Every Shelter Wins Second Place at Dubai’s International Humanitarian Hackathon!

Every year, world leaders gather in Dubai for the Dubai International Humanitarian Aid and Development conference and expo. It’s a massive event that brings together representatives from all across the spectrum of aid and development — from top UN officials to donor organizations to field workers from nongovernmental organizations — ready to discuss the biggest problems facing our world today.

This year, major donors from the United Arab Emirates sponsored an International Humanitarian Hackathon, where entrants would have the opportunity to submit their innovative ideas for tackling some of the most pressing issues, with funding given to the top three entrants. We are proud to announce that Every Shelter made it to the final pitch event in Dubai and won 2nd place after a rigorous round of questions from expert panelists!

Because our passion and mission are to innovate new approaches to aid, we had no shortage of ideas to enter! You’ve undoubtedly heard us talk about Emergency Floor and Billboard tarp (if not, check out THESE articles!). We’ve been stewing on another project to create a rooftop water catchment system. And like all of the projects we take on, this one is rooted in efforts led by displaced people themselves.

We were visiting partners in the Nakivale refugee camp in Uganda during a torrential downpour of rain. We noticed people scrambling to capture water into jerrycans and buckets and whatever storage container they could find. Water was inefficiently collected via streams off any available roof with no method of controlling for sanitation. No household had enough storage capacity to capture and store enough rainwater to supplement their water supply needs. Every human being needs a minimum of 20 liters of water per day to sufficiently meet their hydration, cleaning, and cooking needs. But despite this seasonally heavy rainfall, residents of the camp only had access to 5 liters per day.

As a result, families resort to collecting additional water from nearby rivers. Unfortunately, distance to the water source and unreliable water supply quality make this an untenable solution. Typically, the burden of collecting water falls onto the women. With longer travel time to faraway water points, women are subject to a greater risk of sexual violence. They walk many miles for water of unreliable quality, returning with jerry cans that weigh more than 39 pounds each. With time spent on supplying water for their families, these women lose educational and work opportunities.

We partnered with Alight, an NGO working in the region, to develop a plan for efficiently catching rainwater on rooftops and storing it in large cisterns. Local entrepreneurs could make these cisterns using environmentally sustainable interlocking stabilized soil bricks (ISSBs), which would provide opportunities for local businesses to grow while also meeting the water needs of this population. Using ISSBs instead of the traditional wood-fired brick is also more environmentally sustainable and could lead to new funding pathways by selling carbon offset credits!

We are thrilled that this idea attracted the attention of donors at DIHAD, who gave us their vote of support with a second-place win and introductions to foundations specializing in water aid. We hope to pilot it this summer in Nakivale refugee camp alongside the Billboard Tarp – so stay tuned!

Learn more about this water technology by watching our presentation.

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Noella Kabale Kalu

Advisory Board Member

Kampala, Uganda

Noella Kabale Kalu is a Congolese by nationality, living in Uganda as a refugee registered in the urban setting since 2011. She is the founder of REAL Uganda and Refugee Women Voices, a member of the Refugee-led Network (RELON), Refugee Representative at the CRRF steering working group. She aspires to build a society where women, men, and young females are treated with dignity, fairness, and respect, regardless of their status & and vulnerable conditions they find themselves in due to war, conflict, or other atrocities.

Andy Agaba

Advisory Board Member

Kampala, Uganda

Andy Agaba is a Praxis Fellow and the founder of Hiinga, a Christian Impact Investing Fund working across a spectrum of sectors including healthcare, financial services, education, agriculture, and manufacturing in East Africa. He graduated from Harvard Kennedy School where he was a Gleitsman Innovation Fellow at the Center for Public Leadership. At Uganda's Makerere University, he was a Poli sci major. Andy advises at the MIT Martin Trust Center for Entrepreneurship and is an award-winning documentary photographer.

Marie Nyiraneza

Advisory Board Member

Nakivale, Uganda

Marie is a Social Worker, currently working with the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) as a Community Paralegal in Nakivale Refugee Settlement, and Interpreter for Refugee Resettlement Programs. Marie is a refugee from Rwanda and has lived in Nakivale Refugee Settlement since 2008. She holds a Bachelor in Social Work and a CEFE Licence for Entrepreneurship Trainer. She is passionate about contributing to the improvement of refugee livelihoods and is also a Master Trainer for the MarketPlace Literacy Program in Nakivale.

