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

Habitatlas | International news | June 2009

Numbers on the map above correspond to the numbers below.

Habitat Moves Into UKRAINE With Housing Microfinance Program
Habitat for Humanity and Ukraine’s HOPE International are joining forces to provide affordable home-improvement loans to low-income Ukrainian families. The partnership draws on the strengths of both organizations, Habitat as an internationally recognized leader in addressing substandard housing and HOPE as a microfinance network with well-established clients.

In its first year, the pilot program—in Transcarpathia in the west of the country—is expected to reach 200 families in need of better housing. Poor housing is prevalent in this region, where Soviet-era infrastructure is beginning to crumble and the economy remains weak.

Families who have a strong repayment history with HOPE and meet eligibility criteria will have access to loans ranging from $500 to $2,500 to fund home improvements such as roof repairs, plumbing projects and electrical work. Following the Habitat model, loan recipients will be expected to invest sweat equity in remodeling their homes. The below-market-rate loans require monthly payments, with installments deposited in a revolving fund to generate additional home-improvement loans for more families.

Habitat has been active in home-improvement lending to families in Eastern Europe and is eager to expand its work to Ukraine. “Habitat offers low-income families a hand up, not a handout,” says Lucija Popovska, program director for Habitat’s Europe/Central Asia operations. “We’re excited to work with HOPE on a project that will help many more families into simple, decent shelter in Ukraine.”

HOPE has been issuing microloans in western Ukraine for eight years, but in the past has restricted its loans to income-generating activities, such as small businesses. Over the years, however, HOPE has observed that the high cost of home improvements has prohibited many families from achieving their housing goals. “This new loan product will be very popular with our clients,” says Andre Barkov, HOPE’s Ukraine country director. “These home loans will be offered at low interest rates to the best clients, rewarding their loyalty and their commitment to loan repayment.”

This year, 31 teams from Thrivent Financial for Lutherans are scheduled to travel from the United States to Santa Ana, El Salvador, to help build a community with 75 low-income families.

This “Thrivent Model Community” project includes housing, land, basic infrastructure, green areas, and a daycare and community center. By providing holistic housing solutions, the project takes into account the complex land-access and community development issues faced by Salvadoran families.

Habitat El Salvador and Thrivent Financial share three goals for the new model community: to partner with low-income Salvadoran families to improve the quality of their lives; to provide Thrivent members with an engaging and meaningful experience; and to build Habitat’s capacity to serve exponentially more families.

The Thrivent Model Community will neighbor a similar project built in partnership with North Carolina’s Habitat Charlotte, Thrivent Financial and other sponsors. The success of the original community of 60 homes inspired the second project.

Thrivent Financial for Lutherans has committed up to US$1.3 million to Habitat El Salvador for the project. Construction of the community began in January and is expected to be finished by July 2010.

Habitat Indonesia has made its first foray on the island of Bali, through a partnership with microfinance institution Dian Bhuana Lestari Foundation, or DINARI. A pilot initiative has been launched in Desa Pangkungbuluh village in Bali’s western district of Jembrana.

The Habitat-DINARI partnership involves the construction of 15 homes, as well as the building of a community meeting place. In early February, ground was broken on the build site. There are plans for Habitat Indonesia to host local volunteers and Global Village teams later this year.

Despite Bali’s reputation as an international tourist destination, pockets of poverty exist. Bali-based DINARI was established in1992 to address the social imbalances and environmental problems resulting from the development of the island. The foundation has more than 9,000 clients, with 75 percent of its loans being made to women.

In January 2009, Habitat Romania welcomed its 3,000th Global Village volunteer. This milestone represents the total number of GV volunteers the country’s seven affiliates have hosted during Habitat Romania’s 13 years of housebuilding.

Through the years, volunteer teams have helped families at 14 sites throughout the country to build simple, decent and affordable houses. Habitat Romania runs an active volunteer program involving local and international groups, students, individuals and corporations. From large corporate events building up to 10 houses in a week to individual one-house blitz builds, Habitat Romania makes great use of its volunteers and supporters. Companies such as Petrom, Vodafone, Whirlpool and MoneyGram bring their support to eradicating poverty housing in Romania.

To learn more about the work done by Romanian homeowners alongside volunteer groups, visit

In February, the National Hockey League and the National Hockey League Players’ Association lent their support to Habitat for Humanity of the Mississippi Gulf Coast to build the sixth house of a partnership aiding hurricane recovery efforts along the U.S. Gulf Coast. Employees of the NHLPA and NHL joined Habitat volunteers and future homeowners the Lyons family to begin work on the Moss Point home.

The project is the completion of a half-million-dollar effort that has financed six new homes with families affected by hurricanes Katrina and Rita—this Moss Point house; one each in Atlanta, Dallas, and Nashville, Tenn.; and two in New Orleans.

The overall partnership has engaged NHL and NHLPA teams, players, employees, business partners and fans in various joint community efforts, while contributing to Habitat’s mission of eliminating poverty housing.

This spring, Habitat Sri Lanka celebrated 14 years of home construction and renovation by marking its 10,000th house.

The house, situated in the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo, is home to the family of carpenter Arthur Fernando. Fernando’s old house was destroyed in the December 2004 Asian tsunami; before building their new house with Habitat, he and his family lived in a temporary shelter on the site of their former home for more than three years.

Thanks to Habitat Sri Lanka and partner Tearfund, a British Christian relief and development agency, families like Fernando’s are rebuilding houses and lives. Guest of honor Robert Blake, U.S. ambassador to Sri Lanka, paid tribute to Habitat’s work. “It is through programs like these—programs that bring neighbors together, that partner with non-governmental and other organizations—that Habitat for Humanity’s simple housing projects in Sri Lanka become part of larger community transformation efforts that result in improved livelihood, education and social services.”

With funding support from USAID, Habitat International and the Saje Foundation, Habitat Haiti is now using its 26 years of experience to provide a new type of housing solution that will help families reduce their vulnerability and recover more quickly from the effects of natural disaster. Habitat is providing vocational training, facilitating jobs in the construction sector and supporting construction- related small enterprises through Building and Training Centers in Gonaives and Cap-Haitien.

The BTC projects make a special effort to reach out to women and youth. Maureen Daley, a volunteer with Habitat’s Latin America/Caribbean area office, met with Habitat staff and members of the Gonaives BTC this January. “Women in our training group represented 22 different families—all of them have suffered from the storm devastation and need decent employment to survive and move forward,” observes Daley.

The idea behind BTCs is to provide sustainable economic development, employment opportunities and affordable housing solutions. BTC programs increase the supply of affordable building materials, while building construction skills and knowledge that will help families to build or improve upon their own homes.