The U.K. riots of the past week have done incalculable damage to businesses and homes. After the cleanup come the longer-term task of rebuilding—and many of the people who have been hit the hardest (i.e. small business owners) can't afford the high costs involved.

Instead of allowing storefronts and homeowners to suffer, architecture school graduates Lee Wilshire and Nick Varney decided to launch Riot Rebuild, a so-called "post-riot urban intervention" (the website likens it to guerrilla gardening) that is harnessing the power of volunteer construction workers, architects, interior designers, and other qualified builders to help those in need.

The initiative was launched on Wednesday morning, and the response from people who want to volunteer has been overwhelming. "I just checked my email right now and I had 500 emails," says Wilshire. "There's a hell of a lot more on Facebook and Twitter. It's hard to keep pace with it, to be honest."

Riot Rebuild's first project: helping Aaron Biber, an 89-year-old barber (right), rebuild his uninsured barber shop. But that's just the beginning. The initiative plans to post another project on Monday, and anyone who needs help from Riot Rebuild's group of volunteers can post on the website. Qualified architects, designers, etc. are encouraged to contact the needy parties to offer their services at a free or discounted rate.

Wilshire and Varney—both of whom also have full-time jobs—have also set up a rebuild fund to help offset the costs associated with repairing damaged buildings. "We'll evolve over time into whatever is needed," says Wilshire.

Republished with permission from Authored by Ariel Schwartz. Photo, top, via Beacon Radio/Flickr. Photo, bottom, via Riot Rebuild.