Architecture for Humanity: Reconizing Architects Dedicated to Philanthropy

After Typhoon Haiyan ravaged through the Philippines, the GoAbroad Foundation was faced with a partner in desperate need of international aid. The tasks laid out in front of us seemed insurmountable, with multiple community centers, hundreds of homes, and thousands of lives to rebuild. Then came Architecture for Humanity (AFH). Connected to us through an old student of our Founder, Elisa Holland, the AFH Disaster Team came swooping in to reassure us that reconstruction was possible and the mantra “build back better” would truly keep us safer for many years to come.

Jacob and Eric explaining the roof repairs to Elsa - GoAbroad Foundation Director
From Left to Right: Loc (All Hands Volunteers), Jacob, Elsa (GAF Director), & Eric

Eric Cesal, AFH Executive Director, and Jacob Ehrenberg, Brand and Strategy Director, came to visit us in January 2014, settling in at the GoAbroad office in the Philippines, despite a long-standing issue with stable access to food and water, and a complete lack of electricity.

There visit not only took them to multiple rural schools, but also to Volunteer for the Visayans (VFV) community center in Cangumbang. The center was completed in August 2013, but the roof was entirely destroyed during Typhoon Haiyan.

Eric and Jacob’s visit to Cangumbang helped confirm that the structure was salvagable and only the roof and one wall needed to be replaced, saving VFV thousands of dollars and a great deal of time and effort securing a local engineer’s assessment. Not to mention their presence and genuine desire to share their expertise was inspiring.

Sadly, as of January 22nd, 2015, Architecture for Humanity posted an official statement on their website explaining their need to close indefinitely. Despite the saddening news, we join Board Chair Matt Charney in recognizing the true impact Architecture for Humanity has had in its 15 year history. In his official statement Matt said it best:

Even with this sad news, it is important to remember what the thousands of Architecture for Humanity volunteers and staff accomplished and inspired over the last 15 years…Architecture for Humanity has provided important public interest design services to communities with critical needs across the globe, including post-disaster reconstruction in the United States, Haiti, the Philippines, South Africa, and Japan. We encourage everyone to take a look at the incredible work that has been done.

Eric (far left) with Elsa and the children in Cangumbang assessing the damage to the village
Eric (far left) with Elsa and the children in Cangumbang assessing the damage to the village

Recognizing a True Philanthropist

Most importantly, we would like to take the opportunity to thank Eric Cesal, who came to the Philippines not once but twice, and provided us with incredible architectural advice and piece of mind after Typhoon Haiyan as we worked to repair VFV’s Community Center in Cangumbang. His assessments and tips for reconstruction allowed us to truly “Build Back Better” and we will always be grateful for the impact Architecture for Humanity has made on the GoAbroad Foundation and our partner in the Philippines. With that we would like to announce that Eric Cesal is the GoAbroad Foundation’s Philanthropist of the Month for February 2015.

Assessing the Cangumbang Community Center (Jacob far right, Eric middle, Loc - All Hands far left)
Eric & Jacob Assessing the Cangumbang Community Center

Eric is not only a humanitarian and expert architect, he is also a published author and writer. Earning his undergraduate of Brown University, Eric then went on to earn three Masters degrees from Washington University in St. Louis in Architecture, Construction Management, and Business Administration. Eric joined AFH in 2006 as a volunteer in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. By 2010, Eric began working for AFH fulltime, and since then has worked on multiple disasters with the organization.

In a letter on the AFH Blog last November pleaing for additional support for an AFH project, Eric said “That’s why I love what we do. A building like this is so much more than a structure; it inspires learners, it drives local economies, and it brings hope for the future.” Spliting his life between San Francisco, Japan, and many locations in between, Eric’s experience and expertise in the field is truly incredible, not to mention his ability to work with communities to build safer, more resilient buildings. Today we salute his dedication to philanthropy.