When I agreed to travel for Build Change to the Philippines and Indonesia in March, some of my friends and colleagues told me I was brave. Others told me I was crazy. One asked me whether I was afraid that I would not be able to get home. At the time, I felt it was safe to go since there were only a few cases reported in the Philippines, Indonesia and the United States. Even so, I waited until the last minute before I told my mother of the trip, knowing that she would be worried and would try to talk me out of going.
Before starting my fellowship, a year seemed like a very long time to be away from my day-to-day life, my clients, and my comfort zone. I started with many questions about how I could support the Build Change team to make the biggest possible impact with this fellowship. Once I started, however, I found more than a great team; I found a family. I would like to start this blog by praising the support of every member of the teams that I worked with, including the Build Change headquarters staff, as well as the staffs of the programs in Colombia and the Philippines.
The year is moving fast; my time supporting the team in Colombia is over. My time is now fully committed to the program in the Philippines.
During my initial trip, I had the chance to visit some of the communities where Build Change has been working and become familiar with the existing tools used in these communities. Also, I was introduced to the crucial role that microfinance institutions (MFIs) play in Build Change’s strategy to retrofit vulnerable houses in the Philippines.
When I think about my time working with Build Change so far, the phrase that comes to mind is “Easier, never simple.”
When I started my fellowship, several limitations for seismically retrofitting homes in Colombia quickly became apparent. These included delays in approvals by the local municipality, as well as an innovative Evaluation and Retrofit Manual that was not always well understood by local officials. Staff who conducted field surveys had a long list of items to verify, many of which were not easy to identify, resulting in reduced efficiency. It was common for staff to go back and re-survey in order to complete a full analysis.
We’re excited to introduce the recipient of the 2018–2019 Excellence in Engineering Fellowship: Juan Carlos Restrepo.
This is the second year of the fellowship, a successful partnership between Build Change, a Denver-based international nonprofit social enterprise, and Simpson Strong-Tie, a global leader in innovative structural solutions.