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Habitat For Humanity Advisors Supervise Erection Of 500 Homes For Quake-Affected Widows And Families in Pakistan * * *Habitat Resource Center Site To Be Selected Shortly

January 6, 2006

ISLAMABAD 6th January 2006: Some 500 rural families – 3,000 or so people – now have decent shelter for the winter in Pakistan thanks to Habitat for Humanity and community development partners working to help those left homeless by last October’s earthquake.

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Making a difference: an estimated 3,0000 people now have proper shelter in the mountains

One partner organization is now distributing a further 1,000 shelters.

Habitat technical advisors helped oversee the erection of the first 500 winter shelter kits, mainly in seven villages around Balakot, about 250 km from the capital Islamabad.

The shelters are made of corrugated sheet metal and insulation material strapped onto a specially designed steel structure. The concept was introduced by Partner Aid International (PAI), a Swiss non-governmental organization. PAI is sourcing materials, tools and insulation for the project. The components can be reused in the construction of permanent shelters following the winter months.

Habitat construction specialist Chuck Watkins explained how a simple system allowed the homes to be speedily put up in each community.

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Distribution and training: stoves and components at a Balakot distribution center (left) and learning how to join corrugated sheets

“Components would be made available at a distribution point. Families would come down and haul the materials back to their villages – often several hours away along very rough conditions,” he said.

A Habitat-led team would visit the village for one day and show how to erect the kits. “We would build may be six to ten homes in a day and then leave tool kits and depart,” said Watkins.

A week later, team members would return. In the interim, the villagers would have built another 40 or so houses. “We went back to evaluate on the quality of the building, offer advice and collect the tools for the next community,” said Watkins. He added that some families began customizing the shelters for their own needs as soon as they were erected.

01_06_2006_habitat_for_humanity_advisorsMaking it feel like a home: families customize shelters as soon as they are built

This system allowed seven communities to be served in the weeks before the turn of the year. For one village, the team set up a distribution point two hours’ drive from Balakot: the villagers walked two hours down from the mountains to collect the materials, before starting the long hike back.

Watkins, who has worked on Habitat projects around the world, noted the strong sense of self reliance in the communities. “These were not people who sat around waiting for a handout. They got up and did things for themselves. People joined in quickly everywhere we went.”

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Habitat’s Watkins in Pakistan: working with people who do not sit around waiting for a “handout”

As part of the program, Watkins and Habitat advisors also worked with the Pakistani military to build shelters for widows high in the mountains. The military airlifted materials to remote locations for Habitat teams to build. The widow’s homes included stoves.

The network of hospitals and clinics in the Balakot area that Habitat has been working with is now using the system to build 1,000 more shelters.

Meanwhile, final sites are being evaluated for a proposed Habitat resource center in the area that should be functioning by February.

The center will showcase designs for homes, including a UN-endorsed design. It will also provide technical support to other non-governmental organizations involved in shelter and related services; provide direct shelter assistance as funding was available; network with UN Habitat and other groups in the delivery of shelter to affected areas; and explore opportunities for on-going programs.

The center will be run by a manager and have up to six constructions specialists and trainers. Staff recruitment is underway.