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Madhav Datt: Rebuilding Homes in the Aftermath of Natural Disasters

Madhav Datt: Rebuilding Homes in the Aftermath of Natural Disasters

Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse picture books and online curriculum with the mission to empower over a million kids to become social entrepreneurs. Our current series features interviews by our interplanetary journalist Spiffy with inspiring Social Entrepreneurs, Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Builders, and Changemakers who are advancing the UN SDGs.

Spiffy here with the scoop on the entrepreneurial leaders of Planet Earth. As the only interplanetary journalist stationed on this blue planet, I’m thrilled to present this galactic exclusive with Madhav Datt, the co-founder and chairman of Nostos Homes. Let’s learn what’s happening at Nostos Homes and how Madhav is making a positive impact in the world.

Spiffy: Thanks for joining me, Madhav! Tell me, what challenge are you addressing through Nostos Homes?

Madhav: Thanks for having me, Spiffy! Ethel Chamba, 35, is a single mother of three living in Mwango, a village in rural Malawi. She depends on piecework jobs and subsistence farming to earn a livelihood. Last year, while she was struggling to make ends meet after her recent divorce, cyclone Gombe hit her village, completely destroying her home and changing her life overnight. Being a mother of a child with a chronic illness and living below the poverty line meant that it was impossible for her to find funds to reconstruct her home. Since then, Ethel and her children have been forced to live in their grandmother’s house.

Spiffy: What motivates you to do it?

Madhav: For me, it is inspiring to see displaced families in Malawi use Nostos Homes as a mechanism to rebuild their lives. The Nostos model lets us build homes in traditionally inaccessible areas where brick and mortar construction is impossible, allowing us to reach some of the most vulnerable and hard to reach communities around the world. After moving into her new Nostos home, Ethel told the Habitat for Humanity Malawi officials, “Having a home of my own now allows me to once again believe that life can get better. My children can finally have some peace in their lives.”

Spiffy: What is the impact of your work?

Madhav: A partnership between Nostos Homes, our youth-led UK charity, and Habitat for Humanity, the world’s largest not-for-profit builder, built a community of innovative modular homes in Phalombe, Malawi. Ethel and her family have now moved into their brand new Nostos home, made using mild steel frames and insulated polyurethane foam panels to ensure durability, wind resistance, and a 20 year lifespan. The Nostos home design achieves all of this in less than half the cost of a traditional brick and mortar house of a similar lifespan. Perhaps what is most innovative about this home though is that it was built in under a day. The Nostos community in Malawi will provide more than 350,000 nights of shelter to families like Ethel’s.

Spiffy: Tell me about a recent organization milestone or initiative. What impact does it make on your community?

Madhav: This partnership project received extensive support from the Malawi Government. Peter Chimangeni, director at the Department of Disaster Management Affairs, Government of Malawi said “We are deeply appreciative of the life-changing work that Habitat for Humanity and Nostos have done for people who lost their homes in the devastation caused by cyclone Gombe. We offer our full support in providing many more Nostos homes to displaced families in Malawi.”

Spiffy: Is there anything else you would love to tell our audience?

Madhav: These Nostos homes are modular and follow a prefabricated mode of construction. This means that all the parts, or modules, of the home are manufactured separately and then assembled at site. Think of it like a life-sized Lego set, where each component plays a critical role and has been carefully designed to allow easy transportation in the disassembled form in a truck; and quick assembly, under a week for a community of eight houses, at the deployment site after a disaster. Nostos has partnered with Modulus Homes, an innovative prefab start-up in India to manufacture the homes in their factory.

Spiffy: Thanks for speaking with me today, Madhav—it’s been an honor!

Madhav Datt co-founded Nostos Homes, a youth-led non-profit building homes for the forcibly displaced. His work pioneers low-cost technology and data driven solutions to help local communities in climate crises across the world. He was named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 list and his work has received extensive international recognition including from HRH Prince William and the Prime Minister of India. (First published on the Ladderworks website on August 21, 2023.)

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect those of Ladderworks LLC.

© 2023 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Shikha Tandon. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. For the Ladderworks digital curriculum to help K-3 kids advance the UN SDGs, visit Spiffy's Launchpad: Creative Entrepreneurship Workshops for K-3 Kids and their caregivers here.