Saturday, February 24

Tsunami Recovery in Thailand | Parts 11 & 12: ONGOING NEEDS & LEAVING PHUKET

(Parts 11 & 12 of a 12 part series)

Five weeks after the Tsunami hit, Sishir Chang went to Thailand to see how the people there were recovering and to see how those concerned could help. The following segments are the final chapters of his first experience in the aftermath of one of the world's most devastating natural disasters. Originally published in the Southasian, the article is being republished here with the author's permission.

Part 11 | Ongoing Needs

From everyone I talked to and seeing for myself the recovery is going very well. There are some places much more damaged than others where it will take a long time to recover but in general reconstruction is progressing well. Almost all of the bodies have been recovered but there are still around a 1,000 still missing and also around a 1,000 bodies still waiting to be identified. There hasn’t been any major health threat from the tsunami and from what I found there is plenty of food, water and medicine available.

In the worst hit areas of Khao Lak and Bang Niang the most pressing need is housing as there are still a few hundred Thais living in refugee camps in that areas. Mental health specialists are also needed to help with the children and adults who are suffering post traumatic stress. According to Sophie Konnaris at the Tsunami Volunteer Center in Khao Lak how much mental health help is needed is difficult to determine because to her knowledge no major mental health evaluation had been done. Another problem that I heard from aid workers is that Western mental health specialist might not be able to help due to language and culture differences.

Also in Khao Lak many resorts were completely destroyed it will be a long time before they can be reconstructed, if ever, and open for business. Job retraining and other economic development is needed. The villagers of Bang Niang were primarily fisherman and they would like to replace the boats they lost in the tsunami to resume fishing and would like power tools to help with fixing boats and building houses.

In Patong and Kamala the biggest need is economic recovery in the form of tourists coming back. In Kamala there is still some need for housing but reconstruction is progressing both for houses and businesses. At both the Kamala health station and the Patong hospital they said that they were well stocked on medicines but still had a need to replace equipment.

Overall the message that I heard from everyone was to come visit and enjoy Phuket. Without tourism the Thais have no chance of economic recovery.

Part 12 | Leaving Phuket

As I was leaving I watched the sun set through the windows of the Phuket airport. Like every other sunset I had seen in Phuket this one was beautiful. I had come as a concerned American looking to see where my aid money was going and also out of curiosity to see the aftermath of one of the worst disasters in human history. As I watched the sun go down I was still trying to comprehend all that I had seen and heard. I had been expecting something simple, survivors and aid workers nobly struggling amidst ruins to save life and restore dignity, but had found a far more complex situation of ad hoc aid, sex tourism, tsunami commercialization, frustration and reconstruction. All of those thoughts mingled in my mind as I watched another day end in paradise.

This concludes Shishir's experience in Thailand. Sishir has recently returned from Sri Lanka, where he observed a country still rebuilding, over a year after the same tsunami. BLYGAD is happy to announce a new series from Sishir: "Travel Notes from Sri Lanka", to be posted in 5 segments. Stay tuned.

Thursday, February 22

Friday Photography | Imaginary High-rise Landscapes

Almost a month with out a post? Criminal!

Truth be told, the AFHMNers have been busy: A community center in Sri Lanka nearing completion, a new project on the books (this one in the congo), a sleeping bag drive for our local homeless, and finally, a very exciting project that has been to blame for my absence on BLYGAD... but more on that later.

All of this recent activity means that BLYGAD has it's work cut out for it. I'll be reporting on the above projects, posting a new Sri Lankan travel diary from Sishir, keeping you up to date on all things humanitarian & architectural, and keeping good on that promise to freshen up the look of the place... hmmm, that's curious, rumor has it AFH International might be doing the same very soon...

In the mean time, enjoy these shots of Russian housing projects. (Thanks for the tip Jeffrey!) If anybody knows more about these curious neighborhoods, please leave a comment!

Happy Friday!

5 Things Meme

It’s a mashup of the icebreaker games that everybody hates, the old playground standby tag, and the chain letter… and it could only happen in the blogosphere. It’s the 5 Things Meme.

Paul Schmelzer, author of the always excellent Eyeteeth, has tagged BLYGAD (way back here) and who am I to break the chain? I’m supposed to reveal five things you don't necessarily know about me, and then tag five others who should do the same. In this case, the whole AFHMN gang will be getting in on the fun.

So without further ado: 5 things you probably don’t know about AFHMN

1. The first AFH seeds were planted in Minnesota soil in 2005 as Cameron Sinclair came to talk at the College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture at the University of Minnesota (which is now the more inclusive College of Design). The speech Cameron gave then was not so different from the one he gave at the TED Talks last year:

2. In fact, so many were inspired by that talk, the University somehow managed to convince Cameron to come back to Minnesota and find the time to teach a studio. This kick-started a new push, led by Dean Tom Fisher, to position the school as a leader in humanitarian architecture.

3. No grassroots organization is without its growing pains. As we recently made the transition to using Google Groups, we accidentally added our whole mailing list, 140 blessed souls in all, to our “working group”. Needless to say, many of them politely (in most cases) objected to being included in one morning’s nuts and bolts conversation (18 emails deep) about where we should hold the next meeting.

4. AFHMNers have day jobs, imagine that! Check 'em out on the web: Cermak Rhoades Architects, LHB, Swainhart Construction Services, Shelter Architecture, SmithGroup, & Perkins & Will... among others!

5. I’ve successfully gone a full year without using the word blogosphere, on this site or anywhere… until today. Thanks Paul.

And to keep the ball rolling, I tag:
Up Your Architecture
CRA Jotter (with just a smidgen of self promotion)
A Life Without Buildings
Vestal Design Blog
A Daily Dose of Architecture

Have fun!