banner image
Community springing from dedication -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1 November 3, 2006

Community springing from dedication

The Jimmy Carter Work Project here in Lonavala, India, is going so well that I hated to leave temporarily. But I was glad for the opportunity, while in this part of the world, to see some of the tsunami-recovery work Habitat is doing with families in India and Thailand.

I traveled Tuesday with President and Mrs. Carter, Nic Retsinas, the chair of our international board of directors, and several friends from Citigroup to Chennai on the east coast of India. On Wednesday we headed to a Thai village called Thachatchai in southern Thailand.

In both places it was great to see the efforts, compassion and contributions from so many people manifest themselves in safe, solid homes that families can afford. In villages and towns throughout this region, the tsunami, in countless cases, stole from families not only their homes and possessions, but their livelihoods, as well, their stability and peace of mind. Nearly two years later, many of them have begun to regain that, and it’s truly a joy to see.

About a year ago I visited Thachatchai and saw a few homes being built in this village nestled on an inlet. Many families were entirely flooded, and, as so many of them rely on the sea for fishing, they lost their means of earning an income.

During that visit I could sense the cohesion that had begun building in Thachatchai, and I knew that the community was coming together to help one another—and to help itself. It was a treat to return, even briefly, to Thachatchai and to encounter the fruits of that collaboration. Dozens of homes have been built at this point. New fishing boats inhabit the nearby docks. Wire fish traps are stacked all around.

Habitat has partnered in Thachatchai with World Concern, a nonprofit organization that works with extremely poor families in 32 countries to provide, among other things, micro loans. One individual named Veerayuth Namchan learned to make blocks at a World Concern block-making operation and fashioned the blocks needed for his own Habitat house. The press has allowed him to start his own brick-making business and thus to generate more income. So the bricks he makes help sustain not only Mr. Namchan and his family but the entire community through construction and home improvement.

After touring the village, we celebrated with an inaugural gathering at the local community center. President Carter spoke, as did Dr. Chainarong Monthienvichienchai, board chair for HFH Thailand, U.S. ambassador Ralph Boyce, and I. Some local media and other media from Bangkok were on hand, as well.

The biggest joy for me, however, was seeing the people who live in Thachatchai—who attended and were gracious to let us use their center. It’s delightful to see how well their community is rebounding from the tsunami.

It was a quick trip, but well worth the time it took to make it.

By late Wednesday afternoon we were headed back to Mumbai on our way to the JCWP site in Lonavala—and, boy, what a difference a couple of days can make.

Clearly, the 2,000-plus volunteers had been hard at work, as the houses Thursday morning had begun to take shape, and a neighborhood was emerging.

The vividness of the brightly painted doors and window frames leapt from the grey of the concrete blocks. Some doors were lavender, and others the green of centerfield in Yankee Stadium. Others were the blue of an October sky, still others the orange of a juicy tangerine.

With the sun shining and an energy and spirit palpable throughout the site, I find it easy to imagine a viable community springing from the dedication of so many people—most especially from those who will make it their home.