Tag Archives: disaster assistance


mayaTulimaya, a proud grandmother to two beautiful grandbabies and mother to five hard working children, taught me an important life lesson.

Seven years my junior, Tulimaya – Maya for short, is much wiser and understands the great value of family

In Nepal, the family is considered the most important social unit and a high value is placed on family ties.

Many families, particularly in rural areas are larger than in the West and are also extended. There is a very clear hierarchy and the patriarch is usually the father or older brother; however, Maya in her gruff and loud voice, appeared to be the one in charge. I grew to like her quite a bit.

Maya_family6In Nepal older people are given a lot of respect and are expected to be cared for by the younger generation.  Multigenerational families often live under one roof, and when a son marries his wife is brought to the family home to live. Having children is considered very important in Nepalese culture. Most importantly, when someone is sick , the family rallies around.

Maya_family2While overlooking Maya’s mountain on a clear day, I could see the snowy peaks of Everest in the distance. I was also painfully aware how far away my family was

Shortly after returning back to Kathmandu, I’d received word that my mother had gotten quite sick and was admitted to the hospital. A few days later, we were readying to leave for Anaikot and I’d learned her condition worsened. Dedicated to the Namaste Nepal mission, my heart was torn….. However, recalling Maya’s lesson…..it was time to return home.

NN_logoNow back in Wisconsin and close to family, part of my heart remains in Nepal. Over 90% of families have lost their homes and are in need of great help.

Please stay tuned for more updates on the Namaste Nepal project and opportunities for you to help these families rebuild.

Thank you for visiting ArchitectUnseen.


Final Countdown

One week until the journey begins.  If the travel alone doesn’t cause one to think twice, the 6 month assignment in remote villages of Nepal surely should. The itinerary begins with a bus ride from Madison to Chicago O’Hare Airport.  With an extended layover in Hong Kong, the final flight lands in Kathmandu, Nepal 48 hours later.


The journey actually began a week ago when family and friends helped me move the remains of my belongings into a POD for 6 months of storage.  I am forever grateful to them for their unconditional love and willingness to help.


The weekend was full of bittersweet family reunions.  We said goodbye to our respected Uncle Tom and warm hearted Aunt Gina.  They were laid to rest next to our father.

Time stands still when I’m with my siblings, Ken and Sheri, I am grateful for their support.

Looking toward the next venture, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t scared. Though words like “courageous” and “brave” are appreciated, I feel like anything but. Leaving behind the security of a full time job, a home, and family is terrifying as hell.


The real heroes are the members of our Namaste Nepal (NN) team who made the rebuilding projects a reality. Visit the website to learn more about their projects. Note:  English translations for all pages in the works. http://www.namastenepal.cz/en/


Yarda, my NN colleague from Czech Republic, arrived a week ahead  and is currently meeting with our Nepali partners and engineers.  (I hope he doesn’t mind my posting his picture.)  Other invaluable members of our NN team include Sona- a talented architect living in Australia with whom I worked with in Haiti, and Helca & Martina who are working remotely in Czech Republic to help coordinate the travel details and program documents.

Much yet to pack and mounds of paperwork to sort/file. Signing off for now.


Rebuild, Restore, Renew New Jersey



As I work to prepare for El Salvador and my role as AIA Disaster Assistance Coordinator for the state of WI, there are lessons to be learned from Hurricane Sandy.  I remain in touch with AIA contacts in Washington DC and New Jersey. Below is an update on the slow, but steady progress made in New Jersey.

A little more than two weeks after Hurricane Sandy, the focus is still on emergency response.

The 3 stages of disaster response are as follows: 

1. Emergency: The first response, it relies on quick action and involves providing emergency shelter, medical assistance, food, and other such services. This stage can last two to three weeks

2.  Relief: Short-term housing, health services, and employment counseling are provided. Formal assessment of damage begins with examinations of buildings, including analysis of historic properties and other structures. This stage may last up to six months.

3. recovery:  up to and beyond 3 yrs +This stage is characterized by rebuilding, with an emphasis on long-term comprehensive planning to enhance the physical fabric of the community. Regulatory changes may be necessary to mitigate the effect of future disasters. This period may last three years or more.

As we work toward relief and recovery, AIA architects in New Jersey remain closely involved in the efforts.  A letter below from Cooper Martin, AIA National, shares that most building damage assessments have been completed, but that the future focus will be not only on rebuilding, but also making sure that a better infrastructure is in place should there be another disaster.

Subject: RE: AIA and the California Safety Assessment Program – New Jersey


Our assessments have been completed where we were allowed to help conduct them, and right now I think we have more local volunteers than we know what to do with. Most of our current activities are roundtable discussions such as this: http://cfa.aiany.org/index.php?section=calendar&evtid=5176

If you haven’t seen it already, there was a good story on the obstacles we experienced in our aid efforts at: http://archrecord.construction.com/news/2012/11/121108-Architects-Respond-to-a-Call-for-Post-Sandy-Aid.asp#.UJ1G9pFP4wQ.mailto

Our next step will actually be to organize a couple of training sessions and to prepare to lobby the state legislature to pass Good Samaritan law for the next disaster. Our partners at Arch. for Humanity are assessing needs and identifying gaps in the recovery activities that federal funding will support.

Cooper Martin
Manager, Community Resilience
The American Institute of Architects