Fireworks Mark New Homes in First Habitat Project In Southern China **** Disabled Village in Guangzhou Attracts Top Corporations from Hong Kong and China
September 6, 2005
Dark and overcrowded: mud houses in Changliu
A decent home: The Yangs in front of their new Habitat house
GUANGZHOU, 6th September 2005: Fireworks celebrated the dedication for the first families to benefit from Habitat for Humanity's newest operations in China.
The event, in the mountains village of Changliu, was also a coming out party to thank sponsors and supporters who are making Habitat's work possible in the southern province of Guangdong.
Dozens of Habitat volunteers and local officials plus local journalists converged on Changliu for the handover of the home to the first families and to hear about plans to help a further 70 families by June next year.
Though Guangdong province is the wealthiest and most economically developed part of China – it abuts Hong Kong - there are many pockets of poverty.
Changliu is located in mountains about 150 km. north of Guangzhou, the ultra-modern provincial capital. The dark, crowded village houses are made of compressed earth with dirt floors and tile roofs. They lack sanitary facilities.
"Changliu was chosen for our first project primarily because of our relationship and partnership with the Guangzhou Disabled Persons Federation, our government partner," said Habitat regional program advisor Matthew Williams, Habitat's on-site regional program advisor. "They referred us to the village. We evaluated individual needs, abilities, and willingness and selected home partners."
Seven village families – four named Liang and three named Yang and all with disabilities --- were selected for the pilot project. They are subsistence farmers, growing plums, lychees and tangerines as a cash crop. Most have at least one family member working in a shop or factory in an urban area. The annual per capita income is equivalent to just US$650.
The families enrolled under a Save and Build scheme, saving one third of the costs with Habitat providing no-interest loans for the remainder. They also put in "sweat equity".
Habitat intends to assist up to 50 more families in the village, some with disabilities; some without, but all poor. The next phase involves ten of these families.
The first houses took two months to build and attracted several teams of volunteers. Thirty volunteers from the US consulate in Guangzhou, the wealth provincial capital, worked on site and helped raise money.
The final week saw a 17-strong team from international investment bank Credit Suisse First Boston in Hong Kong finish off the work along. The team was headed Paul Calello, the Hong Kong-based Asia-Pacific chairman and chief executive officer of CSFB.
"This was a wonderful experience for the firm and for my family as we were able to see, first-hand, the work that Habitat for Humanity is supporting in rural villages in China, and how it impacts the local community," said Calello. "It was a valuable teambuilding exercise as it brought together employees from all parts of the firm to work together toward a common goal."
Also attending the dedication celebrations was Michael Byrnes, China president of industrial conglomerate Tyco which is sponsoring ten houses and 13 students and two teachers from the American International School Guangzhou's "Habitat Club". The Habitat Club is sending volunteers to work on houses later in the year.
Habitat for Humanity's project office in based in Guangzhou and operates in partnership with the Guangzhou Disabled Person's Federation. Also supporting Habitat's work is the Guangzhou International Volunteer Expatriate Service.
"We have many more interested corporate sponsors and volunteer teams from the area lining up for September to December builds," said Habitat's Williams.
"We are continuing to go forward with our Save & Build projects in Guangdong, and we plan on building 70 houses by the end of June 2006."
Habitat's China operations are a branch of Habitat for Humanity International.