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

Habitatlas | International news | March 2009

Numbers on the map above correspond to the numbers below.

UNITED STATES Olympians Give Back Through Habitat
United States Olympic athletes, coaches and hopefuls spread the Olympic spirit while making a difference at November’s Olympic Build Day with Habitat for Humanity.

Event participants worked alongside partner families on two Pikes Peak Habitat houses in Colorado Springs, Colo. Throughout the all-day build, athletes did everything from cutting steel beams to installing insulation to nailing down sub-flooring.

“As a Colorado Springs native, I truly appreciate how much this city has done to promote the Olympic movement,” said pentathlete Eli Bremer. “My Olympic dreams were born and fulfilled here, and the people of Colorado Springs could not have been more supportive. I’m proud that my fellow Olympians and I can work through the USOC’s Team for Tomorrow to give back to the city that has been so dedicated to supporting our dreams.”

Bremer is one of 10 athlete ambassadors for the Team for Tomorrow. Launched before the 2008 Olympic and Paralympic Games, the program is the ongoing humanitarian relief effort of America’s Olympic and Paralympic Teams. The effort includes donations, volunteerism and other relief contributions to organizations including Habitat for Humanity, one of the selected causes of the 2008 teams.

In addition to the Olympic Build Day, athletes across the United States also are donating service hours to Habitat affiliates in their home communities. These athletes include race walker Phillip Dunn, Paralympic swimming gold medalist Aaron Paulson, and Olympic field hockey players Lauren Powley and Amy Tran.

Habitat’s increasing involvement in providing decent water and sanitation facilities led to the organization’s sponsorship of the 2008 World Toilet Summit and Expo, held in Macau, China. The annual conference — organized by the Singapore-based World Toilet Organization — brings together commercial and development specialists in sanitation along with representatives from academia, U.N. bodies, the Asian Development Bank, aid agencies and nongovernment organizations.

This year, World Concern’s Carmen Aurora Garcia presented research on how proper sanitation facilities affect the lives of Habitat and non-Habitat homeowners in Cambodia. And Habitat Vietnam’s national director Nick Alexander talked about how microfinance efforts are financing ways for Habitat families to improve their toilet facilities. Nearly 40 percent of Habitat’s program in Vietnam has involved building toilets. More than 1,330 families have benefited to date.

To read more about how Habitat helps provide access to adequate sanitation, visit

In Colombia and Costa Rica, local volunteers have begun to facilitate financial literacy workshops for Habitat partner families through a program funded by the Citigroup Foundation, an extension of the Citi Corporation.

Since January 2007, 52 volunteers have donated 3,600 hours to Habitat Colombia in the regions of Bogota, Medellin and Cali. These financial literacy volunteers have a basic understanding of financial concepts, an ability to facilitate training sessions and the desire to contribute to community development in their home countries. Participants in the workshops range from Habitat homeowners to families waiting to be selected and families that have already received loans from other institutions. The workshops educate participants on how to prioritize their spending, how to budget and how to save for the future.

A similar project exists in Costa Rica. The long-term goal of the overall project is to reach at least 15 countries throughout the region.

Habitat Mozambique has been awarded a nearly $2 million grant to help provide shelter and support for children orphaned by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. According to the United Nations, Mozambique has an estimated 400,000 children who have lost a parent or guardian to HIV/AIDS.

The USAID grant — from the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief — will help build 900 shelters for 2,700 orphans and vulnerable children. The houses will be built in five rural communities in the country’s Manica and Nampula/Zambezia provinces.

For the past four years, Habitat Mozambique has focused on communities that are struggling to care for orphans and vulnerable children. As part of this work, Habitat partners with organizations that train caretakers in inheritance and land rights and provide instruction in HIV/AIDS and malaria prevention.

Habitat’s international board of directors has added France to the list of countries in which the nonprofit organization operates, citing Habitat’s growing efforts in the country.

For the past seven years, schools, churches and corporations in Paris and Lille have sent teams of volunteers to help build homes in other parts of the world under Habitat’s Global Village program. Several French corporations and multinational corporations operating in the country recently have partnered with Habitat. In December 2006, Habitat signed an agreement to work with the French organization Habitat et Humanisme, which has helped 9,000 families in 47 communities throughout France with housing and other basic needs.

Don Haszczyn, area vice president of Habitat Europe and Central Asia, said Habitat will focus on mobilizing more volunteers, funds and other resources from France for international efforts, while continuing to help Habitat et Humanisme offer adequate shelter in-country.

Some 250 volunteers from across the United States gathered in Dallas in November to build nine houses with Habitat partner families as part of the Whirlpool Building Blocks program.

This year’s build took place in the West Dallas community of Greenleaf Village II, a 71-unit mixed-income community that eventually will be home to 13 Habitat families. On average, the median household income in West Dallas is US$25,790, and an estimated one of three families in the community lives below the federal poverty level.

Dallas is the third city to be chosen for the program, which kicked off in Nashville in 2006 and moved to Phoenix in 2007. The program was created to raise awareness of unaffordable housing in the United States and to support Habitat’s mission to eliminate substandard housing.

In October, the Multilateral Investment Fund, a branch of the Inter-American Development Bank, approved funding for the Habitat initiative “Strengthening housing microfinance systems in Honduras and Peru.”

The project aims to improve access to housing microfinance and construction services for low-income families in Honduras and Peru, benefiting a total of 7,100 families: 2,100 during the pilot stage and 5,000 additional families thereafter.

This is an innovative project intended to develop competitive markets for housing microfinance and to create sustainable opportunities for low-income families. It will be the first project financed by MIF that addresses this particular subsector. The total cost of the project is US$1.2 million, with roughly 70 percent of the funding provided by MIF and 30 percent by Habitat LA/C.

Over the past three years, Habitat’s Latin American and the Caribbean area office has explored ways to develop sustainable lending models that serve the lowest income sectors of the region. Housing microfinance offers low-income families affordable loans for each step in the progressive housing process: acquisition of a lot, building, expanding and improving the home.