The Publication of Habitat for Humanity International | December 2008
The Raibevus, who have a 4-year-old son, live with an extended family of 18 members. Like many families in the fast-growing population of Nasinu on Fiji’s main island of Viti Levu, the Raibevus live in a makeshift or “lean-to” house made of wood or galvanized iron.
Trained as a police constable, Lidia later chose to stay home to take care of her young son. Her husband Waisake is a policeman. She first heard about the Habitat program from her neighbor who built her home with Habitat’s help. “I am really excited to have my own home,” Lidia says. “I can’t wait to see the house when it is completed.”
A 10-member team from New Zealand helped the Raibevus with house construction. “I love when we get to work with locals in helping another family,” says New Zealand team leader Shirley Bennett, who has gone on Habitat builds for the past six years. “This is not only a wonderful experience but a learning one for all the volunteers as well.”
The Raibevu house is being built incrementally and has yet to be finished. The family looks forward to moving in. Their old house is some distance from Waisake’s workplace, and he spends two hours traveling to work. Now that he has been transferred to a police house near their Habitat house, he can save on traveling time, as well as cost.
“It is a good feeling to know that our house wasn’t built entirely on hand-outs, but that we contributed to the cost,” says Lidia. “I am happy that with the help of Habitat for Humanity, my family will have a house to call our own.”
Habitat Fiji was registered in 1991 and launched its programs two years later. Habitat has built more than 660 homes in the country.
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In September, Habitat Paraguay celebrated 10 years of building with an event called “Faith + Hope + Action = 5 Houses in 5 Days.” The goal was not only to build five houses in the city of San Antonio, but to reinforce Habitat Paraguay’s local presence and the work the program does to change Paraguayan lives. More than 100 local and international volunteers participated, working alongside partner families such as Susana Faustina Lopez Roman. Roman, who works as a chef in the kitchen of a local hospital, had been living with her mother-in-law in a one-room house of brick and plywood, unable to afford land for a house of her own.
The five-day build was possible thanks to a partnership with Proyecto para el Pueblo del Paraguay, or Project for the People of Paraguay, founded in 1992 by Minnesotans Mike and Sheri Bitzan. When the Bitzans adopted a Paraguayan child, they experienced the poor living conditions found in some places in Paraguay: suburban neighborhoods that lack resources and basic services, people on the streets with bad nutrition, houses with a favorable environment for several diseases.
Habitat Paraguay has been building since 1998. Today, hundreds of families have abandoned their shacks to live in new houses built with Habitat in the country’s Central, Presidente Hayes, Concepcion and Encarnacion departments.
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In May, Habitat Canada received the Canadian Urban Institute’s City Renewal Award. This award is typically awarded to an individual, but this year was presented to Habitat for Humanity Canada and its 70 affiliates in recognition of the large number of Habitat volunteers that were nominated.
The Canadian Urban Institute is a nonprofit dedicated to enhancing the quality of life in urban areas across Canada and internationally. In addition to education and research efforts, the institute annually recognizes leaders having a lasting impact on urban life. The City Renewal Award honors “activities that renew, revitalize and restore our cities through advocacy that shapes policy on major urban issues, thereby promoting attitudinal change, encouraging public participation and transforming our urban landscape for future generation.”
Habitat Canada was organized in 1985 and currently works in 10 provinces and two territories.
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Habitat Mozambique has worked continuously to expand its traditional model of building affordable homes with poor families.
To that end, Habitat Mozambique has developed a program that provides shelter for the poorest of the poor: orphaned and vulnerable children and their caretakers. Most of these families’ resources are exhausted, and merely putting a roof over their heads does not address the multidimensional needs of vulnerable children, which can include legal protection, clean water, proper sanitation, food, safety, education and social support. By partnering with other organizations, Habitat Mozambique helps provide more comprehensive support for these families and quickly removes them from dangerous housing conditions.
Along these lines is a proposed three-year project, which will provide safe, healthy and legally protected shelter for 3,600 families (10,800 orphans and vulnerable children) in 10 to 15 rural communities in the provinces of Maputo, Manica and Nampula. Each house will include a ventilated pit latrine for improved sanitation; cement floors to help keep out pests and moisture; water- and windproof roofing; insecticide-treated mosquito nets to offer protection from malaria; a supply of Certeza water treatment liquid to ensure access to clean drinking water; and training in inheritance planning to protect assets for children and future generations.
The use of local materials and workers helps ensure that economic resources remain within the community and construction occurs at a rapid scale. Partner organizations will help protect the inheritance rights of an additional 3,000 children and will provide health education workshops to each family to increase knowledge about HIV/AIDs prevention, care and treatment; malaria prevention; and small changes in behaviors that can have a positive impact on family health.
Formed in 2000, Habitat Mozambique has worked with poor communities, local volunteers and international teams to build hundreds of houses in Maputo Province and up-country in the provinces of Manica and Gaza. Habitat Mozambique’s original houses were made of cement blocks, but the program has changed its technique in the last few years to adopt local materials and methods in order to lower costs, increase efficiency and community involvement and begin reaching the very poorest families in each community as rapidly as possible.
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The volunteers represented Pakistan Relief, the humanitarian aid arm of Wilderness Pakistan, a volunteer organization dedicated to providing Pakistani youth with opportunities for participating in adventure sports. Pakistan Relief played a major role in rescue efforts following the 2005 earthquake centered in northern Pakistan and today has several aid programs, including disaster preparedness, medical aid camps and skill center development. Their aid activities are centered in the northern, rural areas of Pakistan where much of the earthquake damage occurred.
Habitat Archuleta board member David Smith has visited and taught in Pakistan for years; Smith played an important role in coordinating the volunteers’ visit. The Pakistan Relief volunteers spent a week working with other volunteers building houses and learning about Habitat. They also participated in a cultural exchange, staying with local host families and presenting a Pakistani community event.
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Habitat is providing technical expertise to its partner World Concern in the construction of an initial 400 houses in Labutta town in cyclone-hit Irrawaddy delta in Myanmar. Construction is expected to take about six months with plans to build an additional 2,000 or more houses pending additional funds and other factors.
Habitat is also in the process of designing a mobile sawmill that will help families in different villages use wood from fallen coconut palm trees in rebuilding their homes. The concept is based on an ongoing program in Pakistan where Habitat provides sawmill services to villagers who want to cut and shape new and re-usable timber and wood for rebuilding.
Habitat staff have been looking at needs in communities in the disaster-ravaged southern Irrawaddy delta for the design and construction schedule of the community “safe” buildings that are able to shelter up to 100 people in the event of future flooding. The first safe buildings are expected to be built by March 2009.
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