August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina struck the regions of Bahamas, Mississippi, Alabama, New Orleans and most of eastern America. Considered as the costliest natural disaster and third deadliest hurricane in the history of United States of America – causing a total property damage of over $108 billion and over a million displaced people – New Orleans was hit hardest by Katrina. Many Govt. Organizations, activists and others in support came forward, but for the people New Orleans’ lower 9th ward, Hollywood Megastar Brad Pitt emerged as the biggest respite.
Brad saw the natural disaster and adversity that the people left behind were facing. The hard hit Lower 9th Ward was almost completely wiped out as almost all 160 homes was wrecked by Katrina. The families had nothing left and nowhere to go. Brad then came forward and decided to attempt and rebuild it for the families. He founded “Make It Right” foundation in assistance with William McDonough in order to rebuild 150 safe, affordable and quality homes for the families of the areas who lost everything to the hurricane.
The idea was to build well-designed and Eco-friendly houses. Being an ecologist and architecture enthusiast, amateur though, Brad made huge efforts and brought world renowned architects like Frank Gehry, Thom Mayne etc to design these homes. He wanted these homes to be futuristic so that the people living in them could forget the hardships they faced. He made sure that the houses were built keeping the residents’ choices in mind. Whether it is the color, the location or any other thing, people got to choose what they wanted their houses as.
Remembering the time he was about to start this project, Brad says that he initially thought that building houses will not be that tough a task. But later he realized the issues as he had to go through a lot in order to get the task underway. Every aspect, whether it is forgivable loan structure, lot rights, family financial counseling or HUD grant, everything took a hell lot of efforts to get though with.
Till now, 109 homes have been completely built. The project has cost about $28 million. The foundation collected the sum mainly with donations and federal loans. Though there are critics who say that the whole project was overpriced but Brad has an answer for that. He says that though it was possible to build homes for less, but would that have turned out to be the quality place to live in, that is the question. He says, “Today when I pass though these houses and see the residents smiling, I feel proud. To provide them with a quality, Eco-friendly and futuristic homes, which would also not make their utility bills heavier later, was the priority and I am happy that we succeeded in doing so.”
Now after 10 years of the disastrous natural calamity, people have settled in their new homes and are happy. The whole area has become a tourist attraction. But for the residents living in those houses, Brad was the hope. And for Brad, it was worth their smiles.