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

Habitatlas | International news | June 2010

Numbers on the map above correspond to the numbers below.

Habitat helps Haitian families, begins rebuilding in Chile

On Jan. 12, a 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck Haiti just 10 miles west of Port-au-Prince. A little more than six weeks later, Chile experienced an 8.8-magnitude earthquake that shook the length of the country.

Habitat has been at work in Haiti for 26 years and immediately began implementing relief efforts and addressing long-term shelter solutions that will help Haitians rebuild. Habitat has set the bold goal of serving 50,000 earthquake-affected families in the next five years.

The first phase of Habitat’s recovery effort in Haiti included the distribution of emergency shelter kits designed to help families make immediate basic home repairs and construct temporary shelter. Once the emergency relief phase of Habitat’s disaster response was complete, the organization began rehabilitation and house reconstruction work.

Ultimately, Habitat’s reconstruction efforts will include building earthquake-resistant core houses—small, durable houses designed so that families can expand them over time. Habitat successfully used the core-house model after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and the Indonesian earthquake in 2009.

Habitat also plans to open Habitat Resource Centers in strategic locations throughout the earthquake-affected areas. The centers will focus on specific local needs in ways that support local livelihoods—training in construction skills, support for small enterprises, and training for families in financial literacy and disaster-resistant home design. Each center will partner with local businesses, community-based organizations and local governments to further economic recovery and help low-income Haitian families rebuild.

In Chile, Habitat has built on its existing partnership with the Ministry of Housing to help coordinate recovery efforts. Through its government partnerships, Habitat Chile has offered technical support to families and helped them access government housing subsidies. After an initial mobilization to help affected families in Talca, local Habitat Chile volunteers began to clear ground for the first post-earthquake permanent houses to be built, just a little more than a week after the earthquake hit.


In March, more than 70 international volunteers took part in the inaugural Women Build organized by Habitat India’s resource center in Bangalore.

The build took place in the slum resettlement colony of Hegdenagar. Participants hailed from the United States, Northern Ireland, Australia and Dubai. Joined by volunteers from local corporations, they helped to build 20 houses. Volunteers also had the opportunity to visit self-help groups whose members are saving toward the cost of building their new Habitat homes.

Working alongside the volunteers were Habitat families who used to live in informal settlements in Koramangala and Ejipura, south of the city of Bangalore. Drawn to Bangalore in search of work, the families found that their meager annual income—ranging from US$780 to US$1,300—meant they could only build small thatched huts which lacked privacy and oft en housed extended families. Now that they have their own solid and secure home, they can look to building their families’ futures.

Following the Women Build, Habitat India’s Bangalore resource center aims to construct more than 100 homes for similar communities in different suburbs of the city.


In December 2009 in Minneapolis, Habitat for Humanity International and Thrivent Financial for Lutherans celebrated the completion of the 2,000th house built worldwide during their four-year, $125 million alliance—and began work on the 2,001st Thrivent Builds home.

The 2,001st home signifies the launch of Thrivent’s 2010 commitment of $15 million to support the construction of 181 more Thrivent Builds homes in 37 states. Twin Cities Habitat hosted the milestone house dedication and the kickoff of the 2,001st house.

During the past four years, Habitat’s relationship with Thrivent has engaged more than 350,000 volunteers and resulted in more than 1,300 homes in the United States. Through Thrivent Builds Worldwide, approximately 4,000 volunteers also traveled to build nearly 700 homes in 32 countries. Many of those volunteer teams did construction in two special Thrivent Builds Worldwide communities—35 homes were built this year in a holistic community in El Salvador, and 68 homes were constructed over the past two years in partnership with Habitat of the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Habitat Ethiopia is working to improve the kitchens of partner families by providing energy-saving stoves. In Ethiopia, the traditional way of making fires inside homes to cook can expose the family to harmful smoke inhalation and uses far too much firewood.

