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Joint Habitat Project In Tamil Nadu Trains 35 Women To Be Masons

Villagers in Andhra Pradesh Help To build Or Repair 40 Houses

ANDHRA PRADESH, 13th October 2006: Villagers at Tummalapalli, near the coast of the Andhra Pradesh state in southern India, are taking the responsibility for rebuilding their community after the tsunami.

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Fruit of their labor: Women masons Leela and Mary standing in front of a block wall they made and plastered in Colachel, Tamil Nadu.

A total of 40 houses will either be constructed or repaired in the project by Habitat for Humanity’s Bapatla affiliate in India.

Last month, while five families hosted a ceremonial groundbreaking, 10 men were tearing down a damaged concrete roof to prepare for rehabilitation of the house.

“The houses being rehabilitated were built after a severe cyclone in 1977 through a government program. Most have deteriorated badly and are unsafe,” explained T. Ravi Kumar, site manager for the tsunami-recovery project.

The repaired houses are like new, only better. The walls are strengthened, windows and doors and roof replaced, and a toilet is added. The floor is raised to prevent flooding. Added ventilation and a ceiling height of nine and a half feet, rather than seven feet, make the house much more comfortable.

“We have hired 20 masons, but the local men and women are providing all the unskilled labor,” said Raja Shekar, president of the Bapatla affiliate.

“We are used to working with our hands in the paddy fields, but now we know how to do construction,” said Uhardevi, smiling widely as she took a break from hauling pans of cement. “This is my neighbors’ house. Tomorrow we will work on his,” she said, gesturing to the man who was shoveling next to her, “and the next day, mine.”

Cyclones and flooding are frequent hazards in the area where the low-lying paddy fields are bounded by irrigation ditches.