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.
With the growing danger of natural disasters, the race is on to expand access to programs that safeguard lives from the human-made danger of poorly built housing. With the common mission of building safer, stronger structures, Build Change and Simpson Strong-Tie announced the renewal of the Simpson Strong-Tie® Fellowship for Engineering Excellence program.
This week’s post was written by James P. Mwangi, Ph.D., P.E., S.E. — our first annual Simpson Strong-Tie Engineering Excellence Fellow with Build Change. As part of his fellowship he’s been submitting reports about his work supporting the Build Change initiative. This is the last in a series of four.
This week’s post was written by James P. Mwangi, Ph.D., P.E., S.E. — our first annual Simpson Strong-Tie Engineering Excellence Fellow with Build Change. As part of his fellowship, he’s submitting reports about his work supporting the Build Change initiative. This is the third in a series of four.
Let me start by wishing everyone a happy holiday season.
My fellowship activities started in July 2017. I spent two weeks in New Jersey getting oriented to the Build Change organization and engineering activities around the world. I then spent two days in Pleasanton getting to meet the engineering team and getting updated on Simpson Strong-Tie products and the team leaders.
Introducing James P. Mwangi, Ph.D., P.E., S.E. – our first annual Simpson Strong-Tie Engineering Excellence Fellow with Build Change. James Mwangi will write a quarterly blog about his experience throughout the Fellowship.
I’m delighted to have been asked to contribute this post and feel honored to be the first-ever Simpson Strong-Tie Engineering Excellence Fellow with Build Change. It’s my hope that this post will inform you about my professional background, why I applied to the Fellowship and how I think the Fellowship can benefit people and the structures they live, work and go to school in.