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The Keys to That Future

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Michel and Vivitha, homeowners of Habitat’s 200,001st house, pose with three of their five children. Creating a better life for their children is one of the couple’s greatest goals in their new home.

Michel, 34, his wife Vivitha, 32, and their four sons, Steny, 13, Mikedison, 11, Selso, 9, Hyden, 1, and daughter Maglin, 5, will live in the 200,001st Habitat house, to be built in Kanyakumari, India.

Before the Dec. 26 tsunami, the two-room house that Michel’s family shared had fallen into disrepair, and the concrete roof had been replaced with palm thatch. The tsunami dealt the house a final blow. Now it has been stripped down to the few remaining elements that are structurally sound. It will be “retrofitted” with raised concrete flooring, lintel band, plastered brick walls, brick masonry buttresses and a tile roof. It will be a new house.

Michel is a fisherman, and Vivitha makes a small amount of money manufacturing products. Michel and four or five other men go out daily in a small boat to cast their nets for fish, lobsters and prawns. In the best season, the catch may amount to Rps 10,000 (US$230.25) a day. Half goes to the boat owner, and the rest is split by the crew. Michel’s average income is Rps 3,000 (US$69.07) a month.

Michel and Vivitha both belong to self-help savings groups. Vivitha has been saving Rps 80 a month and now has more than Rps 2,000 (US$46.05) put away. She wants to invest so that Michel can one day have his own nets and boat. Michel’s group formed just a few weeks back, and he is the team leader for the 16 men.

“We don’t have a habit of saving, so our group is in a trial period,” said Michel. “We have to show that we can work together, come to meetings and be reliable with the money,” he said. And he is determined to make it work.

More than anything else, Michel and Vivitha want a better life for their children. The keys to that future are a good home and an education, they say.

“With our low income, it is unimaginable to have a new house, so this is great,” said Vivitha. “I can’t believe this is happening to us; with so many people needing help,” she said.