Cameron Sinclair on Rebuilding Kirabati and the Future of Philanthropy

Simon Mainwaring / Causes / 2 years ago

I had the pleasure of chatting to Cameron Sinclair about some critical work he is doing on the storm damaged island of Kirabati and how we can help.

Simon: Hi everyone, Simon Mainwaring here. I had the privilege of running into Cameron Sinclair, an old friend who is the winner of the first TED Prize, founder of Architecture for Humanity, and now the founder of Small Works. But there is nothing small about the work they do. They help with disaster relief in many areas, regions, and countries around the world that are struggling to get the support they need. Right now, Cameron has a project called Kirabati, which is an island close to Vanuatu, which was hit by Cyclone Pam. So I’m going to ask Cameron to tell us a little bit about the project and maybe how we can help.

Cameron: Thanks Simon. It’s great to see you again. What we’re doing is, we have assembled a swat team of some of the best small NGO’s to come to Kirabati to look at rebuilding the local hospital and help setup some of the communications for the island.

Simon: And why is Kirabati not getting the support it needs when Vanuatu is obviously in the press and getting a lot of aid.

Cameron: Simply there is no media. There is no way for them to communicate. They have no way to tweet, to email. They have no news crew to cover the damage and as a result nobody showed up. Not even the Red Cross is there. Nobody is there. And I was with the President of Kirabati last week and I said, “you must be getting a lot of help right now” and he said “Nobody’s there.” So I said “We’ll put a team together an we’ll be there by Monday.” The team went out there and we’re underway trying to help rebuild this hospital.

Simon: Give us a sense of what its like on the ground without this help. How urgent is the need?

Cameron: You know it’s urgent because no one’s there. It’s like the classic, if a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it; if a disaster hits your town and no one knows about it. It’s like a slow disaster because if no one rebuilds the roads and no one rebuilds the hospital; if there’s not a maternity ward it means mortality rates of children go up; these people cant work, the economy goes. So there’s urgency simply because no one is there.

Simon: Absolutely. So what are your guys putting together and how can we help support those efforts?

Cameron: What we’ve done, we’ve been using technology. We used an app called Meerkat which allows us to…

Simon: The darling of SXSW this year.

Cameron: Right! So we use Meerkat to do live streaming assessments from the island through Twitter so that a global team can look at it and see what’s going on and we can respond to it. We’re using Crowdrise. We have a Bitly link, which is ‪bit.ly/Betiorebuild So that’s a Bitly link or you can go to Crowdrise to find out. And then we are going to raise some money and if we raise $25,000 we are going to rebuild the hospital.

Simon: So it’s $25,000 to rebuild the hospital. It’s urgent in the sense that there is no one there and the disaster is on the ground right now. And is there anything else we can do to support?

Cameron: Tweet about it, share this film, let people know and start a conversation about it. You know, how do we help communities that often get neglected? And I think that’s the work that we do as an organization, is we go where no one else goes.

Simon: I love what you were sharing earlier, which is that this is a whole new way to approach philanthropy and aid. Could you speak to that a little bit?

Cameron: Quite often what we do is we see a big appeal. Like we need to rebuild Vanuatu. Then an aid agency goes and raises money. They try to raise $100,000 – $200,000 and that takes them a month to do. So by the time they even arrive on the ground to help, it’s been about two months. But people need help now. And if you’re a startup or a social venture you just do the work and then you find the funding. So we said, let’s flip that model and take the risk. Let’s just go in as a swat team, start working. And if the money comes in, then great, we’ve covered our expenses. If we don’t, we all take a loss.

Simon: So this is not just about disaster relief but it’s also about, sort of, investing in this new model of aid and philanthropy which is get the need satisfied now, and then fund it. To bring that aggressive entrepreneurial spirit to helping others.

Cameron: Yes, and because we are live streaming news and technology, people can see the work we are doing. If we’re not doing a good job, don’t fund us. But if you like what we’re doing, then fund us.

Simon: Well $25,000 doesn’t seem like a lot of money to pay to rebuild a hospital for the people in desperate need. If there’s anything you can do, please go to the links we gave you. One more time, the most important one?

Cameron: Yes, just go to the Bitly link.

Simon: Thanks Cameron and let’s see if we can help their team make a difference to people in such desperate need right now.

Cameron: Thank you!

If you can contribute and help Cameron and his team, here is where you donate.

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