Members of the Santa Monica Rotary Club were able to witness the fruits of their emphasis on education as well as learn more about a solution to a relevant urban issue on Friday, Oct. 3. The meeting commenced with front-door greetings by Rotarians Laurel Rosen and Barbara Bishop as well as a thought-provoking invocation by Adam Lichtl.
After general club announcements, the reDiscover Center received a $2,546 grant from the Santa Monica Rotary Club, with director Mary Beth Trautwein as the reDiscover representative present at the meeting. reDiscover is the brainchild of a group of education-focused agencies in the Santa Monica and Venice areas and seeks to serve Los Angeles youth through arts-integrated education programs.
“This grant is very appreciated and very needed,” Trautwein said. “It will be used for art environmental education. Kids need opportunities to interact with materials to develop a better sense of math [and other STEM-related subjects].”
Not only does reDiscover strive to promote programs that require creative problem solving, the organization also values environmental awareness and incorporates recycling methods into the learning tools that are used.
After the acceptance of the grant, the meeting transitioned into the introduction of the guest speakers from non-profit organization Cardborigami, Tina Hovsepian and Alex Yarijanian.
Hovsepian and Yarijanian explained the innovative approach that Cardborigami utilizes in order to alleviate the widespread issue of homelessness due to natural disaster or poverty. The organization seeks to provide a temporary shelter and aid those in a transitional living situation, with the ultimate goal of securing permanent housing in mind.
The speakers brought along their product – a foldable shelter that offers weather resistance and privacy – as a visual aid for the Rotarians as they elaborated on the recyclability and overall sustainability of the shelter unit.
Hovsepian was assigned to redesign an elementary school in Cambodia while attending the USC School of Architecture and was for the first time exposed to third-world poverty living conditions. After witnessing such living circumstances, Hovespian set out to help resolve the issue of homelessness in the United States.
“We all have material wealth and access to resources that we sometimes take for granted,” Hovespian said. “Meanwhile we have the situation of skid rows in all major urban cities.”
Cardborigami started receiving interest, coverage, and various awards – including a grant from the Annenberg Foundation – which provided the funds as well as the encouragement to make advancements as an organization. The organization was able to conduct hands-on research with shelters in downtown L.A. by having people use the units and give direct feedback.
“A couple of months ago we were able to do a program in which we hired five homeless youth,” Hovsepian said. “They assembled 150 shelters and were taught about finances. We encouraged them to help get them back on their feet.”
Board chair Yarijanian expanded on the vision of Cardborigami.
“[Our website had] visitors from 96 countries and territories,” Yarijanian said. “There was a tremendous interest in the commerical usage of these units.”
Yarijanian emphasized the “core element of sustainability” that the shelter units utilize. He also elaborated on one of the most important audiences that Cardborigami has.
“We have different markets that we appeal to, one of them being disaster response,” Yarijanian said. “[Our products] allow people to have access to temporary, portable, and instant shelters.”
Yarijanian made sure to relay to the Rotarians the relevance of Cardborigami.
“Rotary has had a long-standing tradition of sheltering and housing people,” Yarijanian said. “This would be one solution to go with.”
Hovsepian also weighed in on the objective of their presentation.
“We wanted to have a dialogue with all of you as our local Rotary club and see how we can see this working as a program,” Hovespian said.
From inquiries about law enforcement relations to questions about the materials used to create the shelters, the Santa Monica Rotarians took full advantage of the Q&A session, expressing their interest and proving their usual intent listening skills.
For more information on the Santa Monica Rotary Club, visit rotaryclubofsantamonica.org.