The Publication of Habitat for Humanity International | February/March 2001
When it rains in Braga, it poursliterally. For months each year, a relentless rainy season dumps up to 80 inches of rain in northwest Portugal. For soon-to-be Habitat homeowner Maria Alves, last falls heavy rains threatened to cave in an already precarious roof. Her house, though seriously decrepit, is tucked amid lush grapevines and flowers that belie the poverty beyond its stone walls. Alves, 64 years old and single, pumps water from a nearby well to a tank on the roof to create running water inside the house via a gravity feed. Her toilet is a basic latrine. To make ends meet, she receives a government pension and sells bread.
Maria Alves house is among 12 multi-family units due for completion this spring by HFH Braga in Portugal. Four of those units were specially designed to accommodate single people and small families on very low incomes.
A nursery officer in a preschool center, Tina Fellows spends her workdays assessing childrens needs and providing positive experiences to help them develop. But at home in an inner-city apartment in a London suburb, her own childrenMicaiah, 8, and Jared, 3were suffering. I felt a failure, she says. I could not provide them with a basic good environment. But south of the Thames River in London, there was hope. Southwark Habitat for Humanity began its newest three-house build last April. Our new house is a real home, Tina says. I now know that Micaiah and Jared will have physical space, and the freedom to play safely, as well as the ability to be part of a community and to be proud of where they live. This project allowed me to gain back faith within. Ive become happy again.
Tina Fellows and her children moved into their house early this year.
In addition to high unemployment and inflation in Poland, many communities face the added challenge of costly rental housing. We could hardly afford staying here [in Gliwice], but I couldnt find a better job [elsewhere], says Tomasz Nikiel, a 28-year-old computer engineer. Their housing priority was to provide a warm and dry home for their two foster children, Kasia, 13, and Artur, 10, and their son, Michal, 3. Doing so caused them to move several times in two years. Investing in our own decent and affordable house through Habitat for Humanity was very helpful, says Nikiel. This way, we hope to change our unstable situation.
HFH Gliwice plans to complete the Nikiels house, which is one of six units in the affiliates fourth row-house building, by July.
With the unreserved innocence of a child, 6-year-old Adam Herczeg tells it as he sees it. In his room in his familys new Habitat house, he says he can jump up and down and no landlady screams at him to keep quiet. He can even play in the yard and have a dog. His family came to Dunavarsany (near Budapest) four years ago in search of jobs and a better life. Adams parents, Laszlo and Margit, did find work, but finding a decent home for their four children proved to be more difficult. The family of six had no choice but to share a tiny 350-square-foot apartment with relatives. Today, they are thankful. After working nearly 2,000 hours of sweat equity to build their own house, they say they would do it all again without complaint.
The Herczeg family moved into their new house last November, and Adam will get a puppy this spring.
The irony of Aniepa Togolokvas life is that she works every day for a construction company plastering walls in other peoples houses. At night, she comes home to a room, 6 feet by 10 feet, amid a slum of shanties. There is no running water, no heat, and only sporadic electricity. Ice forms on the inside walls in winter. Togolokva shares a tiny outdoor kitchen, gas stove and water pump with her neighbors. A single pit latrine serves the entire community. After the fall of the Soviet Union, Togolokvas husband went to Russia in search of a better life, and she was left alone to provide for her six children. The family was forced to separate: two children live with grandparents, two live hours away with other relatives, and two attend boarding school. A house is only part of what Habitat is giving me, says Togolokva. Theyre giving me my children back, too.
Habitat Kyrgyzstan, Aniepa Togolokva and nine other families hoped their sturdy Habitat houses would be closed in before winter. But heavy snows conspired against them, and completion will wait until May.
Reprinted from Habitat World Magazine, February/March 2001.
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©2001 Habitat for Humanity International
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