Minneapolis-Based Company Helping Build Homes in Somalia

April 06, 2017 10:18 PM

Almost every inch of space on the streets of Kismayo, Somalia is occupied by a mother, father and children.

They are the lucky ones ... the ones who made it alive to the city.


Most walked between 50 to 100 miles to get to Kismayo. The country's Commissioner of Refugees said Kismayo can't help all the people who need it.

There's no clean running water, no food, no shelter. And those things are the basics of life.

The American Refugee Committee, a humanitarian agency headquartered in Minneapolis, is trying to get food and water there.

And it is now partnered with another Minneapolis-based company to build homes.

The architects and designers at RSP Architects are used to designing Target Stores, Punch Pizza locations, Caribou Coffee shops and at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester.

But their labor of love is helping the forgotten and vulnerable 8,000 miles away.

RSP Architects CEO David Norback said the chance to help change the lives of people so far away was a powerful motivator when the American Refugee Committee asked him to help build emergency homes.

Norback said the idea was an easy sell to his architects and designers. They all wanted to help the most vulnerable people in the world with their talent.

Those people are who Sean Higgins was thinking about before he put pen to paper and began designing homes for the poorest people in the hottest climate in a city without any running water or infrastructure.

"You start with the basic necessities," Higgins said.

That includes just building a structure that will keep out the elements and keep the people inside safe.

We went to the land where Higgins vision will come to life.

It's barren and dry. Small wooden homes already on the land are unusable because they have no ventilation.

Higgins said the homes he designed will have to stand up to the elements. The roofs are made of steel. The bricks are made of clay, sand and concrete. The homes are expandable so people can turn them into little store fronts.

He wanted to build a neighborhood, not a camp, he said.

Higgins said security was also a consideration. He had to think of materials that could be readily available because shipping things there would create more issues.

Al Shabaab controls ports and monitors land around Kismayo. The American Refugee Committee will hire refugees in Kismayo to build the homes.

Construction is just a few weeks away. And the homes could mean the difference between life and death for people who have lost everything. 


Farrah Fazal

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