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

Habitatlas | International news | March 2010

Numbers on the map above correspond to the numbers below.

Habitat’s disaster response initiatives span ASIA/PACIFIC REGION
Habitat for Humanity continues to help rebuild homes and lives after September 2009’s series of disasters in the Asia/Pacific region.

In earthquake-ravaged Sumatra, Indonesia, Habitat was the first non-governmental organization to receive government approval for the construction of core houses, or small but well-constructed permanent structures that provide the option of further expansion in the future. Habitat Indonesia plans to build an initial 200 houses in the village of Pasa Bali Kudu, about 120 kilometers (75 miles) from the provincial capital of Padang. In West Java, Habitat Indonesia expects to host its first Global Village team of volunteers from Singapore. Habitat plans to build 1,000 earthquake-resistant core houses with latrines and schools in one year.

In the next phase of Habitat’s response to Typhoon Ketsana, Habitat Philippines has distributed 300 house repair kits in Malanday, Marikina City and Metro Manila. Habitat Philippines also plans to create 2,000 transitional shelters and, in the longer term, 4,000 core houses. Habitat home partners from the former BASECO shipyard site in Manila have helped build steel-framed toilets in evacuation centers.

“I am really thankful for the training I got from Habitat,” says Alex Acampado, one of the helpers whose own home was constructed with steel-frame technology. “Through my work, I am able to provide for my family and also help others in need.”

In Vietnam, which was also badly affected by Typhoon Ketsana, Habitat received funding from Exxon Mobil and cement manufacturer Holcim to support its disaster response effort. Another 400 families will be served through roof repairs. Habitat Vietnam earlier received a US$100,000 grant from the United Nations Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs that will be used to provide roofing materials for 600 families in flood-hit Quang Nam province.

In tsunami-hit Samoa, an initial team of 10 volunteers mobilized by Habitat New Zealand is building a Habitat Resource Center in the village of Lepa and has renovated a church hall for accommodating volunteers. Under a partnership with the Samoan government, Habitat New Zealand will build 350 traditional houses, called fale, in Lepa, as well as in the villages of Saleapaga and Falealili.

Meanwhile, Habitat India has committed to helping rebuild homes after the states of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka were hit by the worst floods in 100 years. The current target is to repair or renovate 3,000 houses, build 3,000 permanent houses, and provide water and sanitation services to 1,000 families.

This month, the World Urban Forum meets in Rio de Janeiro, and Habitat for Humanity is there. Since its start five years ago, the forum has become the premier place to discuss rapid urbanization and its impact on communities, cities, economies, climate change and policy. This year’s event convenes community organizations, government leaders, professionals and youth to discuss key issues surrounding shelter and infrastructure for the urban poor and the sustainability of our cities.

In addition to networking with worldwide housing leaders throughout the event, key advocates from Habitat’s Latin America and the Caribbean area are meeting in Rio to discuss ways that civil society can become more actively involved in public policy.

“Hosting this event in Latin America, in the shadow of Rio’s favelas, provides Habitat an opportunity to coordinate our activities with like-minded organizations,” says Steve Little, public awareness director for Habitat’s Latin America/Caribbean regional office.

Latin America and the Caribbean is the most rapidly urbanizing region in the world, with 77 percent of its population residing in cities. Many of these residents live in informal settlements, with limited access to adequate shelter and sanitation. In a city of more than 6 million, Rio’s favelas crowd in tightly against wealthier communities, revealing a deep split that gives visual expression to this year’s forum theme, “The right to the city—bridging the urban divide.”

Habitat Bulgaria is working to improve the substandard housing conditions of underprivileged families in an effort to help keep those families together.

During the country’s hard transition from centrally planned system to free market economy, many parents left their disabled children in state-run orphanages, unable to cope with the strain of raising them. In other instances, state authorities have assigned children to institutions when they see that parents cannot provide appropriate living conditions.

At the same time, some Roma families, traditionally marginalized by societies and often residing in crammed shacks shared with relatives, also have chosen to leave children on the streets. In an effort to begin addressing the situation, Habitat Bulgaria offers loans to Roma families in the region of Stara Zagora to improve their home environment.

This year, the project has moved into its second phase, partnering with more than 30 Roma families. Small loans have been offered to repair roofs, change flooring, replace window frames, install running water in homes and strengthen house foundations.

Habitat Mexico now sits on the advisory committee for CONAVI, Mexico’s national housing commission, establishing itself as a key player in Mexican housing policy.

Impacting housing policy is a large part of Habitat’s work in Latin America and the Caribbean. Through campaigns, training and technical support, Habitat advocates for systematic changes that will increase and sustain access to adequate housing in the region.

As part of the CONAVI committee, Habitat helps to review public housing policy. But the relationship goes beyond advising—Habitat has provided CONAVI employees the opportunity to build side by side with the families they serve. After a day of work in Aztoacan, CONAVI director Ariel Cano thanked the families that welcomed the team into their community. “Our work is to support the most marginalized populations in matters of housing,” Cano said. “For us, it is a pleasure to be here and to meet you—and it helps us very much in the process of understanding what our work means.”

Due to the difficult economic situation in the Balkan country of Macedonia, average families often cannot afford separate homes. Many people live with their parents, making overcrowding a primary issue of inadequate living conditions. On top of this, most residential buildings in the country were completed 30-plus years ago and are in need of immediate reconstruction and renovation.

To address this need, Habitat Macedonia has begun construction on a housing complex in Veles, an industrial city in the center of the country. This project will provide 11 housing units with 90 apartments over a period of three years. In fiscal year 2010, the first 24 apartments are scheduled to be completed and dedicated.

The Veles build was officially launched by members of Habitat for Humanity International’s board of directors in 2008. Since work began in the summer of 2009, Veles has hosted local and international volunteers, including the president of the Republic of Macedonia, Gjorge Ivanov.

The new neighborhood in Veles will be one of the landmarks in celebrating this year’s fifth anniversary of Habitat’s work in Macedonia. Since it began, Habitat Macedonia has served nearly 700 families.

Habitat Lafayette (Indiana) marked Veterans Day in November by launching its first Veteran Build—a build with a veteran and in honor of veterans. The house construction was sponsored by various organizations including the University of Purdue’s ROTC units and supporters who funded individual square feet of the house in honor of veterans. The homeowner selected for this house is a member of the National Guard in Indiana and has deployed to Kosovo, Mississippi and Iraq in the past nine years.

The Veteran Build coincides with the beginning of a year-long partnership between Habitat for Humanity International and The American Legion that is geared toward sharing opportunities for veterans to advocate, build, donate and organize in support of Habitat’s mission. A toolkit titled “The Legionnaire’s Guide to Habitat for Humanity Volunteer Opportunities” was sent to Legion posts and members is also available online at

In November, the Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project united volunteers and families in need of decent, affordable housing in the Mekong region. During the weeklong build, volunteers built with nearly 166 families in Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and China’s Sichuan Province.

Nearly 3,000 volunteers from around the world participated in the annual event. During the week, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, traveled to build sites in Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and China, greeting the hardworking teams. “It doesn’t matter how large a house is,” President Carter remarked during one of the week’s many interviews. “What matters is the love that goes into it, and then later, the love that comes out of it.”

In the months since the event, families have moved into the Carter Work Project homes in Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, and Laotian partner families have enjoyed the benefits of the week’s repairs and upgrades. The multi-story urban housing units in China are on schedule for completion in mid-2010. In late January, residents of the project’s main build site in Chiang Mai, Thailand, also celebrated the dedication of a community center.

In 2010, the Carter Work Project returns to the United States. Watch the Jimmy Carter Work project section of for updates on the October event.