July 4, 2023


Madhav Datt, Chairman of Nostos, a youth-led UK charity, and Habitat for Humanity, built a community of innovative modular homes in Phalombe, Malawi, to support displaced families following Cyclone Gombe.

Traditionally victims of displacement take years to get a secure home of their own. A partnership between Nostos Homes and Habitat for Humanity in Malawi is challenging this status quo by building a community of modular homes in less than a week.

An image of children running and smiling outside of a new home in Phalombe Malawi
The homes have brought hope and laughter back to Phalombe, Malawi, and has provided families with 350,000 nights of shelter.

Madhav Datt is a 2019 Legacy Award recipient and chairman of Nostos, a youth-led charity. He received a Legacy Award in 2019 for constantly developing technology and data intensive solutions tailored to address specific yet acute and immediate environmental crises faced by local communities, and particularly young people, across the world. He founded ‘Green the Gene’ when he was 8 years old, and has since then inspired over 7,000 young volunteers to join the organisation, with projects in 62 countries. He has also raised over $1.1 million in funding to support Green the Gene initiatives. 

The partnership between Nostos Homes and Habitat for Humanity aims to build homes for displaced families, using mild steel frames and insulated PUF panels to ensure durability, wind resistance, and a 20 year lifespan. The Nostos home design achieves all of this in less than half the cost of a traditional brick and mortar house of a similar lifespan.

Madhav says:

“It is inspiring to see displaced families in Malawi use Nostos Homes as a mechanism to rebuild their lives. The Nostos model lets us build homes in traditionally inaccessible areas where brick and mortar construction is impossible, allowing us to reach some of the most vulnerable and hard to reach communities around the world.”

The Nostos homes are made from parts that are manufactured separately and then assembled at site. Similar to a life-sized Lego set - each component plays a critical role and has been carefully designed to allow easy transportation in the disassembled form in a truck; and quick assembly, under a week for a community of 8 houses, at the deployment site after a disaster. Nostos has partnered with Modulus Homes, an innovative prefab start-up in India to manufacture the homes in their factory.

Nostos was born from a concept conceived by Kaushal Shetty, CEO of Nostos Homes says:

“I realised that losing your home has negative ripple effects on the family’s livelihood, health, and education. It became clear to me that in order to sustainably break this cyclical pattern of displacement, families had to be given strong climate resistant homes quickly after a disaster”.

An image of Ethel Chamba’s old home left in ruins after Cyclone Gombe hit her village in Phalombe, Malawi.
Ethel Chamba’s old home was left in ruins after Cyclone Gombe hit her village in Phalombe, Malawi,

Ethel Chamba, 35, is a single mother of three living in Mwango, a village in rural Malawi. She depends on piecework jobs and subsistence farming to earn a livelihood. Last year, while she was struggling to make ends meet after her recent divorce, Cyclone Gombe hit her village, completely destroying her home and changing her life overnight. Being a mother of a child with a chronic illness and living below the poverty line meant that it was impossible for her to find funds to reconstruct her home. Since then, Ethel and her children have been forced to live in their grandmother’s house. The Nostos community in Malawi will provide more than 350,000 nights of shelter to families, like Ethel’s.

Ethel told the Habitat for Humanity Malawi officials:

“Having a home of my own now allows me to once again believe that life can get better. My children can finally have some peace in their lives.”

Nostos is entirely led by young people and funded by corporate philanthropy from companies such as Goldman Sachs and Mastercard. Nostos co-founders Datt and Shetty have both been named to Forbes 30 Under 30 lists. 

We have recently honoured young people with the prestigious Diana Award for 2023. The award ceremony put the spotlight on young people from across the world - just like Madhav - who are changing their communities and the lives of others for the better. To find out more click here and to watch the 2023 Awards Ceremony, click here.

RELATED Blog Posts