Communitere is a grass-roots disaster nonprofit operating in Haiti, the Philippines, Nepal and elsewhere. The Communitere model is straightforward: figure out what resources survivors need to empower their own recovery and bring the resources together in a community hub.
Communitere, which stands for “Communities United in Response, Relief & Renewal,” was founded by Sam Bloch, who had begun working in disaster relief after the 2004 Asian Tsunami, leading the reconstruction of the coastal village of Laem Pom, Thailand. Bloch created Communitere in 2010, in response to what he saw as dysfunctions in international disaster response.
To Bloch, too much of disaster response was based on pre-programmed solutions to unique crises. Rather than taking time to understand what made a community work before a disaster, and therefore what could make it work after a disaster, large international agencies would come in with a predefined set of objectives, tactics and goals.
There are now three offices: Haiti Communitere, Philippines Communitere and Nepal Communitere. The spirit of each of the Communitere offices is to embed within a community and gather the tools and resources so that community members can execute their own recovery. Providing a lending tool bank may seem a simple thing. However, within the context of a disaster zone, most ordinary citizens have lost their tools and heavy equipment is in short supply. Large NGOs might have plenty of equipment, but they’re inclined to use it to execute their own projects. A tool library, therefore, allows a regular survivor intent on his or her own reconstruction to borrow necessary tools and equipment. It creates community, empowerment, and speeds recovery.
Each Communitere office is different and its programming is designed around the requests of a community. Communitere does not start building in resources without specific requests for action. To understand the particular needs of a recovering community, Communitere typically hosts a variety of community meetings and workshops were survivors are encouraged to make their needs known.
As an example, Haiti Communitere hosts approximately 7,000 Haitians per year and provides the following services:
Communitere’s innovative model approaches disaster reconstruction from the bottom up, involving survivors from day one. Their work shows how recovery practices rooted in dignity translate across the world.