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Habitatlas | International news | December 2009 -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1

Habitatlas | International news | December 2009

Numbers on the map above correspond to the numbers below.

New beginnings for Habitat homeowners in NEPAL
Habitat for Humanity Nepal celebrated its 5,000th home this summer at a site in Jhapa district in the east of the mountainous nation. The milestone was reached by the fast-growing program in a country where tens of thousands of families live in substandard housing. One day later, Habitat Nepal broke ground on its 5,001st house in a new urban-slum-upgrade project in Kavre district, about 50 kilometers (30 miles) east of the Nepalese capital of Kathmandu.

A highlight of the 5,000th house dedication ceremony was a special campaign designed to raise awareness of the need for safe, decent and affordable housing. More than 4,000 students—together with Habitat Nepal home partners and local supporters—gathered in Jhapa to draw their dream houses on a cloth banner 5,000 meters (3 miles) in length. By the time the banner was done, 1,500 liters of paint and 1,200 brushes had been used. The banner was displayed in and around the town hall where the house dedication ceremony was held and later presented to government officials.

For Rita Sarki and Madan, their Habitat home marks the beginning of a new life. The couple had been living with Madan’s family in a nearby farming community for the past eight years. “There were over eight persons living in the house, so we had little room to ourselves,” says 23-year-old Rita. “This home will enable us to have the family we have always wanted.”

A day after the 5,000th house celebration, another couple in Kavre district marked their own new beginning. For Anita Danuwar and her husband, Sanu, who are expecting their first child, a Habitat house is most welcome. During the ground-breaking ceremony for their new home, a congratulatory message from Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal was read.

When a U.S. Bowling Championship event at the Cashman Center in Las Vegas wrapped up in August, Habitat Las Vegas mobilized dozens of volunteers to resourcefully cope with the aftermath: lots and lots of wood.

Habitat volunteers logged more than 1,100 volunteer hours over four days dismantling the bowling lanes and other structures for a total of four semi-truck trailers of materials. Some of the wood, such as the 5/8-inch plywood, can be used on the roofs of Habitat houses; other materials will be sold in the ReStore to help fund the construction of affordable houses in Las Vegas.

“It was amazing to see all the volunteers,” says project manager Roger Cooper. “We had 50 on each shift, and they were all raring to go.”

According to Cooper, the affiliate learned about the opportunity through a small-Habitat-world connection: The person in charge of construction for the bowling championship has worked for a Habitat affiliate in the past and makes a point of informing local Habitat groups of the opportunity when it arises.

In Myanmar, Habitat continues to help families affected by 2008’s Cyclone Nargis. As part of the second phase of disaster response efforts—a two-year disaster risk reduction program being implemented by partner organization World Concern—Habitat is slated to build 422 cyclone-resistant homes. When the second phase is completed, Habitat will have been involved in providing houses for 860 families.

The second phase of the project is already under way. Habitat has completed 90 of 120 planned houses in Thaung Lay village, near the southwestern delta town of Laputta. Habitat contracted teams of local carpenters and laborers, and the houses feature an improved design with timber flooring, rather than woven bamboo, to strengthen the floor structure of the house.

To enable house repairs during the monsoon season, Habitat also has distributed roofing and lumber materials to 473 families in seven villages. These materials can be reused later for more permanent housing structures.

Habitat is celebrating 10 years in Kyrgyzstan. Events planned throughout next year range from builds and presentations to the publication of an achievements report in three languages: Kyrgyz, Russian and English. Festivities will culminate with the dedication ceremony of a landmark house for the program’s 2,000th partner family.

In addition to new construction, Habitat Kyrgyzstan runs several diverse programs. There are projects for completing half-built homes that have been in decay since the fall of communism and for improving Soviet-era apartment blocks. Habitat Kyrgyzstan also offers low-income families loans for repair and reconstruction and has launched a program aimed at improving living conditions for people with mental disabilities.

In addition, in partnership with other like-minded organizations, Habitat installs ecologically friendly toilets in mountainous villages where, for many years, communities have lived without proper sewage treatment.

The ground has been prepared, community spaces demarcated, water lines and other infrastructure laid out, and construction begun on 13 homes for families affected by the February 2009 earthquake.

The project has been made possible by a partnership with the Florida Bebidas company, which provided more than US$200,000 to Habitat Costa Rica’s earthquake response efforts. The partnership was forged when one of Florida Bebidas’ employees lost their home as a result of the earthquake.

Families selected for the project have all participated in Habitat’s financial education workshops, which focus on family budgets and successful management of home expenses.

The spirit of volunteerism, characteristic of Habitat’s work around the world, is a noted part of the project. Among other local and international volunteers, each week some 800 Florida Bebidas employees come out to build alongside partner families.

Habitat Tajikistan, with the financial support of the Canadian International Development Agency and Habitat Canada, has launched its first Building and Training Center. Located in Asht, the center offers vocational education opportunities and functions as a social enterprise.

The center has already produced aerated blocks slated for use in the construction of 10 Habitat homes. Courses on welding and sewing are offered, with additional training for electricians, masons, plasterers, painters and carpenters planned. In the center’s second year, Habitat Tajikistan plans to help interested individuals—including women and youth—to gain skills in earthquake-resistant construction.

The building and training center represents an important innovation in Habitat Tajikistan’s response to the country’s need for skilled workers, improved income, reduced migration and eradication of poverty housing. “To see such an important investment in our region at this time of global crisis is very reassuring and provides an important boost of confidence for our people,” says Mavluda Makhamova, deputy chairman of the northern Asht region, who attended the center’s opening ceremony.

This past year, for the first time since its founding in 2001, Habitat Senegal passed the milestone of more than 100 families served in a year. The growth is due to an innovative approach in the program—providing home improvement loans for families in and around the capital city of Dakar.

Dakar is home to about 30 percent of the Senegalese population, and drought, economic hardship and unemployment in rural areas are increasing its population by as many as 125,000 residents a year. Many families are able to access land in the outlying areas of the city through the government’s urban upgrading initiative, but often lack the funds to complete the houses they begin. This is where Habitat provides small loans repayable over a short period of time. Beneficiaries use these loans to meet whatever need is their greatest priority—plastering their home; finishing the roof; installing doors, windows and mosquito screens; building latrines; or adding on rooms. The home improvement program has now served more than 200 families.

Habitat Senegal’s urban strategy also involves building new homes with low-income families in communities where the government has cleared slum areas.

Despite inclement weather, 58 international volunteers from Prints of Hope and Habitat’s Global Village program stood steadily alongside the first three Habitat homeowners in Paraguay’s Jesús district as they received the keys to their new homes. The event marked the end of a visit from the volunteers, but the beginning of a life-changing housing solution for 11 partner families.

Two years ago, the Adventist Clinic of Hohenau began a project called “Dejando Huellas”—or “Leaving Footprints”—in partnership with the U.S.-based organization Prints of Hope. Later, Habitat Paraguay, along with the local and municipal governments, joined the partnership. Together, these organizations carried out a family selection process in the Jesús district, giving priority to families with the most urgent housing needs.

Construction began on the 11 homes in July, with Habitat Paraguay providing technical assistance, as well as materials and volunteer assistance from Habitat staff, local volunteers and Global Village team members.

“The most important thing about this experience is the sum of the efforts that have been made by various organizations to find solutions to housing issues,” says Habitat Paraguay board president Roberto Zub. “This is the path that we should be taking.”