David Young has developed “green” cement.
He figured out how to create cement without releasing CO2, because about five percent of all CO2 emitted into the atmosphere is caused by making cement, he says. Now, the 18-year-old freshman, who has a patent pending for the material, is using the cement to actualize his dream to help alleviate poverty.
Young, currently in business with four partners, has launched Builders of Light, an organization that has built 200 houses for low-income families in Guatemala using this cement. Called Villa Esperanza, Village of Hope, the project is designed not only to provide low-income families with a decent home, but also to create a safe community in high-crime areas. The team also is building three other housing communities in that country, including Ciudad de Luz, City of Light, which will contain 2,000 houses. “Our goal is to build 1 million homes in 10 years,” Young says.
“You don’t really comprehend the magnitude of the project and how wide it spans and how many people it affects until you go to Guatemala and see for yourself. Then you realize this project is not only helping a lot of people, it’s affecting an entire country.”
Young and his partners, including his father, his older sister, a Guatemalan businessman, and a Guatemalan pastor, began building with funds largely provided by Young’s father’s company, a Texas plastics firm. They chose to build in Guatemala because the materials in green cement are cheaper there.
First, they built a school in the town of Almolonga to test the product, and once they knew it was a success, donated the school to the town and began building houses.
The new homes are a dream to the people of Cuyotenango, an area where many families had once lived in shacks made of corrugated metal. The new one and two-story houses include three bedrooms, a living room, dining room, kitchen, bathroom, and yard. They have concrete walls, a concrete roof, aluminum windows, metal doors, electricity, and running water.
The secret of the success, Young says, is that the framework of the house is made from a shell. “We lay down the shells, fill them with the cement, take out the shells, and there’s a house.”
It took nearly two years to develop the cement in the basement of his family’s house in Livingston, N.J., he says. Now at MIT, Young plans to study materials science and engineering. “I want to improve the structures of materials to perhaps lower their costs and develop new materials that are more efficient.”
Young says the project could never have happened working alone.
“Not a project of this scale. It’s not possible. Everyone has something to contribute, and if everyone puts their abilities together, then you can actually make something impossible possible.”
Young knows. He’s also a partner in another business venture, initiated by his older sister, a Harvard student. His sister and parents networked their way across Taiwan, asking dozens of businessmen and women to help finance a dream to build elementary schools across rural China. The Chinese government matched the funds, and now they have built 3,000 schools across China that affect 1.5 million children. (Young says the schools weren’t built with green cement because it would have been too costly to produce in China.)
Young’s role in this effort was to develop curricular materials to teach English to Chinese students, ages 5 to 12. First, he selected 100 poems by western poets, ones he had been compiling for four years, including those by Shakespeare, Emily Dickinson, John Keats, and more. Then he carried the manuscript to a Chinese publisher who translated each poem into Chinese, and illustrated each one. Young’s poetry recently was published into four books in both English and Chinese. He also produced two CDs, recorded in his own voice, to teach children how to pronounce the words in English.
“It’s a social responsibility to help other people,” Young says. “And it feels great.
“I want to change the world. I know it sounds overambitious to say that, but I feel I have that power. I’m already helping people, but I want to help more. Actually, I want to help everyone in the world. I know it sounds silly, but I don’t want to help just a select group. I actually want to help everybody.
“What I’ve learned most from all of this is that you really can do anything with the right people, the right opportunities, the right circumstances. If you really have the will to help everybody in the world, I believe you will be given the opportunity to do that.”