Interview with real estate entrepreneur Pete Dupis,Canada
When someone asks you what World Housing is, how do you explain it to them?
“To create social change by connecting the world to be a better community”. We do this by providing housing to those we see as the most in need – people that live in and around garbage dumps. Our social change model is relatively simple: In the developed world we create business partnerships and transfer the financial contributions to a non-government organization who we partner with to build homes. The homes are then gifted to qualified, deserving people that are surviving by scavenging garbage in dump communities.
At the core of World Housing is creating social change for our audience. In the case of the slum communities we serve, it’s about moving a qualified family from complete squalor to a stable home while helping them achieve an independent life through education, nutrition and health care programs offered by our NGO partner. While receiving a home is just one piece of the puzzle, it often becomes a visible cue that there is hope for a better life.
At home in the first world, we are about providing a connection for people to see the world differently and empower our business partners and donors to believe they can have a real, measurable impact on others.
Your thesis seemed to be great research for starting World Housing. How much time did you invest in your thesis and has it been the blueprint you still follow today for World Housing?
A research-based Masters degree is a fairly solitary, deep dive into a topic. In my case, the research and writing portion of my program was three years of gathering data, analyzing and writing my thesis. I was very fortunate because my supervisor encouraged me to become a “pracademic” and apply my learning to a business. So my thesis turned into the business plan for World Housing. In the first two years it was the blueprint for how we set-up World Housing and a valuable guide for our team.
What has been the most gratifying event you have experienced since starting World Housing?
This is an easy answer. Late one night I received an email from Scott Neeson telling me this story: He was touring a wealthy donor from New York through the dump in Cambodia. This gentleman had never been to a slum and was completely shell shocked at the desperate conditions. When he got to our community of homes we had just gifted he sat on the edge of the garden to regain his composure and saw one of our new homeowners doing her wash. Like many that see the dump for the first time he instinctively offered her a significant amount of money. The woman turned to the man and said, “thank you, but I don’t need it. I have a loan from Scott to start my bottled water business, my children are in school and I just received this home. You should donate to Scott so he can give it to someone who needs it”.
The email made me cry as both Scott and I knew that receiving a home along with a micro loan and education was a tipping point for the woman’s self-esteem. After years of living in a dirt floor shack surrounded by garbage and crime she had control over her life and belief in herself.