Last year’s student Nazanin Mehregan was interviewed by Architecture for Humanity this summer shortly after her internship with the organization as part of the Villa Rosa community engagement team in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

Nazanin spent three months studying and working with the team on an ambitious community-led urban redevelopment program. In this interview, she shares the impressive scale of collaborative work now helping this informal urban neighborhood of 10,000 recover public space and sustainable housing.

A few excerpts from the interview:

It’s not only about hardware, it’s also about software – the people were very much important in this process because they knew the place much better than us. We always had to ask for their help to guide us to the pathways and priority areas that needed intervention. This is different for me; working directly and intensively with the people than the projects I have been involved in my experiences before.

During my master course I got some lectures from AFH (Nathaniel Corum) and due to my interests in urban planning and emergency scenarios, I chose Haiti as a place to do my three months of internship. Being in a planning project in the Haiti Team meant working on Villa Rosa and it’s been an amazing experience.

My master thesis since going to Haiti has completely changed! I’m now focusing more on cooperation among different stakeholders – it’s amazing how there are so many partners involved in this project, working with the community, itself one of these partners. I focused on community participation, what are the tools we’re using and how efficient they are. It’s very good to have different partners when there are limited resources, financially and in terms of expertise and professionals.

All of my classmates are back form all their abroad programs: Japan, Mongolia, Brazil, Rwanda…. When you talk about Haiti though everyone’s like “Wow, why would you go there, it’s an extreme situation?” But I really enjoyed it very much. We’re doing good work.

Great work Nazanin! Read the full interview here and don’t miss her blog post in which she reported from Port-au-Prince, The two islands of ever-struggling Haiti.

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