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European Union Supports Habitat for Humanity in Vanuatu -- EU to Fund Building Center

November 2, 2004

PORT VILA, 2nd November 2004: Habitat for Humanity Vanuatu and the European Union are joining hands to establish a 2.1 million Vatu (US$19,400 ) building center in the Tagabe community near the Port Vila Airport.

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Supporting Habitat: Charge d’ Affaires Costas Tsilogiannis of the European Union delegation in Vanuatu announces the agreement between the EU and Habitat for Humanity Vanuatu

The center is also being supported by a generous grant of 60,000 Vatus from Barry Bailey, general manager of QBE Insurance (Vanuatu) Limited.

The center will introduce new building technologies to Vanuatu, such as traditional and non-traditional methods of construction, including the use of concrete interlocking building blocks, a technology that is widely used in the Philippines and other nations.

The project, which has been endorsed and sanctioned by the Vanuatu Internal Affairs and Economic and Social Development departments, will train disadvantaged young people in traditional and Western building methods. It will also work with current and future Habitat homeowners and will promote construction training at rural training centers.

“The building center is a good example of how non-governmental organizations, the government and communities can come together,” said Loucine Hayes, national director for HFH Vanuatu Additional facets of the center’s work include disaster preparedness and response, support for small business startups, and management training.

In the speech he gave during the signing ceremony, the chargé d’affaires from the EU office, Costas Tsilogiannis, stressed the importance to involve civil society organizations in the development process.

“The Cotonou Agreement offers a promising framework for the participation of non-state actors in all ACP member states. New opportunities are created for NSAs to participate in all aspects of EU and ACP development co-operation. Continuous efforts will be made to ensure that NSAs have full participation in the implementation of the Cotonou Agreement,” he explained, and encouraged civil society organizations to take advantages of the opportunities available in the coming years.

A recent UN ESCAP report noted that housing poverty is an issue of growing concern throughout Vanuatu, especially in Port Vila, where squatter communities and sub-standard housing have become common in the past 20 years. The report calls on government agencies and NGOs to act now before the problems worsen. Otherwise, Vanuatu could face problems similar to those now being experienced in other parts of the world.

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Partners: Denise Shu-Mei (left), project manager of the Non-State Actors Program for the European Union, and Loucine Hayes, national director of Habitat for Humanity, Vanuatu, at the accord signing

Hayes noted that studies have shown that crime rates, health and educational achievement are often correlated to housing conditions. Communities with sub-standard housing tend to develop problems in all these areas.

The first workshop at the building center will be held during the last week of November, when 11 trainers from different islands working with the Vanuatu Rural Training Centers, and ten disadvantaged youngsters and ten Habitat homeowners will learn how to produce and build with interlocking concrete blocks.

Compared to other countries, commercially produced concrete blocks are expensive in Vanuatu, and this technology will be cheaper and easier to use for construction in both rural and urban areas.

“Each rural training center will be donated one block mold that they will be able to use in the outer islands to promote this new technology,” Hayes said. “This is just the beginning of our partnership with VRDTCA.”

Mark Lani, the center director, has been active in housing construction and education in Vanuatu for decades. He has provided a building for the center to use in Tagabe for construction purposes and for workshops. He will also instruct classes and, with the assistance of Habitat for Humanity Vanuatu, he will oversee the day-to-day management of the center.

“I am very thankful to God to be able to work with Habitat and the European Union on this project,” Lani said. “I truly think that the building center will make a big impact on life in Vanuatu.”

This project implemented by Habitat with the assistance of EU NSA is a six-month pilot project, and during this time one of the objectives is find a sustainable model for the center that will allow it to exist without additional aid.

Habitat for Humanity has constructed 21 homes in the Port Vila area since HFH Vanuatu was established in 2001.