Three days after the devastating earthquake hit Haiti, Architecture for Humanity co-founder Cameron Sinclair learned that colleagues from another aid group had been crushed to death in a collapsed building.

“We lost designers, artists, the sort of people you would tap for the reconstruction process,” Sinclair said in a telephone interview from his headquarters in San Francisco. “Haiti has not just lost people, but skill and expertise that will be hard to bring back.”

Architecture for Humanity works with groups around the world to rebuild communities struck by natural and man-made disasters. Such is the continuing chaos in Haiti that even now, 2 1/2 weeks after my conversation with Sinclair, the exact death toll is unknown.

His organization is helping to reconstruct the poorest country in the Western hemisphere. The first task is to build disaster recovery centers that will serve other relief groups.

“We have to be very careful in the way we work,” said Sinclair, who was trained as an architect in London. “If you don’t have community engagement you don’t succeed.”

Architecture for Humanity is planning to build schools in Haiti in partnership with charitable groups founded by investor Warren Buffett, actor Ben Stiller, singer Shakira and Amazon Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos.


James S. Russell