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Habitat for Humanity Celebrates 10,000th Family Served in Sri Lanka

HFH Sri Lanka Thanks Donors, Partners And Supporters In Colombo Ceremony

COLOMBO, 6th February 2009: Fourteen years ago, Habitat for Humanity started building and renovating homes of families in need in Sri Lanka. Recently, Habitat celebrated the fruit of its labor by marking the 10,000th house built in a ceremony in the capital, Colombo.

 

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Arthur Fernando’s family in tsunami-hit Moratuwa received HFH Sri Lanka’s 10,000th house built.

 

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Rick Hathaway, vice-president of Habitat for Humanity in the Asia-Pacific region, presenting the Nehemiah Award to Reverend Sister John Storey.

 

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U.S. Ambassador Robert Blake passes a roof tile at a Habitat build in Moratuwa late last year.

The celebration marked the earlier handover of the milestone house to the family of carpenter Arthur Fernando from Modera village, Egoda Uyana city in Moratuwa. Fernando’s old house was destroyed in the Asian tsunami of December 2004. His family of five had to live in a temporary shelter on the site of their old house for more than three years.

Now thanks to HFH Sri Lanka, along with partner Tearfund, a UK Christian relief and development agency, Fernando and other families in Modera are rebuilding homes and lives.

“The new house is the result of a great service. We are most grateful for it,” said Fernando of his 300 sq. ft. house.

Gratitude was also on Habitat’s mind when the organization thanked about 75 current and potential corporate donors , partners and supporters assembled in the Trans Asia Hotel ballroom.

Tony Senewiratne, national director of HFH Sri Lanka, noted that the 10,000th family milestone is “a small step for change in Sri Lanka, but a big step for Habitat in building a better tomorrow”.

Among the guests present was Vinya Ariyaratne, executive director of local non-governmental organization Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement. Ariyaratne was thankful for the opportunity of partnership with Habitat through its microfinance institution, Sarvodaya Economic Enterprise Development Services (SEEDS). HFH Sri Lanka and SEEDS will serve about 400 families in the Monaragala and Anuradhapura districts with incremental building and house renovations.

Rick Hathaway, vice-president of Habitat for Humanity in the Asia-Pacific region, presented the Habitat for Humanity International 2008 Nehemiah Award for outstanding volunteer service to Reverend Sister John Storey. Head of a Catholic order in the renowned tea-plantation town of Nuwara Eliya, the reverend sister was credited for raising resources and advocating for the cause of Habitat. Sister John said: “HFH Sri Lanka has become a great source of strength in Nuwara Eliya.”

Guest of honor Robert Blake, U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka and the Maldives, paid tribute to Habitat’s work. “HFH Sri Lanka has been a shining example of Habitat for Humanity International’s ongoing goal to provide simple, decent, affordable housing to people in need.”

Blake recalled his own experience as a volunteer builder in Negombo town and in Moratuwa city along the west coast. “It is through programs like these – programs that bring neighbors together, that partner with non-governmental organizations and other organizations – that Habitat for Humanity’s simple housing projects in Sri Lanka become part of larger community transformation efforts that result in improved livelihood, education and social services.”

Habitat’s Hathaway noted that the happy occasion was really a celebration of the transformation of 10,000 families. “It was made possible by the compassion and contributions of thousands of Sri Lankans and friends of Sri Lanka. The milestone is seen to break the cycle of poverty housing and pave the way for the next generation to live with hope and dignity,” he said.

At the celebration, HFH Sri Lanka’s Senewiratne introduced a research project on housing needs in the country conducted by Prof. S.T. Hettige, chair of sociology and director of Social Policy Analysis and Research Center at the University of Colombo. “The Indicators for Inadequate Housing in Sri Lanka” was funded by Tearfund. As a prelude to field work for the report, HFH Sri Lanka had coordinated an expert panel discussion in March 2007 to determine the definition of inadequate housing and its indicators. Participants included representatives from Sri Lanka’s National Housing Development Authority, UN-HABITAT, HFH Sri Lanka, international non-governmental organization Centre on Housing Rights and Eviction, and Tearfund.

Before bringing the 10,000th house celebration to a close, Reverend Father Lokendra Abhayaratne, president of HFH Sri Lanka’s board of directors, thanked Habitat staff in Sri Lanka for their dedication. His closing remarks to the guests: “Come and volunteer to find the satisfaction of building houses on rocks and not on sand.”