How This Award-Winning Refugee Shelter Is Changing Thousands Of Lives Around The World

Innovation to match the times.

In just about four hours, a once-displaced family could have a home with a front door that locks and a solar-powered wall.

Now more than ever, refugees need safe and sustainable shelters to live in while trying to regain some normalcy in their lives. From natural disasters to acts of terrorism to Presidential executive orders temporarily banning refugee admissions into the United States, the displaced face insurmountable challenges that could be somewhat eased by having a place to rest their heads at night.

Better Shelter provides such a place by tackling "one of the defining issues of the moment: providing shelter in an exceptional situation whether caused by violence and disaster," a judge for the Design Museum in London's annual awards said in a news release.

The design team of the contemporary refugee shelter recently walked away with the coveted recognition of the Beazley Design of the Year, which showcases an innovation designed to help those who are displaced.  


"Sadly, we have seen many instances recently where temporary shelter was necessary," Jana Scholze, an associate professor at Kingston University and a judge for the design awards, said in the release. "Providing not only a design but secure manufacture as well as distribution makes this project relevant and even optimistic."  

That optimism has spread far and wide with thousands of the shelters, which are created in partnership with the Ikea Foundation and the U.N. refugee agency, are currently being used globally, per the Design Museum.

Still, when 33,972 people around the world are forced to flee their homes daily because of conflict and persecution, an award and recognition are great, but there's so much more work to be done.   

"We accept this award with mixed emotions," said Johan Karlsson, initiator and interim managing director of Better Shelter, who also proudly acknowledged in the news release that the "prize brings attention to our hard work, and as a result, the refugee situation as a whole."

However, the international spotlight is quite timely, which Karlsson also stated saying, "While we are pleased that this kind of design is honored, we are aware that it has been developed in response to the humanitarian needs that have arisen as the result of the refugee crisis."

His humble response to the accolade is respectable, but there's no denying how impactful designs like these could be for millions of people around the world.

This global crisis has caused countries to welcome refugees from far and wide with the majority (39 percent) being hosted in the Middle East and North Africa. The second-largest region to welcome the world's displaced is Africa with 29 percent, followed by Asia and Pacific at 14 percent. The Americas and Europe come in last at 12 percent and 6 percent respectively.

"If you compare life in the tents and life in these shelters, it's a thousand times better," Saffa Hameed, a 34-year-old living in a refugee camp in Iraq, told the U.N refugee agency about the Better Shelter, according to a report by The Guardian. "The tents are like a piece of clothing and they would always move. We lived without any privacy. It was so difficult."

After being forced to relocate in 2015 because of the Islamic State terrorist group, Hind and Saffa Hameed have found a silver lining in the shelter they now call home.

"It shows the power of design to respond to the condition we are in and transform them," Scholze added. "Innovative, humanitarian and implemented, Better Shelter has everything that a Beazley Design of the Year should have."

See the impact Better Homes made in 2015 at the Kara tepe Camp in Mytilini, Greece:


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