Filipino non-profit IDEA shakes up the construction industry by providing jobs for the Deaf and building strong, affordable housing.

Dennis Drake and IDEA team with SIP Panels. From left to right: Lea Ayop, Fernando Camotes, Dennis Drake, Florie Jane Elle, and Ronabel Sonquipal.

In the Philippines, many people with severe hearing difficulties are regarded as incompetent or even cursed. We want to change that.

With earthquakes, typhoons, voracious termites and torrential rains, the Philippine islands can be a challenging place for construction projects. But the International Deaf Education Association (IDEA), a non-profit focused on empowering and educating people with hearing disabilities on the islands of Bohol and Leyte, might just have the solution: SIP Panels.

SIP panels, or Structural Insulating Panels, are a completely new technology to the Philippines. By sandwiching a Styrofoam core between fiber concrete sheets to form extremely strong, lightweight panels, IDEA’s primarily deaf workforce is making better homes quickly and affordably for lower-income families. Unlike standard wood panels, these new panels are light, sturdy and naturally resistant to a host of challenges frequently seen in the Philippines.

“This new building process is the wave of the future for the Philippines,” says Dennis Drake, founder and president of IDEA International. “We’ve started this project on the island of Bohol, but as people see how efficient these buildings are I could see it being adopted on the rest of the islands very quickly.”

And construction isn’t the only field IDEA is working to revolutionize. By employing a primarily deaf workforce of both men and women, IDEA is also empowering a long-neglected community.

“Here in the Philippines,” says Drake, “many people with severe hearing difficulties are regarded as incompetent or even cursed. Women…

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