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US Consul General Among Volunteers Building In India’s Flood-Stricken District Of Kalyan

Saturday Builds part of US$1.5 million flood response initiative to house at least 1,000 families

Positive strokes: Annerieke Owen applying cement to the walls before final touch-ups at Kalyan build site

Handle with care: Jim Cunningham carrying a pan filled with cement plaster at Kalyan build site

KALYAN, India, 23rd May 2006: Villagers in Kalyan witnessed “diplomatic” efforts as volunteers from the US Consulate General in Mumbai spent consecutive Saturdays building in the flood-devastated district in western India.

Led by Annerike Owen, wife of the US consul general in Mumbai, the volunteers have been building in Kalyan on Saturdays since 1st April. The volunteers, including Michael Owen, US consul general in Mumbai, and Jim Cunningham, commercial consul, were contributing their efforts to Saturday Build, a program under Habitat’s Maharashtra Flood Response Initiative.

The US$1.5 million initiative aims to build least 1,000 houses for families affected by the torrential floods and landslides in late July 2005 in Maharashtra and its capital Mumbai.

Working together with the Rotary Club of Kalyan, Habitat for Humanity India is expected to build 100 houses for 500 flood victims in the Kalyan district.

During the builds, the volunteers are split into smaller teams and assigned tasks such as cement mixing, flooring, brick laying, plastering and placing of roof tiles. Skilled masons were present at the sites to guide the volunteers who worked together with the homepartner families. The Saturday Builds will continue until early June when India’s monsoon season begins.

After volunteering on a 29th April build, commercial consul Jim Cunningham commented: “It’s a fantastic experience connecting with the local community. At the same time, I really enjoyed bonding more closely with my co-workers on a completely different level…I’ve already signed up for the next build.”

Mrs Owen has this to say: “Habitat for Humanity has had its place in our family activities for several years now, and it has been a very enriching experience. In Sri Lanka, Ghana, Tanzania and now here in India, Habitat has given us the opportunity to serve ‘hands on’. It is a great way as a family and as a mission to literally build a better future for the people of the country in which we are guests.”

“It has given us tremendous satisfaction to work together with the new homeowners, to learn about life in the village, and to work with our colleagues in the mission. It has been a win-win situation all around. We hope to stay involved with HFH projects for many years to come,” Mrs Owen added.

As part of the Maharashtra Flood Response Initiative, Indian TV personality Pooja Bedi is leading a build in the village of Kondivite in Raigad district, Maharashtra from 22nd May to 25th May.

The districts of Kalyan and Raigad in Maharashtra were among the worst hit in the July 2005 floods which claimed the lives of at least 1,000 people. The floods also damaged or destroyed at least 10,000 homes according to estimates.