A CONSTRUCTION company in Winchester has launched an innovative emergency shelter project to provide a “sanctuary” for Ukrainian refugees who have been forced to flee their homes.
Stelling Properties, which specialises in modular construction, has used its expertise to design and build transportable accommodation inside shipping containers to help house those living in dangerous and freezing conditions in refugee camps across Europe.
From left to right: Sam Whitworth, Maddie Podstada and Jordan Griffith
The insulated units, which can be configured within an hour of delivery, include flexible sleeping, living, kitchen and bathroom spaces which could potentially provide shelter for up to two adults and two children or three adults at a time.
Sam Whitworth, engineering director at Stelling Properties, said: “When the devastating news arrived about the crisis in Ukraine, we all came in on the Monday and spoke about ways in which we could help. Of course, initially we gave to collections and helped gather clothes and supplies to send over, but we wanted to do more. So, we immediately put our minds together to create the best possible solution using the expertise and resource we have. After some brief discussions, it was quickly decided that we had to create a flexible and robust solution that could easily be placed in the affected areas.”
Within two weeks of initially coming up with the concept, the team had launched the project, dubbed Re:Haus, and constructed a fully functional prototype of one the homes.
Meanwhile, project manager Maddie Podstada had contacted the Folkowisko Foundation, a Polish charity which has been providing aid at the border since Russia’s attempted invasion began. With the help of charity bosses, two sites in Poland and one in Ukraine have been identified as locations for the accommodation to be installed.
Maddie also said they have had enquiries from elsewhere in Europe, including Slovakia and Czech Republic, as refugee numbers continue to climb.
While they were primarily created as living spaces, Jordan Griffith, a project engineer who was tasked with designing the pods, has said the versatility in the product’s design means it can also be stripped back to provide space for alternative uses such as a pop-up hospital or clinic.
He said: “The idea is that these containers are ‘plug and play’, so they can go to the different locations and within 45 minutes to an hour they’ll be up and running with the heating on, power running and a flushing toilet, or whatever they may be needed for. That’s the sort of product that we want, we want something that can be distributed to whichever country may need them and using universal methods can almost instantly provide sanctuary.”
Since announcing the project, the team say they have been contacted by a host of companies who have offered to help with the construction and delivery of the units either free of charge or at cost. They’ve also explored the idea of using the pods to transport further aid into the country.
However, while the foundations are in place for the production of the modules to begin, Sam admitted they now need donations to help deliver as many as possible to those in need.
He said: “One of the key things is this is being run as a charitable endeavour, and it has been deliberately separated from Stelling Properties, so Re:Haus is its own entity and it will be grown as its own entity. The business has supported the development up until today, and now to deliver on the scale to make a real difference to those that are directly impacted we’re asking for supply partners, corporate partners and individuals to donate.
“We haven’t got a problem finding places to put these or finding people to operate them, the thing that will enable us to help the most people is funding, but certainly there is a queue of people waiting to not just take the containers but to look after them and take on the asset too. We want to make sure these are passed on to the right hands, so they become safe spaces for families to find the shelter they need.
“Although this is a temporary space, one of the things we’ve done with this is make sure that it’s insulated and quiet – it has got to be a sanctuary. Someone must be able to come in here, lock the front door and instantly feel safe. Thankfully with the time of year it is getting a bit milder, but some of the locations these containers may end up going to could be as cold as minus ten degrees or more, and these units are equipped to deal with that.
“We would love to be in a position where we’re able to send the first one of these units within a couple of weeks, but it really does depend on the fundraising. The company has donated this to get us this far, and we’re now in a position where we need support to take this further. We want to make many, many hundreds of these.”
To read more about the project or to donate, visit: rehaus.org/
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