No. 284 . 26 April 2006 
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Transitional Shelter

by David Snyder

Whipped by winds on a mountain slope in northern Pakistan, Graham Saunders moves carefully amid the shattered remains of a mud-walled village, surveying the damage caused by a powerful earthquake in October, 2005. Sliding a digital camera from his hip pocket, he photographs each pile of splintered timber and stone. As an architect who has encountered many similar scenes for the last decade, his mind is already on what it will take to rebuild here.

Saunders is the shelter and settlement advisor for Baltimore-based Catholic Relief Services (CRS), on the agency's global Emergency Response Team. The London-born architect — who began his career with Michael Hopkins and Partners, working on high-profile, high-tech projects — lends his expertise to low-profile, low-tech rebuilding efforts in areas of natural disaster and conflict around the world.

In the wake of Pakistan's 2005 earthquake, Saunders and his CRS team helped to implement a strategy aimed at providing 20,000 transitional shelters (housing about 140,000 people) before the frigid winter weather descended on the mountain villages.

Rather than relying on winterized tents — a tenuous shelter at best in bitterly cold climates — Saunders, from the outset, advocated and helped design transitional shelter kits that provide tools and basic building materials to affected families. Each family is encouraged to use wood and stone salvaged from their former homes to build a safe, adequate, and durable shelter for the winter. Most will then build onto these shelters once spring arrives.   >>>

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