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Romania’s former president to join Carter in Gulf

Romanian ex-president Emil Constantinescu will work with former U.S. President Jimmy Carter to build houses in the U.S. Gulf in May with victims of 2005’s devastating Hurricane Katrina and 1,700 other volunteers from around the world.

Leader of Romania from 1996-2000, President Constantinescu will lead a delegation of six Romanians to the Gulf for the weeklong Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project, which also celebrates 25 years of the former U.S. president and his wife building with Habitat for Humanity.

The two ex-presidents are expected to work together for part of the week on a house in Pascagoula, Mississippi.

President Constantinescu, like President Carter, is no stranger to Habitat for Humanity builds. At the Euro2007Habitat Build in Radauti, Romania, the second president of post-Communist Romania worked tirelessly to help build 27 houses in a week, one house for each member of the European Union.

“He is a very hard worker who sets an example for others,” said Adrian Ciorna, national director of Habitat for Humanity Romania. “With only a brief lunch break, he was building for 10½ hours in a day.”

Ciorna is joining the ex-president on his trip to the Gulf. With them will be four other Romanian compatriots.

Ciorna said the Romanian contingent is merely returning a long-deserved favor.

“For over a decade, HFH Romania has been on the receiving end of American generosity, benefitting from millions of dollars of donations to help build homes with families in need in Romania and hundreds and hundreds of volunteers,” Ciorna said. “Time was coming and here it is our turn to honor President Carter, this selfless American, giving by both donating and volunteering on U.S. soil, in a place of great need. Our participation is small but the heart behind is big.”

While in the U.S. for the Gulf project, the delegation will meet with Romanian consulates, media and churches. The Romanian diaspora in the U.S. – persons who have emigrated from Romania to the States – is sizable, although difficult to estimate. Ciorna said he will take to opportunity to tell the diaspora about Habitat for Humanity’s work in Romania, where more than 850 families now have simple, decent shelter thanks to the nonprofit’s help.

In addition to the national Habitat for Humanity office led by Ciorna, Habitat for Humanity works with families in need through seven Habitat affiliates throughout the country: in Beius, Cluj, Comanesti, Craiova, Cumpana, Pitesti and Radauti.

In June, European telecommunications giant Vodafone will sponsor a 10-house build in Cluj to celebrate its 10 years of activity in Romania, sending 300 of its employees to volunteer during the weeklong build.

In the U.S. Gulf, volunteers at the 2008 Carter Project will have their hands full, building 10 new houses in Biloxi, Mississippi, and another 20 in nearby Pascagoula. Also, 30 other homes will be repaired or rehabbed in Gulfport, Mississippi, and 48 new house frames will be built in a “Framing Frenzy” for use by the affiliate later this year.

For more about the Carter Project from May 11-16, go to www.habitat.org/jcwp/2008.