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

Habitatlas | International news | September 2010

Numbers on the map above correspond to the numbers below.

Habitat Chile rebuilds with partner families
Manuel Ramirez and his wife Claudia Retamal had called the Chilean village of Villa Prat home their entire lives. Each day, Manuel woke up to either plant or harvest, depending on the season. He worked hard and eventually was able to build a solid, adobe home—something he had never thought possible.

On the morning of Feb. 27, when the earth began to shake, Manuel held 6-yearold Rodrigo and 2-year-old Martin as the walls collapsed. “Everything was falling to the ground,” he recalls. “But I grabbed my two children, and we managed to escape.”

Once outside, the family watched as their dream flattened to rubble. The four spent that night on the cold street. As the days passed, Manuel and Claudia began to recover what remained after the disaster—a few clothes, some toys, one or two salvageable pieces of furniture, a torn tablecloth. A few more days, and the Ramirez family watched as trucks carted off the rest of their belongings. Rodrigo and Martin became ill, the family living in an improvised shelter that Manuel built from scraps.

Then a teacher at Rodrigo’s school who was volunteering told Manuel about Habitat for Humanity Chile’s response program. With the assistance of local volunteers, the Ramirez family built their new house in just four days. “We’re not going to be cold anymore,” says Manuel, smiling. “This, again, has become a place that we can call home.”

Throughout the next five years, Habitat Chile plans to serve at least 10,000 families in the five earthquake-affected regions, prioritizing the most vulnerable areas. Efforts include repairing homes and constructing prefabricated, low-cost, climate-appropriate and earthquake-resistant housing. An additional 5,000 families will be served through Habitat Resource Centers.

The New Zealand government is supporting Habitat Fiji’s post-Cyclone Tomas rebuilding efforts with a NZ$600,000 (US$406,900) contribution. Habitat Fiji will undertake the reconstruction and repair of houses and schools, while the Australian-funded Fiji Health Sector Improvement Program will facilitate repairs to health centers.

Another key program is the retrofitting of houses to make them more resistant to wind damage. Before Cyclone Tomas hit Fiji in March, Habitat already was working on a 100-house program funded by the Fijian and New Zealand governments. In 2009, 32 houses retrofitted through the Habitat program withstood Category 2 Cyclone Mick.

Habitat Fiji also is engaging visiting Global Village teams in water and sanitation projects through a first-time project with local organization Rotary Pacific Water for Life Foundation. In April, a U.S. volunteer team helped build a water system that serves more than 400 people in and around the village of Bureiwai.

Once construction began, the Acaster family of Welland, Ontario, only had to wait 49 hours and 20 minutes to see their Habitat house completed.

The Niagara Home Builders Association and the Niagara Construction Association teamed up to help blitz build the Acasters’ Habitat Niagara house. A unified team of almost 250 volunteers from the two associations worked together to build the 1,100-square-foot raised bungalow, beginning construction early on a Friday morning in May and turning over the key to Natasha Acaster on Monday. Habitat Niagara CEO Alastair Davis calls the effort a “perfect partnership.”

“This home will give me a sense of pride that I will be able to give the girls a home that is just ‘ours,’” says Acaster. “It’s a place where we can feel comfortable and secure. Where we can be accepted, no matter what. A place to build memories.”

While the eyes of the world were on South Africa in June and July for the FIFA World Cup, Habitat Youth Build volunteers were building 24 new homes with families in need of decent shelter.

The driving factor behind the Habitat South Africa National Youth Build was the principle of national youth service as a way of providing young people with opportunities for learning, training and gaining work experience, while contributing to the overall development of South Africa’s poorest communities.

“We believe that by involving youth they will begin to take ownership and an interest in giving back and become agents of change within their own communities,” says Peter Francis, Habitat South Africa’s resource development and communications manager.

Habitat South Africa hopes the build will grow into an annual event with the participating young people spearheading the drive for next year’s event.

Habitat Tajikistan’s bio-sand water filters project has been recognized with a national 2010 Energy Globe Award in the water category.

In Tajikistan, rural communities suffer from a lack of basic infrastructure. Drinking water is drawn from contaminated irrigation canals and ditches. The scarcity of water resources causes health problems and has economic consequences. The poor quality of water means that families need to boil it, increasing electricity consumption and burdening already-stretched family budgets.

Now, with assistance from Habitat and partner nonprofit Nakukori, families can install water filters in their homes. Simple and environmentally friendly, the natural technology is effective in blocking hazardous particles and lowering chances of waterborne diseases.

Habitat Argentina’s Assisted Rent program aims to change a common misperception among local landlords that low-income families are unable to pay rent. Habitat Argentina provides families with the financial skills needed to create a viable budget and offers social support to the family as part of a guarantee to potential landlords.

Like many families without access to housing solutions in Buenos Aires, Daniel Neyra Portugal was living in an overcrowded and unsafe tenement building. Previously unable to attain property in the city as collateral, a rental requirement that leaves many families out of the Buenos Aires market, Daniel was able to access a rental of his own, thanks to Habitat’s Assisted Rent program.

The Recycling Homes project is another step in the same direction. This year, Habitat Argentina acquired an abandoned tenement building in the Boca neighborhood. The building is being rebuilt into seven units, which will be rented through the Assisted Rent program.

Since the 1990s, many Hungarian housing complexes have seen little or no maintenance, mainly due to a lack of state funds. Habitat Hungary’s ongoing revitalization projects aim to stop the deterioration of this vital housing stock and to improve living conditions for low-income families currently residing in rented homes.

In cooperation with Budapest’s College of Social Theory, Habitat Hungary is renovating three buildings with 40 families in Nagykanizsa. The buildings once belonged to a military hospital and were turned into rental units after World War II. The Habitat rehabilitation work enables families to improve their current living spaces by insulating walls and attics and also assists those in difficult financial situations. One day of work at the renovation site can result in a credit toward their rent.

At the end of April, representatives of Whirlpool Europe gathered for a day of work on another Habitat renovation project in Budapest.

Elizabeth Ogato is a farmer in southwest Kenya, growing bananas and Napier grass and also raising chickens to sell at a local market. The 35-year-old dreams about investing in her business, but has no access to the formal banking sector to leverage her few assets. An opportunity provided through Habitat could change that.

Elizabeth is now participating in a financial education program that Habitat and the Citigroup Foundation have been rolling out in four countries in the Africa and Middle East region.

The program — currently offered in Kenya, Uganda, Cote d’Ivoire and Lebanon — teaches the knowledge, skills and attitudes that people need to adopt good money-management practices for earning, spending, saving, borrowing and investing. Since the start of the program in 2009, more than 1,200 people have been trained on how to manage their finances. Many join savings groups and then take out Habitat loans to build or renovate houses.

“When I heard of the financial training, I did not hesitate to attend because I believed that my life will change if I can learn more about finances,” Elizabeth says. “I want to be an example to others in the community.”

In Moiesti, Habitat Romania and its partner ArcelorMittal Foundation have unveiled the first results of an innovative collaboration: three steel-framed houses.

Developed by the research and development team of world’s largest steelmaker ArcelorMittal in tandem with Habitat construction experts, each “Casa Buna” — Romanian for “Good House” — is an energy-efficient, steel-framed home that is designed to be both earthquake- and hurricane-resistant. Designed as an accommodation unit for four families, the “Casa Buna” offers a solution for less developed regions, especially those prone to natural disasters. The whole construction can be assembled by partner families and volunteers.