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More Than Half Of 100 JCWP 2006 Families Have Moved In

Thriving Community Taking Shape With School, Community Hall, Shops And Other Initiatives

LONAVALA, India, 19th April 2007: On the last day of the Jimmy Carter Work Project 2006 in Lonavala, India, a foreign volunteer said: “After the volunteers leave, the people will begin their new lives.”

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Looking good: More than 200 children will receive education at the new school (top) on the JCWP site (bottom) where 55 of the 100 families have moved in.

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Fluid movements: Women who live in the villages used to spend a few hours each day getting water from a well or a river. A ready supply of water now makes life much easier.

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Cosy: A coat of paint and personal touches make for a comfortable home for this JCWP family.

This is the case indeed at the site in Patan village where 55 of the 100 JCWP families have moved into their new homes. And the start of a thriving new community was marked this week with a special inauguration ceremony for a new six-classroom school on the JCWP site.

New Jersey-based Fujitsu Consulting contributed half of the cost of the five million rupee (US$118,660) neighborhood school while Habitat for Humanity in India paid for the remaining half. Fujitsu Consulting is the North American consulting and services arm of the Tokyo-headquartered Fujitsu group, the world’s third largest information technology services provider.

“Children represent the greatest potential for any nation, provided they have an opportunity to learn,” said Masayuki Tokuda, executive vice president, Fujitsu Consulting. “On behalf of all 150,000 employees of Fujitsu worldwide, we hope that our support of this project will enable these children to learn new knowledge and skills, opening a whole new world of opportunity for each one of them.”

After lighting a traditional lamp, Tokuda visited a school room with guests including the company’s executive vice president Ron Mitchell, and Jitendra Tanna and Vivek Talghatti, both directors of Fujitsu Consulting India.

Also present were Peter Selvarajan, chief executive of Habitat for Humanity in India; Dow Chemical’s chief executive for South Asia Vipul Shah, who is a member of Habitat for Humanity’s IndiaBUILDS advisory committee. Other guests included Amitkumar Banerjee, director of Samparc, Habitat for Humanity India’s partner organization, and architect Jayant Salvi and project manager Vishal Gaikwad who were both involved in JCWP 2006.

The guests, who also included many home partner families, were treated to song and dance performances from children of the community. Before the performances, Dow’s Vipul Shah quoted a Sanskrit saying: “A house gives you a life to live but education gives you a life worth living.”

This ancient saying is apt for more than 200 children who will benefit from education at the school which will offer classes, most likely in the English medium, for kindergarten to the fifth standard (from ages six to 11).

The JCWP families will not be the only beneficiaries. Each of the six classrooms can take up to 40 students. Children from the surrounding villages may be admitted as well when classes begin in June 2007, pending approval from the government.

While the children’s potential is yet to be tapped, their families have already experienced significant changes in the quality of life.

In their former villages, the women from the JCWP families had to walk an average of half an hour several times a day to draw water from a well or a river. Now that they have a ready supply of water in their houses, the women can use the few hours saved each day to focus on child-rearing and even income-generating activities. Since each home comes with an attached toilet, many of the women no longer have to endure the embarrassment and face the risk of answering nature’s call outdoors.

The peace of mind that comes with a safe, decent and secure house also enables the men to plan ahead for their children’s future. For example, Aziz Sheikh, 38, husband of Habitat home partner Sadhiya, has been setting aside 200 rupees (about US$4.80) every month from his 2,400-rupee salary. This is to provide for his two children’s education as well as any medical emergencies.

Aziz, who recently celebrated his 10th wedding anniversary, is glad to have moved out of his rental home. Instead of paying 750 rupees in rent, he now pays 633 rupees as his equated monthly installment (EMI) for an eight-year loan for his JCWP house.

During the peak season, Aziz often clocks 12 hours a day working as a driver for tourists in Lonavala but he has no complaints. “I want my children to have the education I did not have,” Aziz said. He could not continue with his education after age 16 due to financial difficulties.

The cleaner and quieter living environment on the JCWP site makes a great difference to the children. Home partner Hirabai Ananta Kadam, 53, observed a change in her two young granddaughters after a month in their new home. The two girls have become bolder and interact more with other children in the community, she said.

For other home partners, a decent home makes life easier for their handicapped children. Pointing to her 18-year-old son who walks with a limp, Muktabai Maruti Gujar, 45, said: “This new house is just for him.” In their former house, going to the toilet was arduous for him. Now, he has no problems using the attached toilet.

The community, as a whole, is also stirring. A society has been informally set up, headed by a home partner elected by the rest of the families. Governmental approval has been sought for the registration of the society. The society will be responsible for, among other things, maintaining the facilities and developing the community. For example, the society will decide on the type of goods sold and who will sell them in the five shops that are recently built on the site. Suggestions for goods include staple items such as wheat flour and pulses, and basic necessities.

Another home partner has taken the initiative to start a basic adult literacy class in Marathi, the Maharashtra state language, for the community in late April. The night classes, to be conducted daily at the community hall that is still under construction, will begin with teaching illiterate home partners how to sign their names instead of using their thumb prints, and how to read road directions.

So far, 25 women have signed up for the three-month classes, said Pushpa Vishnu Gaikwad. Pushpa, 26, is also actively looking out for small income generation projects such as embroidery or crafts for the women to do at home. Her dream is for the community to become self sufficient and not have to beg for help.

Expressing a sentiment that could be felt by many, Manda Rammohan Rao, 55, said: “Though we come from different villages, we should now live like a family.”

The remaining construction work at the site, including the final phase of the school and community hall, is scheduled to be completed in mid May. The remaining 45 families are expected to move in over the next few weeks.

Each housing structure is a duplex or twin-style home comprising two 360 sq. ft. cement block homes sharing a central wall. Each home features a living room, a kitchen, toilet, bathroom and porch.

In addition to the five shops, a dispensary/first-aid room has been constructed. A community hall that adjourns the school is also being built. The hall can be used for school assemblies, community meetings and other functions.

The Jimmy Carter Work Project 2006 was held from 29th October to 3rd November 2006 in Lonavala, about two hours’ drive from Mumbai, capital of Maharashtra state in west India. More than 2,000 volunteers from 30 countries completed 100 units over five days. JCWP 2006 was the event that kicked off Habitat’s IndiaBUILDS, an ambitious campaign to provide housing solutions for 250,000 people over the next five years.