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Habitat For Humanity Completes Houses For 21 “Oprah” Families In Sri Lanka

Funding from Oprah Winfrey’s Angel Network will build as many as 150 houses

AMPARA, 16th February 2006: Things are looking up for 21 families in Arugam Bay, on the south-east coast of Sri Lanka, as houses are completed by Habitat for Humanity and turned over to them.

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House of hope: Newly completed house in Arugam Bay which has been handed over to a homeowner

The 150-house project, funded by US talk show star Oprah Winfrey’s Angel Network, is now 14 per cent completed and is scheduled to finish by the end of December 2006.

Angel Network has committed US$330,000 to housing reconstruction in Arugam Bay, about 300 km from the capital Colombo. Arugam Bay was a popular tourist destination and one of the world’s top surf sites before the tsunami struck in December 2004.

Of the 21 houses built, 13 have been formally dedicated.

The houses are block construction, plastered and white-washed inside and out, with steep-pitched red tile roofs. Each house comprises a living room, bedroom, kitchen and bath.

In Arugam Bay, no large tracts of land have been donated for development by the government to accommodate families that must relocate their houses away from the shore.

Undaunted, the people in Arugam Bay as well as its tourism-dependent businesses are working hard toward economic recovery, thanks to social, educational and livelihood development assistance from international non-governmental organizations.

Similarly motivated are the new homeowners under the Habitat project, many of whom had lost nearly all possessions as well as families and friends, to the tsunami.

Snapshot of a family

Ibralebbe Salfaiyar owned a small shop in Arugam Bay and next to his shop was his brick house which was very close to the shore.

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New lease of life: Ibralebbe Salfaiyar with his wife Samela and daughter Nuskiya in front of his Habitat house

He and his young daughter were away from the house when the tsunami hit, but his wife and son died there.

Ibralebbe reopened the shop after the tsunami, but he hoped, some day, to build a new home on land that he owned further away from the ocean.

Now he has relocated his store to that property and the house sponsored by the Angel Network is ready for the family to move in.

Ibralebbe has married Samela Bagam, the sister of his first wife and along with his four-year-old daughter, Nuskiya, is beginning a new life in a new Habitat home.