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Former US President Jimmy Carter Visits Habitat For Humanity Tsunami-recovery Homes In Thailand

Visitors Tour A Fishing Community That Is Rebuilding

THACHATCHAI, 1st November 2006: Former US President and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, were in southern Thailand today to visit a fishing village where Habitat for Humanity has built dozens of new homes since the deadly 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

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Mixing it up: former US President Jimmy Carter, former first lady Rosalynn Carter and US ambassador to Thailand Ralph Boyce watch Habitat homeowner Veerayuth “Gob” Namchan pour a mixture of soil, sand and cement into a hand block-making machine during a visit to Habitat for Humanity’s tsunami-recovery project in Thachatchai, Phuket province, Thailand

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Lending a presidential hand: while touring a tsunami-affected village in Thailand, former US President Carter helps make soil-cement building blocks by joining (left to right) Danny Dunham, World Concern, and Osoth Galaving of Habitat for Humanity. Veerayuth “Gob” Namchan, owner of the block-making business, looks on at right.

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Appreciation: former US President Jimmy Carter and his wife Rozalynn received a copy of a children’s book he wrote to the new village library during their tour of Habitat for Humanity’s tsunami-recovery project in Thachatchai, Phuket province, Thailand. The gift was accepted by two village girls.

The Carters met with members of the local community, many of whom are “moken” or sea gypsies who traditionally rely on the sea for their livelihoods.

 Earlier in the week, the Carters kicked off the annual Habitat for Humanity Jimmy Carter Work Project, which is taking place near Mumbai, India. The Carters also toured a Habitat for Humanity tsunami-rebuilding project in Chennai on India’s east coast before arriving in Thailand.

In Thachatchai, on the northeast tip of the tourist island of Phuket, Habitat for Humanity has built 91 houses and repaired five others. Many of the community’s low-income fishermen and day laborers lived in poorly constructed houses that were easily damaged by high water during the tsunami.

The Carters were accompanied by Habitat for Humanity International’s chief executive officer Jonathan Reckford and Nic Retsinas, chair of Habitat’s international board of directors.

“Our village is much smaller than yours, but all of our hearts went out to you during that terrible time. We shared your grief and we also share your determination to restore your life after the tsunami,” President Carter told villagers assembled in a new community building. Earlier the Carters visited a block-making operation that resulted from Habitat’s tsunami-recovery house building, toured a neighborhood and chatted with two families in their homes.

“I am deeply moved and inspired by the collective resolve communities had to overcome the 2004 tsunami,” said Reckford on the visit to Thailand. “Habitat for Humanity continues its work throughout this region, and so many people continue to demonstrate their compassion for one another.”

During the visit Thailand’s permanent Secretary for Foreign Affairs Krit Garnjana-Goonchorn and Vice Governor Niran Kalayanamit welcomed the Carters and other distinguished guests.

Habitat for Humanity has served more than 600 tsunami-affected families in Phang-Nga, Ranong and Phuket provinces with direct housing assistance. In Thachatchai, the 20 houses closest to the shore are wooden stilt houses. Seventy-one houses are made of interlocking soil-cement blocks. Many of the blocks were made by the villagers themselves through a livelihood development partnership of Habitat for Humanity and World Concern, an international social service non-governmental organization.

A Habitat resource center that was established to serve tsunami-affected communities will continue to work with low-income families in southern Thailand, according to Dr. Chainarong Monthienvichienchai, chairman of the board of Habitat for Humanity Thailand.

After their visit to Thailand, the Carters returned to India to continue building homes on the Habitat for Humanity JCWP site. They are among more than 2,000 volunteers who are building 100 houses in Lonavala, near Mumbai, October 29th through November 3rd.

The Habitat homes in India are being built in partnership with low-income families who currently live in dilapidated and temporary housing. The need for housing in India is dire since nearly a quarter of its 1.1 billion population lives on less than US$1 per day. Habitat for Humanity has been at work in India since 1983 building and renovating nearly 12,000 homes plus providing an additional 1,700 homes in tsunami-affected areas, making it one of the homebuilding organization’s largest country programs. 

This year’s JCWP is associated with Habitat for Humanity India’s “India Builds” program. The five-year campaign plans to engage 1 million volunteers in helping to provide shelter in partnership with 250,000 people. The campaign also seeks to raise funds for a sustainable revolving fund worth US$50 million.

The Carters are Habitat’s most famous volunteers. Each year since 1984, the Carters have given one week of their time to build homes and raise awareness about the need for simple, decent and affordable housing. Previous JCWP events have been held in New York City, Georgia, Michigan, the Philippines, Hungary, South Korea and South Africa. Habitat’s JCWP 2007 will be in Los Angeles, California, USA.

For more information about Habitat for Humanity’s Jimmy Carter Work Project, visit www.habitat.org/jcwp/2006/