The world can be extremely cruel. While the planet is home to some 7.9 billion people, it can also cause considerable human suffering as can the human population itself. Not only do natural disasters bring suffering but so does man’s inhumanity to man, as witnessed in recent weeks in Eastern Europe. For those who survive, the greatest trauma stems from the loss of their homes, from being made homeless and displaced. It is estimated that globally some 154 million people are homeless, while in Ukraine alone some 10 million people are believed to have fled their homes as a result of the Russian invasion of their country. While the scenes of destruction are harrowing the human suffering is unimaginable, as recognised by two young graduates of the Indian Institute of Technology in Kharagpur, Google Product Manager Madhav Datt and Mastercard software engineer Kaushal Shetty. Having witnessed the disaster and destruction when Cyclone Fani hit the east coast of India and Bangladesh in 2019, they realised that “when people are forcibly displaced they lose their communities, they lose their sense of security, they lose their livelihoods, their children get pulled out of school, they’re faced with increased incidences of diseases”. So, in 2020 they set up Nostos Homes to “build homes for children, families and communities that have lost everything due to disaster and conflict”.
“We chose the name ‘Nostos’ for the shelters because it means homecoming in Ancient Greek” – (Kaushal Shetty).
Rather than just providing emergency shelter, Madhav and Kaushal wanted to re-create communities composed of homes that provided security and restored privacy and personal dignity. So, they developed a lightweight, modular foldable shelter kit that provides 100 square feet of living space, comprehensive sanitation systems, basic solar energy support and a renewable supply of clean water. Each flat pack easily transportable kit can accommodate 6-7 people, costs less than 20 cents per person per day and can be assembled by 4 people in less than an hour with no specialised tools or training. The units are made from recycled PVC panels and cost around $1500 to produce. They are designed to be flexible and expandable so can be customised to meet family needs or to form community facilities such as classrooms or medical centres.
Nostos homes, a registered charity, claims that every dollar invested in it provides $15 of on-ground impact, and that it has provided already 32,800 people nights of shelter and enabled 3000 days of livelihood, coupled with a 45 per cent reduction in health hazards and the facilitation of 1500 days of Education. As a charity it is a not for profit and, therefore, is not a harmonious enterprise, though it does address issues relating to people and planet, in particular SDGs 10 (Reduced Inequalities), 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities), 3 ( Good Health and well-being), 4 (Quality Education), 6 (Clean Water and Sanitation), 7 (Affordable and Clean Energy), 9 (Industry Innovation and Infrastructure) and 17 (Partnerships to achieve the Goals). Not surprisingly it has won several awards including, in March 2022, the annual international social enterprise and innovation competition “just IMAGINE if”. Speaking at the award ceremony, “just IMAGINE if” founder Paul Lindsey OBE said,“ At a time when there are so many displaced people in this world I am delighted that Nostos Homes was our winner…I’m confident that this prize will help supercharge turning their ideas into a scaled and impactful reality”. The Harmonious Entrepreneurship Society hopes so to and that Madhav and Kaushal will turn their venture into a highly successful global much-needed harmonious enterprise.
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