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Building Center Comes Into Its Own

January 19, 2005

By Kathryn Reid

Batticaloa, Sri Lanka
January 19, 2005

Habitat for Humanity’s five-year old building and training center in Batticaloa is working flat out, three-shifts a day, producing 3,600 concrete blocks every twenty-four hours.

The center was originally established by the Batticaloa affiliate as a way to keep down building costs. Today, it is proving a source of much-needed materials for the local tsunami reconstruction effort. And Habitat families who lost wage-earners can work at the center to earn money.

Work is already under way on the rebuilding the first Habitat homes. They are being reconstructed on existing foundations that are deemed to be safe and secure.

The center recently delivered 10,000 blocks to Habitat homeowners and another 20,000 blocks are ready to be used.

Production is to start soon for fence posts, beams and pillars as well as frames for windows and doors. It is considered better for the environment to make these out of concrete so “we do not harvest so much wood for building products,” said Batticaloa affiliate co-ordinator Justice Gregory.

In its five years the center has not only made blocks, but also trained others in mixing materials and forming blocks. Building-supply companies donate the raw materials.

“Our home partners can make blocks as part of their ‘sweat equity’ construction requirement,” said Gregory, “and we started an income-producing program for Habitat homeowners who lost wage earning family members during the tsunami.”

He also said the organization sells the blocks it makes to raise funds to build more houses with families in need.

HFH Sri Lanka and Habitat operations in India, Indonesia and Thailand have plans in hand to establish a series of more complex building and training centers as a key part of Habitat’s response to last month’s deadly tsunami.