Safety Starts at Home: An Update from Build Change Regarding COVID-19

Dear Friends of Build Change,

With millions in self-isolation or quarantined around the globe, homes are the front line in the battle against COVID-19.

More than perhaps ever before, our homes are the center of our lives, and our retreats (forced or not) from an uncertain world.  My hope is that wherever your home is, it is a place where you feel safe riding out this disaster.  I know that I am increasingly grateful every day for a safe home, for a yard my son can play in, for our health, and for a grocery store where I can still buy food (if not toilet paper).

But I am also reminded of the many people worldwide for whom self-isolation is even more daunting than it is in many parts of the United States, because of unsafe construction.  If you don’t feel safe in your home, you won’t stay there.  Poorly built housing makes public health emergencies worse, especially in informal neighborhoods that also lack water and basic sanitation.  Protecting people from disasters through resilient building is not just good construction policy—it’s good health policy.  And that’s why, even in the middle of a pandemic, Build Change’s work remains vital. 

When this disaster began to unfold in early February, my immediate concern was for Build Change’s staff and the communities where we work.  Resilient building—and building the trust to do it well—requires a commitment to get in the trenches and get your hands dirty. So we’re no strangers to taking swift action when it’s needed.

We first ensured that any staff person that had been in contact with an infected person immediately went into self-isolation. We purchased masks for our entire global staff for their (and others’) protection. We brought engineering staff that were assessing community needs abroad back to their home bases safely.  All of our in-country offices as well as our Colorado headquarters have transitioned to work from home, to the fullest extent possible.   Like many other organizations, our calendars that were once full of in-person meetings and events have gone empty to attempt to reduce the transmission of the virus.   

All of these actions were necessary to protect our staff and communities.  However, we need to look no further than a few weeks from now to the start of hurricane and typhoon season to understand the urgency of the work we were forced to leave unfinished (for now!) on the ground:

  • In the Philippines, Build Change is enabling community-based microfinance institutions to scale new house strengthening loan products so that more low- and- middle income families can have the option to make their homes safe before disaster strikes.
  • In Colombia, Build Change is working with the Government of Colombia to roll out a technical assistance platform that will allow the Government of Colombia to rapidly assess 600,000 poorly-built homes for resilient home improvements. These improvements also include things like sinks and kitchens and toilets that are critical for families to have proper basic hygiene—exactly the sort of thing that is more crucial than ever before if we are to fight COVID-19.

Our global team is poised and ready to spring back into action to protect these at-risk communities, and many others, as soon as the public health situation allows.  In the middle of this crisis, we will apply our creativity remotely to continue to innovate and serve our communities however we can.

In the coming days and months, I’ll be sure to keep you updated on how Build Change is responding to COVID-19, and I hope you’ll do the same with updates from your life and work.  ALL OF US HAVE A ROLE TO PLAY in building the more resilient future to come.

Stay Safe,

Elizabeth Hausler, Ph.D.

CEO and Founder

Build Change