Ambassador: Estefania Henkel , Mexico
After the devastating earthquakes that shook Mexico in September 2017, Estefania co-founded Casa Voluntaria. Along with fellow architects and engineers, they formed a network of voluntary designers to help vulnerable people reconstruct their homes. Their aim is to reach populations in places affected by disasters, focusing primarily on elderly people and those with mobility issues. Casa Voluntaria primarily works in the small town of Asunción Ixtaltepec, in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec region.
Casa Voluntaria initially consults the families in need, and then matches them with an architecture studio that has registered its interest in participating in the project. They design the house based on the family’s needs, make final arrangements with a structural engineer, and then build the home with a team of volunteers at a fraction of the cost the family would have otherwise paid. This helps families to build structurally sound, well designed properties that will be more resistant to similar natural disasters in the future. The organisation also helps local businesses to reconstruct their premises by helping to rebuild and repair damaged brick manufacturing units after an earthquake.
Casa Voluntaria has also helped to make useful connections for institutions in the local community, such as connecting a large organisation with a school in Asuncion Ixtaltepec, which resulted in an investment of 16 million pesos to rebuild the school. The school was completed in January 2019 and welcomes children from five nearby communities.
Estefania has also been involved in a project to design small temporary shelters in Mexico for immigrants from Central America travelling to the United States. Casa Voluntaria built and designed a small module of bathrooms in a base along the travel route, helping to provide safe facilities and to protect the privacy of migrants during their stay in Mexico.