Shelter Mission to the Philippines

23 februari 2018

Shelter is a partnership between Arcadis and UN-Habitat aimed at a common goal: to improve the quality of life of citizens in rapidly growing cities around the world. We are highlighting one of the stories of an Arcadian who went on a Shelter mission.

“I was so excited! I couldn’t believe it. It was a dream come true to continue my passion for community service while working as a full-time employee. I forwarded the acceptance email to my boss to seek for approval, and fortunately my boss was very supportive and encouraging!”

My name is Kimberly Quek Shu Zhen and I went on a Shelter Mission to the Philippines from November, 5th to the 18th, 2017. Let me tell you a bit about my experience.

 Mission objective

In collaboration with UN Habitat, our objective was to build climate resiliency through urban plans and design with the partner cities. Through the various workshops, the Arcadis-Shelter team aimed to provide our expertise to assist the lead government partners in planning their respective cities for a more sustainable development.

The special skill I brought to the mission was providing a holistic perspective from all the stakeholders and evaluating the expectations in terms of cost, time and quality. I focused on coming up with practical solutions and relevant concepts by sharing numerous case studies from Singapore. Besides presenting on the possible technical solutions, my presentations emphasized on the importance of combination of functions and urban planning to balance the three crucial components of project management – cost, time and quality, and yet addressing the issue of climate resiliency.

best part of the mission

The Philippines thoroughly surprised me against all my expectation. My first impression of the Philippines was that the country was an organized mess. As I have never been to the Philippines before, I prepared myself for the worst-case scenarios whereby I would have to wait for hours to collect my luggage and the way-finding around the airport would be unclear. To my astonishment, despite the old and unattractive infrastructures, everything appeared to be organized and systematic. Many may find faults with the road and building infrastructures, the division between the rich and the poor and the complex political struggle, however my first impression of the Philippines has shown me the huge potential in the country. I am looking forward to witnessing the development of each city, especially Ormoc, Legazpi and Angeles City.

But, the best part about being on this mission was being part of a global team working to improve the quality of life. I feel fortunate to have met people with the same passion and objective from all over the world. This mission has encouraged me to stay passionate in contributing back to society and it is definitely a stepping stone to more opportunities.

Most challenging part of the mission

The most challenging part of the mission was providing possible solutions and feedback in relation to climate resiliency to the respective cities. Each case had a different background, thus changing the contexts we worked with. The cities had their own unique history and future development plan, and hence the approaches taken would have to be catered and shaped accordingly.

Learnings and experiences

What I learned most during my mission was the importance of considering the future effects of climate change for a sustainable development. Instead of simply designing for aesthetic value and cost efficiency, the base for the planning process of all infrastructure and buildings should address the issue of climate change; all proposed solutions to resolve present challenges should be planned in accordance to climate resiliency.
Also, I learned that, while focusing on developing the cities’ infrastructure and buildings, improving quality of life for residents should not be compromised.

If you want to get involved in Shelter, I recommend you be active on the various social media platforms of the Shelter Program and UN-Habitat for information on upcoming missions! You may simply follow the Shelter Facebook page, our internal Yammer Group and the Shelter website. Most importantly, stay curious, adventurous and be opened-minded to all the unexpected surprises awaiting you!

The international Shelter program, which allows Arcadians to share their pro bono knowledge and expertise to find solutions for global urbanization issues in the field of infrastructure, environment and water is sponsored by the Lovinklaan Foundation.