Habitat’s energy-saving stoves—made from sand, cement and fine gravel—are produced locally with simple but appropriate technology and can make a big difference. Where a family previously paid approximately 70 birr (US$5.70) for enough wood to cook for two weeks, they can now use the same amount of wood for four weeks, cutting their expenses in half.

Homeowner Alem Melaku says she prefers the energy-saving stove to her previous one. “It has less smoke, and I use less wood,” the Kombolcha resident says. “The plate is hot quickly, so it is much faster to bake injera (a type of flatbread). You can even bake something else on the side.” Habitat Ethiopia has distributed 470 stoves to date in the communities of Kombolcha, Dessie, Debremarkos and Debre Berhane.

In March, Habitat’s Latin America and the Caribbean region celebrated 100,000 families served.

Habitat first began working in the LA/C region in 1979 in Huehuetenango, Guatemala. In addition to new construction, Habitat has expanded its initiatives in the region to include: the rehabilitation and improvement of existing homes, including incremental construction and transitional housing; housing-related technical assistance; training families to build, maintain and pay for adequate housing; partnerships with microfinance institutions to promote accessible housing finance options for low-income families; and advocacy for the right to adequate housing with the goal of influencing policy decisions in the region.

Headquartered in San Jose, Costa Rica, the LA/C area office coordinates the efforts of 16 national organizations, as well as unique partnerships throughout the region.

Habitat Philippines is among a group of partners working to clean up the historic Pasig River in Metro Manila. Launched one year ago, the seven-year project—named Kapit Bisig Para sa Ilog Pasig, or Arm-in-Arm for the Pasig River—aims to transform the river into a zero-toxic and clean-river zone. The polluted river often floods, causing hardship for families living in makeshift shelters built along the river banks.

In its role in the project, Habitat Philippines will help provide housing for some of the 4,000 families who will relocate to a new community in Calauan municipality. Habitat Philippines is using a steel-frame building technology adapted from New Zealand—and already used in hundreds of other Habitat houses built in the Philippines—to construct row houses. Habitat also will refurbish existing housing units.

To date, nearly 660 families have relocated to Calauan. Many families are at work in the community, doing everything from making bags out of recycled materials to planting vegetable gardens. In addition, about 100 men from the community have graduated from house-painting courses conducted by a Philippine government agency.

Just two days after International Women’s Day in early March, Habitat Zambia launched its Women Build Zambia project. A total of seven Global Village teams will visit Zambia between mid-April and August, and the project’s aim is to raise US$500,000 to serve 80 families.

Thandiwe Banda, Zambia’s first lady, and Dr. Kenneth Kaunda, first president of the Republic of Zambia and Habitat Zambia patron, both spoke at the project launch, emphasizing the need for support for vulnerable families.

“The marginalization of women is often kept out of sight by society’s collective blind spot,” says the Rev. Kuzipa Nalwamba, one of several ambassadors for the project. “As a woman clergy and theologian, in a minority-women profession, I am aware of women’s issues from personal experience and so feel the need to be in solidarity with all women.”

With various Global Village teams focusing their efforts on Zambia during the project’s timeframe, the national Habitat office will use the opportunity to educate volunteers on issues that affect women and other vulnerable groups in Zambia, through interactive training sessions during their builds.

In Europe and Central Asia, Habitat is actively working with international schools to organize volunteer trips as part of the community service learning requirement in school curricula. Through Habitat’s Global Village program, volunteer school teams travel to various locations in the region and beyond to work alongside future homeowners. To date, Habitat E/CA has partnered with more than 55 schools and universities.

“Habitat is a fantastic program on many levels for high school students,” says Ben O’Brien, a teacher from the American International School of Budapest. “First, it is a good lesson in basic economics for students, as well as an introduction to social services. Second, it is an excellent hands-on experience.”

To engage international schools in projects throughout the region, Habitat organizes weeklong builds in the period of school holidays. This spring, such events are taking place in Hungary and Romania. This summer, the International School of Helsinki will hold a special Community Action Service Build, also in Romania.