To all visionary planners, humanitarians, and creative problem solvers,

The tsunami and earthquake in South Asia has left over 1.5 million internally displaced people struggling to recover. There are so many specific initiatives that can greatly benefit from volunteers and volunteer teams to help build capacity and provide planning support to affected communities in ravaged areas.

Architects Without Borders is involved in tsunami reconstruction. As its director I recently spent some time in Aceh, Indonesia and Sri Lanka to review our reconstruction programs there, check in with assessment and reconstruction teams and working with communities to help them develop sustainable recovery and village reconstruction plans. Since my return to the US, we are working to respond to a number of specific requests made by government authorities including the Planning Departments at the national and local (regional) levels in both Indonesia and Sri Lanka. The request includes identifying qualified professional planners who might be interested in volunteering to assist in township planning, community visioning, and preparing planning strategies for community recovery. We also spoke about GIS support and we are working with ESRI to get some systems up and running using data sets available from the Asia Institute of Technology. We need volunteers. We need funding.

AWB is preparing proposals and writing several grant applications seeking funding. We are building capacity through expanding our volunteer base, our sponsors, and networking in order to be able to respond to these and many other requests. We are also working with Jeff Soule at the APA in Washington, DC to help coordinate planning aspects of our initiatives.

Nothing we do can advance without adequate funding. Only some may be available through the jurisdictions and government agencies in affected communities. We are working with the UN and USAID with the intent of promoting intelligent planning for community recovery. We hope we can help in ways that avoid costly mistakes, optimise outcomes, and to promote promising practices.

With your help, support, and participation, it is our belief that together, we can make a world of difference.

We are currently forming teams to provide requested assistance. To facilitate our involvement we have been building capacity by adding new chapters of Architects Without Borders. Chapters are comprised of members who are architects, planners, engineers, and building industry professionals and their student counterparts. Chapters under AWB-North America are forming in many locations accross the US and in Canada.

There are countless projects and intiatives that involve planning both in comprehensive community recovery planning and site specific town and community planning. The key is developing an interdisciplinary approach in adequate detail that is culturally appropriate, locally adaptable, sustainable, and focuses on social responsibility at the grass roots level. There is a critical need to develop strategic macro-planning in the context of comprehensive Indian Ocean region as well as specific integrated plans that translate guiding principles and promising initiatives into village and township recovery.

It is our intent to continue working with authorities as well as at the grass roots in affected communities to effectively facilitate an inclusive community visioning processes. It is our belief that empowerment that helps a community propels its locally identified aspirations holds greater promise than many of the initiatives we've seen engaged in by other relief agencies, NGO's and donor groups.

What we can provide is a process by which opportunities can be embraced with practical approaches using promising practices. Such intiatives seamlessly tend to meld local traditions with a progressive understanding of the principles of sustainability, social science, and equitable economic practices that help foster community strength and self reliance. At the same time, through careful planning, community recovery programs can avoid and mitigate unintended negative conseqences, not to mention costly mistakes.

Such a holistic approach must necessarily address simultaneously the built environment, the impact of reconstruction and human activity on the natural environment, the social and political context including pre-existing chronic problems, and the economic challenges facing developing nations...all within the multi-faceted cultural situation in South Asia. A daunting task to say the least.

We are putting out a call to professional planners, preferably with some experience in trans-cultural contexts to assist us in preparing planning outlines for many of our initiatives. We are also seeking firms willing to sponsor and assist in supporting these initiatives by adopting a village or engaging in some specific project(s) on behalf of affected communities (of which there are literally thousands).

We are also seeking qualified volunteers to participate in many of our programs and hope to begin deploying the next teams starting this summer.

For more information please visit our web site at http://www.awb.iohome.net

Thanks for your support

Craig Williams
Architect
Planning Commissioner
Founder and Director
Architects Without Borders