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Whirlpool, women’s tennis tour help rebuild home for single mother, widow

April 14, 2008

BRAGA, PORTUGAL (April 14, 2008) – Maria de la Salete da Silva Brito never wanted to leave the smallish Barcelos house where she and her 10 brothers and sisters were born and raised. But after she inherited it in already poor condition in 2004, she had no money to maintain it and watched it rapidly deteriorate further.

Last November, with rain pouring through a crumbling roof, cold marching through ill-fitting windows and a rotting floor giving way beneath her steps, Maria reached out for help.

In desperation, the 38-year-old single mother and widow asked city authorities for assistance. They referred her to nearby Habitat for Humanity Braga.

On Friday, April 11, Maria watched in disbelief as 21 construction volunteers from Whirlpool Europe and the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour descended on her tiny shell of a home to spend the next three days building interior walls as part of their “Aces for Homes” partnership with Habitat for Humanity Europe and Central Asia. On the first day of work, all of the volunteers were women.

“This is more than a teambuilding opportunity for Whirlpool employees,” said Edda Laudi, Whirlpool’s sponsorship/customer loyalty manager and a leader of one of the wall-building teams. “This is an opportunity to empower a woman-led family and to show Whirlpool’s commitment to empowering women everywhere to lead households with all the possibilities decent shelter provides.”

For Maria, the experience was mind-boggling.

“I never thought something like this would happen, people coming from all over the world to help renovate my house. I can’t thank Whirlpool and the [Sony Ericsson WTA] Tour enough,” she said. “This house belonged to my parents. I don’t feel I have the right to sell it. And I don’t want to live anywhere else.”

The weekend volunteer effort at Maria’s house preceded the Estoril Open in Lisbon, Portugal, one of the stops on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour that ends in Doha, Qatar, on Nov 9th. Approximately 150 more aces were be slammed during the Estoril tournament, bringing to 3,300 the number of aces served during the tour. Under the “Aces for Homes” campaign, Whirlpool and the WTA donate €10 to Habitat for Humanity for every ace. In 2007, the program netted €104,000 for non-governmental organization’s efforts to work with women-led households in Europe and elsewhere.

“The Sony Ericsson WTA Tour and our players are thrilled to team up with Whirlpool and Habitat for Humanity in the ‘Aces for Homes’ project,” said Chris O’Donoghue. “The players are hitting more aces this year than last year, so we hope we’ll be able to help even more families in need of safe, secure shelter when the tour ends in Doha.”

After selecting Maria for assistance on the basis of her need for better housing, her ability to repay a no-profit loan and her willingness to work at least 150 hours on her house and the houses of others, Habitat for Humanity Braga set about gathering volunteer teams like the one from Whirlpool and the Tour.

In March alone, a volunteer team from the United States, another from Austria and two from Braga all worked feverishly to renovate Maria’s dilapidated, 72-square-meter house, starting with demolition of the roof, inside walls, chimney and floor, then moving to installation of a new floor.

By the time, Whirlpool and the Tour arrived on the build site, the walls separating the interior rooms were ready for building.

Armed with a mortar mixer, piles of red blocks and high spirits, the women divided up into four wall-building teams and steadily stacked the bricks straight and true along taut string guides marking the interior layout.

At the end of the day, tired but proud, the women builders celebrated with digital photo-taking and stories of their block-stacking exploits.

Other volunteer teams are following Whirlpool and the Tour to finish carpentry, plumbing, the electrical system and interior/exterior plastering and painting. Habitat for Humanity Braga expects to hand the keys to the “new” house to Maria on June 28.

About Habitat for Humanity
Habitat for Humanity International is a global non-governmental organization that welcomes to its work all people dedicated to the cause of eliminating poverty housing. Since its founding in the USA in 1976, Habitat has built more than 225,000 houses in dozens of countries, providing simple, decent and affordable shelter for more than 1 million people. For more information, visit http://www.habitateurope.org.

About Whirlpool
With 14,000 employees, a sales presence in over 30 European countries and manufacturing sites in seven countries, Whirlpool Europe is a wholly owned subsidiary of Whirlpool Corporation. The world’s leading manufacturer and marketer of major home appliances Whirlpool Corporation has annual sales of approximately $19 billion, more than 73,000 employees, and 72 manufacturing and technology research centres around the world. The company markets Whirlpool, Maytag, KitchenAid, Jenn-Air, Amana, Brastemp, Bauknecht and other major brand names to consumers in nearly every country around the world. Whirlpool’s European Operations’ Centre is located in Comerio (VA), Italy. For further information on the company, please visit the Web site http://www.whirlpool.eu.

About the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour
The Sony Ericsson WTA Tour is the world’s largest premier professional sport for women with more than 2,000 players representing 90 nations competing for $70.8 million in prize money at the Tour’s 60 events in 34 countries. More than 4.7 million people attended women’s tennis events in 2007 with millions more watching events on television networks around the world. The Sony Ericsson WTA Tour season concludes with the Sony Ericsson Championships – Qatar 2008 in Doha, Qatar, November 4-9, 2008. Further information on the Tour can be found on the Internet at http://www.sonyericssonwtatour.com.

Contact:
Eddie Byrd
Communications & Advocacy Director
Habitat for Humanity Europe and Central Asia
Tel: +421 2 336 690 14
Email: ebyrd@habitat.org