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Habitatlas | International news | December 2010 -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1

Habitatlas | International news | December 2010

Numbers on the map above correspond to the numbers below.

Habitat KENYA exponentially increases number of families served
In the last fiscal year, Habitat for Humanity Kenya served more than 1,500 families — an increase of 255 percent from the previous year. This tremendous change is a result of a shift in focus: partnering with organized community self-help groups to make small loans that are repayable in a short period of time. These village savings groups, usually 15 to 30 members each, already function as informal, efficient savings mechanisms in communities. A Habitat officer meets with them, offering training and information on housing microfinance loans. Once a partner homeowner has utilized a small first loan and established a good record of repayment, additional phases of lending can follow.

One participant in this new approach is retired teacher Kipkiror Tesot, who lives with his wife and children in Bomet. The family inhabited a two-room mud house with iron sheeting for a roof and a small, detached kitchen.

“It used to be such a hard task for us to continually repair the walls of the house after the rainy season,” he says. “It was such a relief when I learned about Habitat.”

Kipkiror’s first loan of 20,000 kes (US$267) enabled him to lay the foundation of a new house. Through the sale of farm produce, he repaid that amount in only 12 months, and a second loan allowed him to complete his home. “My life has changed dramatically,” he says. “I never had hope that I would live in a decent house of my own.”

Habitat Kenya partner families use their loans for home improvements, incremental building projects, the construction of auxiliary buildings like latrines and the completion of houses. Habitat Kenya currently has six branches and is in the process of rolling out a seventh.

   

ARMENIA
Habitat Armenia recently has completed its Armenian Housing Study, which analyzes the country’s housing issues and identifies vulnerable groups affected by current policy.

Through this report, Habitat Armenia aims to enhance its understanding of the current housing environment, allowing the national organization to scale up existing projects and develop new housing solutions. The study’s findings demonstrate the many housing challenges that Armenia faces — the aftermath of a devastating 1988 earthquake that demolished more than 17 percent of available housing stock, economic collapse, armed conflict, deteriorating condominiums.

In addition to analysis, the study includes recommendations on how Habitat, government and other organizations can begin to address primary needs and form plans to solve long-term problems. To date, Habitat Armenia has partnered with nearly 600 families in the country.

   

SOUTH KOREA
In August, nearly 30 Korean poets contributed both literary skills and labor to a Habitat build in Yangpyeong.

The Poets Build — thought to be the first of its kind in Habitat history — put members of the Korean Poets Association to work on eight units of a two-story residential building project. Association president and professor emeritus at Hanyang University, Geon-Cheong Lee led the build.

“The Korean verb jitda — ‘construct’ or ‘make’ — applies to both writing a poem and building a home,” says I-Yong Kwon, adviser to Habitat Korea and a Korean Poets Association chairperson. “Hence, one can jitda a poem or jitda a house or jitda a meal. They are all essential to human life.”

After completing the build, the poet volunteers took part in Yangpyeong’s Festival of Hope, gathering at a local riverside park to recite poetry focusing on home and family.

   

UNITED STATES
Once again this year, the United States Olympic Committee selected Habitat to be a part of its “Team for Tomorrow” program. As a result, 41 Olympic and Paralympic athletes, Olympic hopefuls, and friends and family members have volunteered on Habitat build sites throughout the United States.

Affiliates that have hosted USOC volunteers this year, both through group build days and individual efforts, include Habitat Washington D.C., Salt Lake Valley Habitat, Anchorage Habitat, Twin Cities Habitat (Minn.), New Orleans Habitat, Habitat Grayson County (Texas), Habitat Grand County (Colo.), Coastal Habitat (N.J.) and Adirondack Habitat (N.Y.).

Three-time Olympian Julie Chu volunteered in D.C. “I believe a good home is the foundation for a good life,” she says. “Being able to contribute to a house that will be someone’s home is an incredible opportunity.” Team for Tomorrow is an ongoing relief effort that consists of financial donations, volunteerism, disaster services, advocacy and other contributions to communities.

   

VIETNAM
In Hiep Duc, Habitat Vietnam has dedicated five houses with partner families affected by Typhoon Ketsana.

