Yale Students Build Affordable Housing for the Homeless

Design and advocacy go hand in hand. There are many ways that design proves itself to be beyond aesthetics; it targets sustainability, promotes awareness, juggles being eco-friendly and multi-functional, and generally allows for an explosion of ideas. And sometimes, it doesn’t just save the planet. It saves the people in it, too. Witnessing to that are some great projects such as these portable origami tents or this efficient flooring system, especially built for refugees and the homeless.

Architecture students from Yale have worked on the same advocacy as they designed and built an affordable shelter for homeless people. The affordable housing project is part of an ongoing university tradition.

The 1,000-square-foot house for the homeless is a handsome prefabricated structure clad in cedar and topped with a standing-seam metal gable roof. According to the project statement, students were “challenged to develop a cost-efficient, flexible design that tackles replicability in material, means, and method of construction.” The house comprises two separate dwellings: one is a studio, while the other is a two-bedroom apartment with built-in storage.

Every year, the university tasks first-year architecture students to design and build structures that will benefit the community. The tradition has apparently been going on since 1967. For the project’s 50th iteration in 2017, some students that participated in the Jim Vlock First Year Building Project chose to explore cost-efficient and flexible design in giving affordable housing to those who need it the most. They executed their plans and successfully constructed the building at New Haven’s Upper Hill neighborhood.

The project also marked the first partnership between the Yale School of Architecture and the non-profit Columbus House, an organization that has been providing solutions to homelessness in the New Haven area since 1982.

If all school projects had this much impact and advocated this strongly for the betterment of the community, I probably would’ve been more motivated to get that A.

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Donkeys Bring Books To Rural Zimbabwe

We all know rural communities hardly get their fair share of basic necessities. However, recent changes such as solar roofing and drone deliveries have been making life easier for them. For this humble town in rural Zimbabwe, donkey-pulled mobile libraries are making their way to schools and other establishments.

Dr. Obadiah Moyo, the founder of RLRDP (Rural Libraries and Resources Development Program), credits the organization with creating the world’s first donkey-powered mobile libraries . . . These small, roofed, two-wheeled units are divided into lockable compartments, with space for up to three rider-drivers.

Donkeys are abundant in rural Zimbabwe and are used to carrying heavy loads, making them perfect drivers of the project. (Hee-haw!) A few of the carts also sport solar panels for charging gadgets as well as providing Internet and a printer. The upkeep is difficult, but covered mostly by various benefactors.

Moyo estimates that it takes about $150,000 a year to cover the operating costs of RLRDP, and the charity has received financial support from the Latter-Day Saints and Save the Children. As for the books themselves, many of them are supplied by Book Aid International.

Since the arrival of the donkey-mobiles, educational passing rates have risen. And hopefully, children and teachers alike remain inspired.

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Students Help Sub Pay For Wife’s Cataract Surgery

For many in need of a financial boost, GoFundMe has been a great resource for campaigning. Cops have used it to sponsor a sterling student’s college tuition. A deaf boy has used it to provide hearing aids for other deaf children. For teens at Champlin Park High School, it was instrumental to helping substitute teacher Walter Erickson pay for his wife’s surgery.

“He’s just impacted so many of our lives in amazing ways,” said Katie Blodgett, a senior at Champlin Park. “He’s the kind of substitute teacher where he connects with us more on a personal level and he obviously loves what he does and that makes it more encouraging for us to learn.”

Erickson had been saving up to shoulder his wife’s cataract surgery and dental care, thus choosing not to retire. Initially, students aimed to raise $500 and ended up exceeding their goal by $13,405. Erickson’s wife was pleasantly surprised, to say the least.

“When I told my wife about this last Friday, she said, ‘Who are these girls? What kind of parents do they have that they could be so caring and compassionate?’”

Though the eighty-year-old has no plans to retire anytime soon, the extra cash should come in handy.

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Library Books Are Free To Rent For L.A. Kids

In places like New York, educational institutions are becoming less restrictive towards low-income families. This is so much so that children are now enjoying free lunches to ease financial burdens and prevent bullying. But the fact remains — many continue to struggle with other expenses such as tuition fees and school materials. Realizing the sheer significance of free knowledge, L.A. County has waived library fees for readers under 21.

“When charges accrue on a young person’s account, generally, they don’t pay the charges and they don’t use the card,” [library administrator Darcy] Hastings said. “A few dollars on their accounts means they stop using library services.”

As past fines persist, the county is also offering a “Read Away” service for young bookworms. Simply by picking out a novel to digest for an afternoon, students can eliminate fees at $5 an hour.

