The Publication of Habitat for Humanity International | September 2008
Simple. Decent. Secure.




Sri Lanka

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New Name, Same Spirit

From the Gulf Coast to the Mekong River

Building Momentum

Precious Mettle

All in a Day's Work


Notes from the

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Earthquake response in central China

A resident stands amid the rubble of a destroyed building after an earthquake in Dujiangyan City, 31 miles (50 km) from Chengdu in Sichuan province, China.
A 7.9-magnitude earthquake in central China rocked eight provinces on May 12, killing more than 69,000 people and destroying millions of homes. Government officials in Sichuan Province, one of China’s most densely populated areas, estimate that 3.5 million homes were destroyed in that province alone. One county 31 miles from the epicenter reported that 80 percent of the buildings there were damaged.

Amid concerns over unstable dams and fears of epidemics, the Chinese government outlined its strategy for temporary shelter in the southwest region ravaged by the earthquake. The Ministry of Housing and Urban Rural Development told local authorities to build 1 million temporary or transitional earthquake-resilient shelters by August.

Habitat for Humanity is launching an initial US$5 million appeal campaign for the first phase of a long-term and sustained reconstruction effort. The first phase will begin with a goal of supporting 1,000 families and investing in the capacity to assist thousands more through partnerships with local authorities and other nongovernmental organizations. The strategy will be to seek sites, probably in more remote areas, that provide opportunities to deliver permanent housing solutions.

The response will be based out of Chengdu, which is the capital of Sichuan province, among the worst-affected. Habitat assessment personnel arrived in Sichuan at the start of June. “Habitat for Humanity has a strong and growing program in China,” says Rick Hathaway, vice president for Habitat for Humanity International’s Asia/Pacific region. “Our staff in China and our Asia/Pacific team are well-placed to respond to this disaster, drawing upon our experience of rebuilding nearly 20,000 homes following the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. We are ready to rebuild.”

Habitat for Humanity has had operations in Yunnan province, one of the areas affected and one of the poorest areas of the country, since 2002. Operations in neighboring Guangxi and Guangdong provinces began in 2004. Habitat for Humanity China works with local communities to build houses with families through community-based savings programs.

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One of the biggest barriers to simple, decent shelter for low-income families in Armenia is access to loans to make improvements in their living conditions. These families are typically shunned by conventional lending institutions as poor risks. If they are lucky enough to find credit, high interest rates are unaffordable.

Habitat Armenia has partnered with The Dutch International Guarantees for Housing Foundation of the Netherlands and First Mortgage Company of Yerevan to start a US$3.7 million lending project that will allow low-income families to borrow money at market rates to fund critical home improvements. It is a pioneering project in Armenia and is expected to serve as many as 1,200 families in its first two years.

“We’re excited about helping many more low-income families in Armenia escape indecent housing conditions,” says Don Haszczyn, Habitat’s vice president for Europe and Central Asia. “For thousands of families, access to capital is what they need to improve their living conditions.”

The lending program’s hallmark is its sustainability: As one loan is paid, it is loaned out again for a similar home-improvement project. The loans target families who earn 20 percent to 65 percent of the median income in Armenia.

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In May, Habitat Ethiopia was awarded a certificate of appreciation by the Ethiopian National Association of People Affected by Leprosy for the contributions of its Dessie affiliate and South Wollo association.

Habitat Ethiopia started its support for people with leprosy by building a house with homeowner Ato Sisay Mesele, like it had with other members of the community. The municipality of Dessie provided land in different parts of the town, and to date Habitat Ethiopia, supported by a partnership with Habitat Northern Ireland, has built 12 houses with another 20 currently under construction.

“This prize showed us what we can accomplish in such a short period of time,” says Habitat Ethiopia national director Kebede Abebe. “We have managed to impact the lives of these marginalized groups.”

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Habitat Argentina recently began a rent tutelage project, a different way of facing the urgent need for adequate housing in the city of Buenos Aires. More than half a million inhabitants endure housing problems in Argentina’s capital and largest city.

The project, focused on the city’s southern zone, seeks to connect the supply of available properties with the enormous demand of families living in unacceptable conditions — including an estimated 18,000 people residing in hotels, boarding houses and tenancies with no possibility of improving their situation because they possess no formal collateral. To rent in Buenos Aires, a family needs to own property within the city or obtain the guarantee of such property, as well as have sufficient, secure income. The Habitat program offers an alternative to families with sufficient, though informal, income and with no guarantee.

