The Publication of Habitat for Humanity International | February / March 2002
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"All in favor, say ‘aye.’ Aye.” Upon the unanimous vote, some 25 chairs were pushed away from the table; the gathered group clasped hands, united their voices and began to sing the words: “Praise God from whom all blessings flow…”

With that simple affirmation and the Doxology as a benediction, the board of directors of Habitat for Humanity International welcomed four new countries into the fold of its “approved” countries last November.

Those nations–Bulgaria, East Timor, Jordan and Lebanon–brought the number of countries in which Habitat for Humanity is represented to 83.

The affirmation and blessing of each country may have been simple, but the journey to board approval began many months earlier. Clearly, demonstrated need for decent shelter is paramount. But beyond that, it takes people.

“What drives Habitat is people of vision and passion,” says David Haskell, regional director for HFHI’s work in the Middle East and East Africa. “If there are people in-
country, or people worldwide who have a role in a country and they are passionate about the poor, about Habitat’s unique approach, then the most vital ingredient obviously is people who care and who will take action.”

Certainly, the methodology for developing a given country varies in each of HFHI’s regions according to need and resources. “It is different in every place,” says Karan Kennedy, HFHI’s international support director. “Every country is different, every culture is different, every political situation is different. You don’t have one set method or pattern that fits all the different situations. If you did, that would not be good, because that would limit what you could do.”

Even so, in general, area staff identifies a potential new country based on various indicators and progressive steps, such as:

  • Reviewing feasibility of operating in a particular country (including political and economic stability, accessibility of resources, country dynamics, partnership potential).
  • Visiting the country to identify appropriate local interest and contacts.
  • Assigning area staff to establish HFHI operations or activity in-country.
  • Beginning the process of legal registration as a non-governmental organization within that country.
  • Initiating affiliate development and partnership alliances.
  • Establishing initial local affiliate(s), complete with local involvement and leadership.

Prior to a country’s approval by Habitat’s international board of directors, work typically moves through these phases. Once approved, the building of simple, decent shelter with people in need begins in earnest.

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