Magbayanihan Tayo: "Let Us Build Together"
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One of the first residents to express the need for decent housing was Leonisa Salas, who lived with her husband, Salazar; their adult son, Patrocinio; and their 11-year-old granddaughter, Sunshine, in a tiny hut built of bamboo and nipa palm.
"Nanay Nisa (as Leonisa is fondly known) was the first to identify people living in dangerous areas, near canals, the quarries or in the mountains," says Prescy Malimban, the World Vision area facilitator for Cavite province. "She anchored that vision and was the main protagonist."
Her persistence and vision brought her to the day when President and Mrs. Carter helped build her house along with Philippine President Joseph Estrada, as well as former presidents Fidel Ramos and Corazon Aquino.
Watching President Carter wipe the sweat from his brow as he laid block for her walls, Leonisa covered her face and wept. "Too much blessing from the Lord," she says.
The families weren't the only ones at JCWP who felt blessed by the sight of thousands of people -- from many nations, races, religions and backgrounds -- working together to finish these houses.
George Chimasula, a superior court judge in Malawi, saw an opportunity to educate others about the home country he deeply loves and to expand the size of his Habitat family. "When I look at the people here, they are just as warm, wherever they are from. I'm at home with all of them," he says. "It is the warmth of friendship within the Habitat family. I am impressed by the commitment to work here. When they call us for lunch, people say, 'Just let me finish this.' It is a lesson about fun and hard work and a commitment to get the work done."
Like many volunteers, Chimasula worked on a house sponsored by the Habitat affiliate from his homeland. More houses were sponsored by Habitat affiliates and national organizations than in any previous JCWP. "It means a lot to have an Africa house," he says. "I'm quite proud that I've contributed and sweated for this house. It's a dear house, this 'Mama Africa' house."
Certainly, none of the Maragondon volunteers will ever forget the mid-week fiesta in their honor. Walking the narrow street from the buses to the town square, they were greeted by thousands of beautiful, smiling residents who lined the streets, reaching out to shake hands, give them hand-made necklaces and thank them for coming to help their community.
The Philippines were chosen for the 1999 build for several reasons, says HFHI founder and president Millard Fuller. The hope is that the attention created by the build would spread the vision of Habitat throughout Asia and the Pacific area.
More about the Jimmy Carter Work Project:
Daily Reports: Monday | Tuesday | Wednesday | Thursday | Friday
More JCWP Overviews: 2000 | 1998 | 1997 | 1984-96
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