The rent tutelage project includes a social program called “More than Rent,” which features workshops intended to guide families in their own sustainable development. Additionally, Habitat Argentina — seeing that there are unoccupied properties in the city that have been deteriorating for years — plans to investigate joint restoration projects and improvements in the conditions of buildings in disuse.

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United States

Lions Clubs International Foundation district governor Darrell Hatfield and his wife join members of the Bohrn Habitat partner family on an Idaho build site.
“This is the first time that the young son of Rebekah Roach and Anthony Bohrn will be able to enter his home without being carried,” says Darrell Hatfield, district governor of the Lions Clubs International Foundation. Jacob Bohrn was born with spina bifida, and in his new Habitat home he will better be able to move his wheelchair around on the hardwood floors.

“Lions Clubs are about changing people’s lives, and this project is definitely going to change a family’s life,” says Hatfield. The Bohrn house is the 1,000th house built worldwide by LCIF and Habitat since the partnership began in 2000.

Many special partners of Habitat for Humanity of the Magic Valley in South Central Idaho went to work to complete the Bohrn house in a week. In addition to being a milestone for LCIF, this house showcased the work of local contractors who donated their products and services as part of Habitat’s nationwide Home Builders Blitz 2008.

LCIF has pledged $12 million to build Habitat houses with individuals and families living with physical and mental disabilities. LCIF contributed $22,500 to the Idaho project, and the local Twin Falls Lions Club matched that amount. Twenty-eight local contractors donated products and services to cover the remaining costs for the house.

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In April, more than 800 students, business people and volunteers took to the streets of San Pedro Sula during a fourth annual march for the right to suitable housing.

The objective of the march was to raise awareness of the country’s current housing deficit, which affects some 750,000 families. The event, promoted by Habitat for Humanity, commenced with a prayer by Monsignor Remulo Emiliani, auxiliary bishop of San Pedro Sula, who emphasized the importance of housing — a subject, he said, that always must be present in the minds and hearts of the population.

Students from seven high schools marched from the town’s Central Park to El Merendon national park. Each participating institution highlighted the value of housing, carrying signs with various messages. Some walked with posters bearing the words: “Forging confidence, eliciting hope, building homes.” Others carried signs that read: “We all have a right to a house.”

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The Philippines

In the midst of a truce between the Philippine government and insurgents, Habitat Philippines has been constructing houses on the southeastern island of Mindanao, where thousands have been displaced from their homes over 30 years of conflict. The houses are part of the three-year Build for Peace in Mindanao project, which is funded by the European Commission. The project aims to help people who have sought refuge in communities established by the government and a United Nations program.

Since April 2006, when Build for Peace was launched, Habitat has built and renovated in the cities of Tacurong, Midsayap, General Santos City and Kidapawan. Recently, Build for Peace was extended to two villages in the Sarangani province. As of May 2008, 403 new houses had been built and 161 renovated. Work continues on another 1,000 builds and renovations.

In addition to housing efforts, Habitat is partnering with various nongovernmental organizations to offer infrastructure, community centers, livelihood skills and waste management training. Current activities range from mushroom-cultivation seminars for families to construction skills training for out-of-school youth.

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Costa Rican Habitat volunteers helped in the reconstruction of 150 houses in the indigenous community of Auyha Pihni on Nicaragua’s Atlantic coast. One of 305 communities affected by Hurricane Felix in 2007, Auyha Pihni is completely sustained on agriculture, and its revenue has been unstable since the disaster.

“The principal motive of our trip was to promote brotherhood among the two countries and the right to decent housing for all,” says group leader Andres Valenciano. “Our trip served to help a community that has found itself suffering from extreme poverty and at the same time to eliminate the stereotypes that have shamefully existed throughout history between our two neighboring countries.”

Habitat Nicaragua, together with five other NGOs and the community of Auyha Pihni, currently is working on the reconstruction of the 150 homes, as well as the repair of the local school and restoration of community water and plumbing services. The houses — 387 sq. ft . (36 sq. m.) — are constructed on stilts to resist the occasional floods that strike the area.

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