Urban Innovations' Mission to Malawi
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Urban Innovations founder and chairman Howard Conant may be a River North loft office guru, but one of his proudest moments was the creation of the Carol Lydecker-Dwyer Live Your Dream Award, honoring the talented, life-loving longtime Urban employee after she lost her battle with cancer a couple of years ago. This year’s recipient, Urban marketing coordinator Nicole Malcolm, received a week off with pay and a stipend to build Habitat for Humanity homes for children in Malawi with her husband and 11 volunteers. The international opportunity appealed to Nicole’s architecture background and her late mother’s value of helping others, she says.
Unsanitary housing conditions are found in 80% of Malawi houses. Nicole worked with local masons and community members to build two houses made of kiln-fired clay bricks, glass windows, air vents, iron sheet roofs and raised-concrete floors. “Malawi may be one of the poorest countries in the world, but I have never met people with such warm and open hearts,” she says. Nicole hopes to return and continue her dream in Malawi soon. As for Howard? “I'm lucky I don't have stockholders, so I can do this kind of stuff,” he says.