By 2019 Legacy Award recipient, Madhav Datt, from Haryana, India

Madhav is constantly developing technology and data solutions to address environmental crises faced by local communities, and particularly young people, across the world. He founded ‘Green the Gene’, an environmental club in school, when he was just 8 years old. Since then, he has inspired over 7,000 young volunteers to join the organisation and scaled it to one of the world’s largest completely youth-run environmental non-profits, with projects in 62 countries.

20 June 2021

World Refugee Day, celebrated every year on 20 June, honours the strength and courage of refugees, and encourages public awareness and support of people who have had to flee their homelands because of conflict or natural disaster.

In 2019, I witnessed the disaster and destruction left behind after Cyclone Fani hit the eastern coasts of India and Bangladesh, causing over 8 billion dollars in damages and leaving 1.2 million people who had to evacuate from their homes to find safety in storm shelters.

I spoke with people affected by the cyclone and found stories of people who had to abandon all their possessions, wade through ankle-deep water, and somehow get themselves and their families to safety. Most of their slums had been submerged and homes washed away. What used to be huts with tin roofs were now just rubble. Their belongings and food supplies had been destroyed by the rain.

Madhav Datt and Kaushal Shetty presenting the idea behind Nostos Homes at the World Bank, Washington D.C. in December 2019.

The effects of forcible displacement don’t end with the loss of shelter and belongings. When people are forcibly displaced, they lose their communities, they lose their sense of security, they lose their livelihoods, their children get pulled out of school, they’re faced with increased instances of diseases. Essentially, a single disaster can uproot everything they know and rely on.

The world is witnessing the highest levels of displacement on record. An unprecedented 79.5 million people around the world have been forced from home by conflict and persecution at the end of 2019.

Nostos Homes was one of the winners of the World Bank Youth Summit Competition 2019. They were presented with the award by H. E. Dr. Hasan, Dean of the Board of Executive Directors of the World Bank.

That is why my co-founder, Kaushal Shetty, set up Nostos Homes – to provide homes to children, families and communities that have lost everything due to disaster and conflict. A key principle that guided us as we designed Nostos Homes was that we wanted to build homes – and not just shelters. We’ve built Nostos to go beyond providing a roof over someone’s head, to helping to create a community and a sense of psychological safety. We hope that these homes restore privacy, personal dignity and safety in times of crisis.

We pioneered this concept of delivering the whole package, including living spaces, sanitation access etc. – everything needed to get someone set up – all folded into a small easy to ship and easy to deploy module. Our flexible design allows us to consider local context while manufacturing the shelters, so that the homes can be customized, expanded or re-oriented as per the needs of local communities. Nostos Homes are deployed in deliberate configurations that support communities through shared open spaces, and can be repurposed to create medical centres, schools and community spaces.

Building the first Nostos Homes community (illustrative) in Karnataka, India.

So, on World Refugee Day today, let’s stand together to shine a light on the rights, needs and dreams of refugees, helping to mobilise political will and more resources so refugees can not only survive but also thrive.

Here are some of the ways you can show your support on the day:

1. Organise events for your network, employees and/or customers, locally, online or offline.

2. Promote our content, messages and stories on your comms channels.

3. Engage your customers/employees to take action.

4. Showcase what your community is doing to include refugees.


Download the UNHCR World Refugee Day toolkit for more ideas and ways to get involvedю


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