Sam Brisendine

Co-Founder and Board Member

Houston, Texas

As a designer from the private sector, I'm passionate about ideas that improve the lives of those in need. My experience designing buildings, products, and art has taught me an important lesson: The most meaningful work is produced when partners work hand-in-hand on a common mission. Over the past 5 years, I've watched Every Shelter transform from an academic pursuit to working (and learning) alongside world-class organizations to design solutions that bring dignity to displaced communities. I have never been more proud of the work we're doing and look forward to seeing how we can continue to collaborate to solve the challenges ahead.

Stefanie Cortez

Communications Specialist

Dallas, Texas

At Every Shelter I have the unique opportunity to use two passions in my life, mathematics and parenting, in one position. As a mathematician, I appreciate effective, elegant, and well-developed solutions to a problem. As a mom of two little ones, I also know the importance of sharing the stories, challenges, and successes of my life with my kids and others. As Communications Specialist for Every Shelter, I have the opportunity to inform the public about innovative designs as well as share the stories of people who are resolutely rebuilding their lives in new communities and countries despite overwhelming challenges. I believe that every person who reads about our work has the ability to impact people’s lives across the globe as they follow along with the journey to help people rebuild their lives from the floor up.

Lauren Hanson

Development Officer

Houston, Texas

As a mother to two young children, I cannot imagine the fear and despair I would feel if I was forced to leave the comfort of my home and community. The fact that this is a growing reality for so many people around our world is truly heartbreaking. I believe our compassion can make a significant impact in the lives of these displaced populations. As Melinda Gates writes, “Philanthropy is not about the money. It’s about using whatever resources you have at your fingertips and applying them to improving the world.” Therefore, it is my privilege to mobilize people to make a global impact with their time, gifts, and resources through partnering with Every Shelter as we labor to bring better provisions and life dignifying solutions to forcefully displaced populations.

Loise Wambui

Program Coordinator

Kampala, Uganda

I am deeply committed to advocating for joint solutions to economic and social development issues. I consider myself a global citizen with cross-cultural experience working as an economist in Eswatini, a Girl Scout volunteer in rural Switzerland, and teaching in Mathare, one of Kenya's largest slums. My desire to work towards dignified shelter solutions for vulnerable people started while working in Mathare Slums. Four years later, I am now working with and for refugees in Uganda. I have loved using my many abilities in this new sector, and my favorite thing has been working with local small enterprises and refugee organizations to sew the tarps! As someone conscious of how my own actions affect the wider community, I am always learning new ways to help make things a little better.

Nicole Iman

Co-Founder and CPO

Ras al Khaimah, United Arab Emirates

I’ve been traveling the globe in development-related pursuits for more than 20 years, working with people throughout the varied stages of displacement. During my tenure in Afghanistan, I saw first-hand the challenges my Afghan colleagues faced that caused them to flee for their lives. While studying in northern Uganda, I met families struggling through years of displacement despite multiple attempts to return home. Through volunteer resettlement work in the US, I welcomed resettled refugees hoping to rebuild their lives in a new place while mourning the loss of friends and family they left behind. I am keenly aware of the human tendency to look at images of displaced people and refugees and immediately categorize them as “other.” Through joining Every Shelter, I have the chance to share stories that can change that category to “one another” and help us work together toward dignified, human-centered solutions.

Scott Key

Co-Founder and CEO

Houston, Texas

The process of designing new approaches and solutions to grave issues drives me. I believe the private sector and its vast reserves of professional skills and resources can fruitfully add to the productivity of ongoing humanitarian efforts to create a more just and merciful society. We all have a responsibility to do our part, but I firmly believe that in giving of ourselves we receive far more back than we give. Wendell Berry writes, “life is a gift we have only by giving it back again.” As a father of two young daughters, I want to model the intelligent, diligent, and hard-working compassion toward our neighbor to which I believe we are all obliged. It’s urgent and important work that we do.