After major natural disasters, rebuilding can more manpower and money than are available to communities. After storms battered the coast of Haiti, destroying homes and infrastructure. The U.S Agency for International Development stepped in to provide relief. Instead of just rebuilding what was broken, Ryan Shelby, diplomatic attaché and Foreign Service Officer at USAID, initiated efforts to engineer hurricane proof structures. For his role, he won a Service to America Medal in the National Security and International Affairs category. Shelby told Government Matters that community involvement is important in an undertaking of this nature.
“You can’t do an intervention without making sure you have buy-in from the local populace. If you go into a community and you put down solutions, whether it is a building, a new piece of technology, if people don’t understand how it meets their needs or if it really meets their core goals, it’s not going to be sustainable over the long haul,” Shelby said. “I learned a lot about being able to listen to the community members, being able to understand their user needs and really apply and work with those guys to co-design and implement the solutions. What really struck me was the people in the communities really had an amazing technical and engineering background when it comes down to housing construction… I was able to combine their traditional building practices with more hurricane-resistant techniques to make this amalgamation of a much more stable housing structure.”