Phan Van Hai is among those who now have a solid and secure home. Hai, his wife Huong and their three sons previously lived in a thatched bamboo house. In September 2009, the force of Typhoon Ketsana tore off half the roof of their house and destroyed its walls. Now in his Habitat house, Hai says, he has fewer worries.

Another 15 new houses will be built and 184 existing homes renovated over a two-year period. The project also includes training local residents in community-based disaster risk management and local construction workers in the construction and renovation of disaster-resistant houses.

Project partners include ExxonMobil, the United Nations Development Program, Holcim, Schneider Electric, Hiep Duc People’s Committee and Habitat San Francisco.

   

HAITI
Rose Flore Charles and her two children moved into one of Habitat’s first transitional shelters in Leogane in June. They had spent six months living in a shack cobbled together out of scraps. “Sleeping in the old shelter, the rain always got in,” Charles says. “I’m thirsty for this house. This is not just a transitional shelter for me. It is a home.”

Charles represents the 50,000 Haitian families that Habitat has committed to serving in the aftermath of the January 2010 earthquake. Habitat’s response includes a variety of housing solutions, from emergency shelter kits and house assessments and repairs to upgradeable transitional shelters and core houses. Habitat Resource Centers also are offering structural assessments, construction assistance, financial literacy education, production of construction materials, and vocational training opportunities.

A key part of Habitat’s response strategy is to employ Haitians whose livelihoods have been impacted by the earthquake. Habitat has hired construction supervisors and workers in the cities of Cabaret and Leogane, with similar plans in Jacmel, Carrefour, Port-au- Prince and Croix-des-Bouquets.

   

THE NETHERLANDS
A Dutch foundation is lending its support to Habitat renovation projects in Kyrgyzstan. Op Eigen Wieken is the foundation of a small independent housing association and supports housing and community infrastructure projects around the world. Its support of Habitat’s work in Central Asia will total 240,000 euros (US$305,000) over four years.

Habitat Kyrgyzstan has partnered with condominium associations in Bishkek since 2006. To date, through its condominium renovation work, Habitat Kyrgyzstan has served more than 1,800 families. Stichting Op Eigen Wieken is supporting Habitat projects around Bishkek and in Tokmok, an industrial center in the eastern Chui region. The Tokmok project focuses mainly on repairing roofs and sewage systems in the condominium buildings and will run for four years. In the first year, it aims to rehabilitate at least three buildings and improve living conditions for almost 600 residents.

   

CAMEROON
Ndam Lawrence Monah, his wife Justine Folefeh Bezafut and their two children never used to know how long they would be able to stay in one place. But after years of battling increasing rents and then sharing a home with a relative, the family now finally has a place to call their own.

“I’ve always wanted to own my own home, but our finances never allowed us to build our own. Renting was like throwing money into a bottomless pit,” says Ndam, a doctoral student at the University of Buea. “I am so thankful for this opportunity to own a home and pray that Habitat’s work can expand across our country to help others.”

Twenty new Habitat homes in Buea were made possible by a two-year CISCO foundation grant. In the first year, the legal route to acquire land was completed. Building started in April 2009, and by March of this year, only the final connections for water and electricity were left to be completed.

   

GUATEMALA
Wood-fire kitchens have been ubiquitous throughout the western highlands of Guatemala for as long as most families can remember. And while they do have certain advantages — heat during cold nights at high altitudes and affordability — wood fires typically are built inside or next to the home, often in poorly ventilated areas. Asthma and respiratory conditions are disproportionately high among families using open fires.

Families deeply accustomed to cooking this way seek a solution that protects their families and homes, but also preserves the warmth, the flavor of food and the long-term affordability that open fires provide. Habitat Guatemala is helping by partnering with families to build wood-fire eco-stoves that are safe, well-ventilated and burn efficiently.

One family from each Guatemalan affiliate has received one of these stoves at half the usual loan amount and with one condition — that they open their home to those who might be doubtful so that they can see how it works and ask questions. The approach has been key to encouraging communities to embrace the Habitat alternative.