The Publication of Habitat for Humanity International | December 2001 / January 2002
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Latin America / Caribbean Region

Enthusiasm for Habitat Grows

As part of the 2001 World Leaders Build, Habitat for Humanity Honduras brought together volunteers and homeowner families in the community of Manantial in San Pedro Sula in August. More than 1,300 people, including members of the clergy and the Honduran armed forces, former gang members in rehabilitation, school students, factory workers and partner families from other HFH Honduras affiliates built during the weeklong event.

The most eagerly awaited volunteer at the build site was the president of Honduras, H.E. Roberto Carlos Flores. He arrived at the Manantial site on a hot and sunny August day, as a throng of excited primary school children greeted him with flags and applause. After laying blocks at one of the Habitat houses, President Flores addressed the volunteers and partner families.

“I am here to encourage you and to tell you how much we appreciate your presence in these activities,” Flores said. “What we have here deals with more than the construction of houses. …Collaboration and volunteerism are what we are building.”

Flores already was familiar with the work of HFH Honduras. Following the devastation of Hurricane Mitch in October 1998, HFH Honduras stepped up its building program from 180 to 550 houses per year during the next two years. Generous support from individuals, foundations, corporations, churches and intergovernmental agencies funded this increase in building. In the Amarateca project outside the capital city,Tegucigalpa, more than 300 homes were built, providing safe and affordable shelter to hundreds of people who were left homeless by the hurricane. In April 2000, President Flores helped build and dedicated the first of the 355 Habitat houses built in the Amarateca project.

The need for decent shelter in this nation is clear. In the wake of Hurricane Mitch, one survey indicated that the majority of Honduran houses were considered substandard. In urban areas, "houses” are often made of plastic, cardboard and other scrap materials—risky shelter at best in the face of floods, rain or landslides.

Honduras is one of the poorest countries in the western hemisphere, with the majority of the population earning less than US $1,000 a year, an estimated “underemployment” level of 30 percent and an external debt of more than US $3 billion.

Indeed, economic difficulties, disease, lack of water and sanitation, and poor housing conspire against Hondurans facing poverty. Into that scenario, HFH Honduras builds hope along with houses.

Among the participants at the Manantial community was the bishop of San Pedro Sula, Angel Garachana, who held a Mass for the volunteers and blessed the houses built during the week.

“A house is like an extension of our body, like something of our own, where a family gathers, shares and prays,” Garachana said. “In Honduras, we need to favor low-income people who can have access to a house.”

‘A house is like an extension of our body, like something of our own, where a family gathers…’

For Habitat homeowner Karina Morales and her family, their new house is a dream come true—a dream that would not have been possible without Habitat and the volunteers. “Encourage people to keep on working, because there are many who need this opportunity,” Morales says. “I believe that each day people in need will have doors open for them. May God bless you all for your efforts.You are making a dream of many families come true.”

“The greatest treasure we have is ourselves,” President Flores concluded. “What we are building here today represents the most beautiful example of collaboration. Volunteerism means one is thankful to God for everything he has given us and that we are willing to devote our time for the benefit of those who have the least.”

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