“You tell them you’ll read and they’ll sign you in and you start,” said Leilany, a fifth-grader at Morris K. Hamasaki Elementary in East L.A. “When your head starts losing the book you can stop reading and they tell you how much money they took away.”

Reading for fun and paying off debts? Sounds like a win-win for literature lovers looking to knock off a couple of bucks!

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High School Honor Fallen Homeless Veteran

While many retired military veterans are receiving support from groups such as Semper K9 Assistance Dogs, not all of them have it easy. More than a handful of vets end up in shelters, while an unluckier few attempt to survive on the streets. Fallen veteran John T. Fitzmaurice was among the latter population, but no longer had living relatives to pay their respects. Students at the Catholic Memorial High School in Massachusetts then decided to honor Fitzmaurice in a special funeral.

‘Paying homage to a veteran… and to honor his legacy, and to help our boys realize that we have to stand with those who are marginalized, those that are poor or those of our community that are cast out.’ [said CMHS president Dr. Peter Folan.]

Students did not know Fitzmaurice personally, but were eager to step in as his family. Along with Lazarus Ministry and Lawlar and Crosby Funeral Home, CMHS saw through a proper burial with full military honors. Students also shared photos on social media.

‘John T. Fitzmaurice was a hero, a veteran, and he is part of our family now. Farewell, John. You are a CM Knight forever.’

Being a hero isn’t always glorious — but it may inspire others to become one as well.

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Texas University Donates Leftover Food To Homeless

For homeless shelters across the globe, food shortages are a constant, pressing reality. On the other hand, restaurants deal with a baffling amount of leftovers. Because of this, apps like MealTech are helping facilitate donations, while select farms are growing produce for the needy. To alleviate waste issues at football games and do some good, Texas Christian University students are hauling tons of leftovers to shelters.

The donations are coordinated by the TCU Food Recovery Network, a student organization that works to eliminate food waste on campus, and Sodexo, the university’s food service company. The student organization also delivers leftovers from the campus dining hall to Union Gospel Mission twice a week.

With up to 40% of food supply wasted annually in the United States alone, it’s good to know perfectly good coleslaw isn’t being tossed. The Food Recovery Network, led by senior student Megan McCracken, also volunteers to serve their donations personally.

“People really want to help out, but they don’t know how to help out sometimes,” [food services director Robert] Clethan said. “They just need to know there’s a place like this that can use things like that.”

Thanks to TCU, Union Gospel feeds nearly 300 residents three times a day. Now that’s a feast!

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NYC Public School Lunches Are Now Completely Free

When trapped Houston bakers baked bread for Harvey victims, it didn’t matter who they were. If someone needed a loaf of bread, regardless of status, it was going to be delivered to them. The selfless act is inspiring many, and now the Big Apple is offering public school lunches for free.

This move has been long sought by food-policy advocates and many members of the New York City Council, who said that some students would prefer to go hungry rather than admit they cannot afford to pay for lunch. Nationally, the practice of “lunch shaming” — holding children publicly accountable for unpaid school lunch bills — has garnered attention.

In the end, schools chancellor Carmen Fariña believes that all communities matter. The initiative will save families up to $300 a year — a vast amount for those under the poverty margin. New York City finances will remain unaffected.

City officials said the program was not expected to cost the city more money. The state recently changed how it tracks families that are eligible for benefits like Medicaid, matching them with the schools their children attend.

The program aspires to reach at least 200,000 more children. A lot of satisfied stomachs are to be expected.

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Students Build Bamboo Pavilion For Chinese Farmers

Bamboo as a building material is rising in popularity. Panyaden International School in Thailand hosts a sports hall made entirely of bamboo. Now, students at the University of Hong Kong, along with the craftspeople of Peitian, have created a bamboo pavilion for local farmers.

The shelter’s concept derived from a desire to regenerate the area’s tea houses, which are used as resting spots for farmers working on the surrounding land and to provide shelter from storms in rainy seasons, or from the sun during the hottest part of the day.

The structure pays homage to traditional bamboo weaving, an art form that has seen great decline over the years. While students incorporated digital software to map the structure’s features, locals managed to assimilate traditional techniques.

“Historically, these pavilions were often used by craftsmen to demonstrate their skill or to trial new construction methodologies. Today these structures have, for the most part, been replaced by generic outbuildings in concrete and brick,”

With only one surviving bamboo weaver in Peitian, the pavilion is a valiant attempt to keep Chinese customs alive.

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