Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Architecture for Humanity

I like the idea of this charity. Architecture for Humanity. We are the last responders. We don't offer hope, we build solutions. I just sent back some stuff I ordered online and had money sitting in my PayPal account so I just transferred it to the charity instead of back to my checking account. Easy peasy.

I don't have any real expertise in vetting non-profits, but I did a bit of digging just to be sure they aren't a bunch of crooks. If they are then they did a good job sprinkling the internet with their good name. They have a book called Design Like You Give A Damn: Architectural Responses to Humanitarian Crises. It has good reviews on Amazon, and I like the title.

I spent my youth at the Red Cross office with my grandmother and I worked the bloodmobile canteen all the way through high school. I have nothing against the Red Cross, even if it is based on religion. It beats the Salvation Army all to pieces.* But I am going to go ahead and admit that I feel like the first response to disaster is best handled with official government channels. I have no problem with tax dollars being spent to get food, water, blankets and shelter to people in immediate peril.

Personally I am uncomfortable with the idea of charity. My childhood home burned down Labor Day of my a senior in high school. The main emotion I recall from the whole thing was embarrassment. I didn't want to tell anybody what had happened for fear they'd say something idiotic like, "Oh! You've lost all those memories!" I never knew what the hell that meant. My memory is fine. Only the stuff burned up. So I just kept it quiet. My dad took me to the mall in Tallahassee and bought me some new clothes and a couple pairs of shoes and let me stay at his house until I finished high school. I snuck into the book room at school and got new textbooks. My teachers didn't find out what happened until the end of the year when they saw that the numbers didn't match and I had to admit I burned up my original books. And sure enough they acted all sentimental and sorry for me and couldn't believe they didn't know. Yuk.

Pro-bono architecture seems a lot less humiliating though. I designed my little house on my own with the help of Ramsey and Sleeper's Architectural Graphic Standards, Fifth Edition (it was my dad's and therefore did not burn up.) It's just a tiny cottage but it was kind of hard. If you are going to do anything with more than one person living in it I think an architect is a great idea. I can envision a scenario where an architect you don't have to pay can work into a project without embarrassing anybody.

I'm glad I found an organization that is right for my idiom. Because some just really are not.

*I refer to the Tim Minchin incident from last November:
Your song "White Wine in the Sun", which includes lyrics critical of Christianity, caused controversy last week in Australia when it was used on an album of Christmas songs sold to raise money for the Salvation Army. What's your take on the fuss?
I think the Salvos are idiots. I didn't know they would benefit from the CD, but by the time I found out I didn't want to make too much of a fuss. So I gave my song free, then they turn around and say that they don't agree with the sentiment of the song. Obviously, they are talking about how I think Jesus is not magic. Part of me is hugely outraged by what imbeciles they are, to bite the hand that feeds them and put their proselytizing above charity.
It's a terrible paradox that most charities are driven by religious belief. I believe very strongly in giving only to secular charities, because I don't think there should be a back end to altruism. I won't make this mistake again. I tweeted that if people want to buy my version of the song independently, I'll give the proceeds away, as I did last year, to the National Autistic Society, a non-proselytising charity.
Christmas means much to billions of people who don't believe in Jesus, and if you think that Christmas without Jesus is not Christmas, then you're out of touch, and if you think altruism without Jesus is not altruism, then you're a dick.
If anybody has evidence of Architecture for Humanity proselytizing for Jesus and not just for reduced construction waste, please let me know.

1 comment:

  1. When I need to check a charity, I look to Architecture for Humanity gets a great rating there, too.