How One ‘Home Improvement’ Star Gave Back to the Needy

Ever wondered what happened to the youngest son on the hit television show “Home Improvement?” Taran Noah Smith has grown into an incredibly giving adult who’s making the world a better place. The 31-year-old recently explained that he spent much of 2014 working with an organization called Communitere, helping provide crucial building resources to those in need.

“I spent half of 2014 in the Philippines doing disaster relief for an organization called Communitere,” Smith explained to HNGN earlier this year. “We went into the Philippines after the most massive typhoon on record hit in late 2013, and we helped set up a resource center based around a maker space.

“A maker space is set up like a workout gym, but instead of workout machines you have tools. It’s an open shop, and we provided everything from sledge hammers to a 3-D printer and a laser cutter. Basically it’s “teach a man to fish.” Instead of going in and building a new house or setting something up for them, we provided the tools, the space and the expertise to enable a community to do whatever they needed to rebuild their lives.”

Communitere began after the Haiti Earthquake and is committed to sustainable solutions when contributing aid amid international crises.

“We believe the best results come from bringing diverse groups of people together for a common goal,” the organization’s website reads. “Our principle is to encourage people who wouldn’t otherwise connect to come together and have the opportunity to understand each others strengths and weaknesses and then help them to leverage their respective assets to help each other achieve shared goals.”

Accordingly, Communitere brings tools to people in impoverished areas struggling to rebuild. Its first stop, Haiti, marked the first time that the organization created a resource center.

Instead of Habitat for Humanity or other organizations, who would try to build a new house for the people whose homes were destroyed in a natural disaster, this innovative organization specializes in giving the people who live in these areas the resources necessary to rebuild their communities for themselves. All the focus is on the people who actually live there, empowering the local communities to do the work themselves with the tools provided by friends in the international community.

Source: Communitere

In the past six years in Haiti, Communitere has lived up to its goal: today, there’s one international worker out of every 16 in the tightly-run organization. Meanwhile, all the centers are locally run. Smith was drawn to the organization’s small size minimized the need for donations to be wasted on the kind of administrative needs often associated with larger charitable groups. Communitere was a perfect fit for him.

With the success of the Haiti program, Communitere expanded to help the Philippines using the same methodology.

The Philippines faced a daunting challenge: the largest typhoon to ever make landfall. Imagine a two story wall of water destroying all homes and buildings in its path. As Taran noted in a recent interview with Prabhat Gautam of Positive Television, “Anything that was not made of…reinforced concrete was just gone.”

The government of the Philippines knew that the periodic giant storms would happen again, and therefore they established the areas by the water as “no build zones.” The only way to reinforce these no build zones was by creating an embargo to not allow outsiders to give aid directly. This is how Communitere was able to slip in and help—since they were not directly building, they were able to help the people to rebuild in the impoverished areas themselves.

The tools given?

Communitere provided many different items for the people of the Philippines, everything from sledgehammers to 3-D printers in order to facilitate rebuilding their homes.

Source: Communitere

If it sounds like 3-D printers are ostentatious or not useful, think again. Smith fondly remembers how these innovative printers were used to print motorcycle helmet clips and clips for motorcycle lights, two small but nevertheless vitally important pieces of safety equipment printed when supply chains were down and there were no other ways to get the small necessities.

Source: Communitere

And there is something to be said for the joy of creating. Smith—whose father built a plane from scratch—must have learned a love for building both at home and on his hit series “Home Improvement.” In fact, his next project is ambitious: Smith is looking to create a floating home prototype to help people survive mounting waves in heavily aquatic regions.

Learn more about Smith’s charitable efforts in the video interview below.