local entrepreneurs to deliver engineered urban housing in the free market,” Mix said. “We are planning on building five homes, ranging from 250 to 750 square feet, which will go to a range of aspiring homeowners, based on their family and financial profiles.

“We originally had plans to raise $16,000 to cover two of these homes. However, because of the unbelievable response we had in the first two days, we’ve upped the goal to $50,000 in hopes of covering all five houses that are planned.”

Mix said the homes will be accompanied by a pilot financing program, which consists of three parts.

“It breaks down into a savings commitment by the homeowner, a subsidy from Engineering2Empower and a home loan granted by a local Haitian bank,” Mix said. “The funds from the fundraiser specifically go toward covering the subsidies, as well as providing some financial collateral to secure the loans.”

Mix said the first campaign, which originally had the goal of raising $16,000 within 30 days, was a learning experience.

“There is a lot of work that goes into telling your story, finding ways to continually engage your audience and really showing why your cause is important to you,” Mix said. “I think because of the passion we have for this work, we were able to tell that story, and within a day and a half, had already raised $16,000.

“I was really in awe and humbled by that because it really showed that people listened to our story and more importantly, saw the merit in how we are approaching the problem.”

Mix said Engineering2Empower has raised $21,000 dollars of its intended $50,000 goal. He said the campaign, nearly halfway to its fiscal target, is scheduled to end in about a week.

“We are down to the last week, so we are looking for a heavy push to get us to $50,000 and achieve something we never thought possible a month ago,” Mix said.

Mix said the organization is just beginning its work to help provide adequate housing to the people of Haiti.

“There is so much that can be done in Haiti to bring about dignified living conditions, but there are no easy or quick answers,” Mix said. “The answers lie within the communities themselves. We have a great set of skills as engineers to help in that process and over the last four years, I think we’ve made a lot of progress, but we are only getting started.”

“We need more investment in local systems of housing delivery, local contractors, local banks and the local labor force to achieve our goal,” Mix said. “This campaign is just one more step in that process.”

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