The Publication of Habitat for Humanity International | September 2009
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Habitatlas | International news

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NFL quarterback Kurt Warner joins annual Build-a-Thon in Iowa

NFL quarterback Kurt Warner lent some muscle and some star power to the 2009 Habitat for Humanity AmeriCorps Build-a-Thon in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in June. Warner and his wife, Brenda, both Iowa natives, volunteered on behalf of their First Things First Foundation, in partnership with Cedar Valley Habitat for Humanity.

“You’re always thinking about how you want to be remembered,” Warner says when asked what motivates his philanthropy. “The one thing I know is that all the things that happen on the field — all the accomplishments — they all come and go. But when you impact somebody’s life, it stays with them forever. And that’s the kind of legacy we want to leave.”

In addition to serving as celebrity spokespeople for the event, both Warners spent the first day of the Build-a-Thon working shoulder-to-shoulder with AmeriCorps members, partner families and other volunteers to help build houses with 20 families, several of whom lost everything in the catastrophic flooding last summer that covered more than 9 square miles of Cedar Rapids and destroyed nearly 4,000 homes.

“Habitat is always one of our favorite experiences,” Warner says. “With a lot of programs, you come in and you hope you have an impact, you hope it lasts. But when you get involved with Habitat, you’re building a home. And you know it’s going to pay dividends for a lifetime.”

When the Warners finished helping raise the walls of a Habitat house for Ashley Heinrich and her family, both took time to write notes in permanent marker on the framework of their front door, asking for blessings and protection.

“I just wrote that I hope they laugh so hard that God hears them,” says Brenda Warner. “There’s nothing better than laughter. Sometimes laughter can carry you through a flood or a tornado. It just gives me a good feeling to know that house will be filled with laughter.”

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PACIFIC ISLANDS

Habitat’s Poverty Housing in the Developing Nations of the Pacific Islands report analyzes housing in nine nations and reveals that 40 percent of Pacific Islands households lack adequate shelter.

“We conducted this research as part of our ongoing commitment to create a housing model that makes a tangible difference and improves living standards for those in need,” says Rick Hathaway, Habitat’s vice president for Asia and the Pacific. “To make progress toward reaching the Millennium Development Goals, it is crucial to take a holistic approach to deliver sustainable and cost-effective solutions which incorporate better housing.”

Habitat is embarking on programs in Fiji, Papua New Guinea and Timor Leste to help families achieve home ownership and, to date, has built nearly 2,000 homes. In 2007, Habitat also launched an emergency response program in the Solomon Islands following the tsunami and helped re-house more than 600 people.

These programs support the United Nations’ MDGs and the goal to reduce extreme poverty through community development, housing finance, disaster response, enterprise development and financial literacy, in addition to the provision of safe and affordable housing.

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CHILE

In Chile, for terminally ill children to leave the hospital, their household environment must fit national requirements for home care. The Habitat Chile project “Nuestros hijos e hijas vuelvan a casa” — Bring Our Children Home — aims to create home additions that meet these standards. Through add-ons or improvements to existing rooms, Habitat helps create a comfortable place where children can receive proper care in the comfort of their home and in the company of their loved ones.

The two-year project serves families with terminally ill children 17 years old and younger and includes housing improvements for 200 families. Habitat also is helping to increase access to social services for at least 70 percent of the participating families.

Volunteers in the community, including the families themselves, participate in every phase of the project, from construction to design and education. The children involved also are offered classes in music, painting and dance, as well as caring for themselves during their illness. Parents receive classes in healthy habits, home care and family finances.

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ZAMBIA

After the house they were living in was demolished due to a land dispute, the Phiri family lived in a makeshift shelter on the outskirts of Lusaka, just a few meters away from Habitat’s Tiyende Pamodzi affiliate.

After the death of her husband, mother Ida fed the family by reselling beans, watermelons and fish that she bought from other towns. One day in 2007, Ida left home on business but never came back.

What happened to her is a mystery. In the hope that she would return, the children remained in their shelter of plastic sheeting and wood, without a secure door or windows. To survive, the four children undertook jobs, from collecting water for other households to babysitting and plaiting hair.

Habitat Zambia discovered 19-year-old Dorcus and her siblings in December 2008 and linked the family to partners SOS Village and Bwafwano Community Centre for assistance. Earlier this year, Habitat finished building a three-room house and a pit latrine for the Phiri family. His Excellency Dr. Kenneth Kaunda, the country’s first democratically elected president and a prominent Habitat supporter and spokesperson, attended the house dedication, encouraging Zambians to join Habitat’s work in providing decent shelter for families affected by HIV/AIDS.

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BULGARIA

According to Bulgaria’s official census, disabled people constitute nearly 3 percent of the population.

Many of the disabled are children under the age of 16. Stairs, elevators and building entrances often are not adjusted for special needs, and some are not free even in their own “fortress homes.” Bathrooms can be cramped and difficult to navigate; corridors and doors are usually too narrow for wheelchairs.

With funding from Habitat International’s Women Build program, Habitat Bulgaria is launching a project to adapt homes for some of these families. In Sofia, Habitat will work in cooperation with local foundation Center for Hope to help 20 Bulgarian families with physically disabled children. Apartments will be reconstructed with wider doors, extra spaces, bathroom modifications, and sockets and switches at accessible heights.

Renovation costs will vary from family to family. On average, each family will be offered a loan of US$3,000. They will repay in small installments over a period of three to five years. At the same time, families will be actively involved, from selection of construction companies to monitoring work on the build site.

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MACEDONIA

In the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, nearly 23 percent of rural communities have no access to clean water. Residents draw drinking water from wells located dangerously close to septic tanks or hazardous factories, and many homes lack proper toilet and shower facilities. Some municipalities have invested in building or extending pipelines for water supply and sanitation. However, thousands of families have no money to pay for installation fees or buy the equipment and materials necessary for connection.

Last year, Habitat Macedonia’s water supply and sanitation project, a partnership with microfinance institution Mozhnosti, served 142 families in six months, connecting homes to potable running water and sanitation pipelines. Now, Habitat aimsto scale up the project into a regular multiyear program serving 240 families annually and targeting villages on the outskirts of Skopje, Veles and Strumica.

Habitat will offer families loans of US$390 to $900, payable over three to five years, to get connected to a pre-existing network.

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MEXICO

Habitat Mexico’s top priorities have always included support for single mothers. Representing more than 20 percent of all the homes in Mexico, 4.6 million households are women-headed. In many of these families, the husband has sought work abroad, with hopes that the money he sends home will create a better life for the family he left behind. In 65 percent of these cases, the husbands never return, eventually stopping their long-distance support.

Female heads of household carry the enormous responsibility of caring for their children alone, which on top of poverty, vulnerability and marginalization, can become overwhelming. Without land of their own, many single mothers find themselves living with parents, siblings and other family members. In these overcrowded spaces, it is not uncommon for six people to share a single bedroom.

The “Women Moving the World” program in Mexico will support 100 single mothers in 10 different states, through initiatives that both raise self-esteem and tangibly improve quality of life. In addition to building 100 homes, the project includes construction training and the formation of support groups for single moms.

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