The Publication of Habitat for Humanity International | June 2007
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A Minnesota ReStore Receives a jump Start

Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity has opened its 'donated' ReStore.
The idea that "when God closes a door, He opens a window" took on new meaning earlier this year in Minneapolis, Minn. In this case, when God closed the doors of Lampert Yards' Builder's Surplus store, He didn't just open a window. He opened a place that would offer lots of windows--and hardware and tools and other building materials--all in the service of building more simple, decent homes.

The owner and operator of a chain of full-service lumber and building materials stores in five states, Lampert Yards made a business decision to liquidate its Minneapolis store in December 2006. The company then made the unexpected decision to donate that entire Builder's Surplus business to Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity, a more-than-$1 million gift including use of the building rent-free, the full stock of inventory and the wages of the store's two employees for the first few months of the new ReStore's operation.

Twin Cities Habitat had been developing a business plan to launch a ReStore for several years, with the hopes of opening a building materials retail outlet by Memorial Day 2007. Lampert Yards' donation made that goal happen well ahead of schedule, as the ReStore opened its doors on Jan. 2 and has now enjoyed several months of sustained growth. The two former Lampert's employees are now Twin Cities Habitat staff and have been joined by a third ReStore staffer, with store business hours expanding to include Saturdays.

"The decision to donate this business to Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity, rather than close the store, felt like the right thing to do," says Lampert Yards CEO Dan Fesler.

"It's amazing to stand in this store and realize that it's our Habitat ReStore," says Kevin Campana, Twin Cities' ReStore project manager. "I have to pinch myself from time to time to remind myself that I'm not dreaming."

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Guatemala

Guatemalan construction continues to increase.
In February, Habitat Guatemala hosted its Conference on Social Housing, the first advocacy activity of Habitat Guatemala, with the goal of fostering discussion about the housing problem in Guatemala.

"One of the main goals of the conference is to get more people into the discussion of finding a solution to the social housing deficit, which in Guatemala means more than 1.5 million people," says Luis Samayoa, Habitat Guatemala national director.

Habitat Guatemala's efforts represent 2 percent of the solution to that deficit, which every year gets bigger. Annually, 45,000 more Guatemalan families find themselves living in inhumane housing conditions.

A few weeks after the conference, Habitat Guatemala celebrated its 28th anniversary and its 23,000th house, located in Santo Domingo Xenacoj, Sacatepéquez, approximately 24 miles from Guatemala City. The house was dedicated by members of Guatemala's national board, national office staff, the local affiliate and by all the members of the International Board of Directors.

IBOD chair Nic Retsinas and Habitat for Humanity International CEO Jonathan Reckford hammered on the sign that identifies the house as the 23,000th built in Guatemala, commemorating the achievement of having helped more than 138,000 Guatemalans move into simple, decent homes.

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Mozambique

Habitat for Humanity Mozambique's initiatives include providing housing in partnership with the country's most disadvantaged groups. Most of Habitat Mozambique's houses are constructed with cement blocks, but new techniques have been developed to make homes affordable for even more families. One pilot project has successfully combined traditional-styled bamboo reed houses with concrete foundations and zinc roofs.

The story of one homeowner who now lives in such a reed house highlights the importance of another Mozambican endeavor: an emphasis on inheritance planning, or the provision of training in the writing of wills that allow protection of property.

When Helena's husband died 17 years ago, she was forcibly removed from their home by his family. Leaving with nothing but her children, she came to a town on the outskirts of Maputo City, where she begged locals for a place to build a small house, a structure with a sandy floor and a leaky roof fashioned from tin sheets, plastic bags and paper sacks. Today, she and her son Rui live in a reed Habitat house with her two granddaughters.

As a new homeowner, Helena recently attended Habitat training on inheritance planning and wills. During the training, Habitat community officer Aida Temba routinely discusses the important reasons for inheritance planning, from the possibilities of forced eviction for women and families to the unfortunate circumstances of children fighting over a home or other assets. Helena began to cry, says Temba, explaining that the training seemed to be mirroring her life experience.

After the seminar, Helena shared with Aida how happy she was to learn that she could protect her own children from the suffering she had endured.

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France

Bound by a common mission to end poverty housing, Habitat for Humanity and France's Habitat et Humanisme signed a partnership in February to leverage their strengths.

The partnership aims to combat poverty housing in France and worldwide. In the framework of a memorandum of understanding, the two organizations have agreed to collaborate in areas including housing policy, housing construction, capacity building, training, community development and mobilization, volunteerism, family integration, research and monitoring, housing finance, communications, fund raising, financing, international project development, and French project and event management. Events may include joint construction building events, corporate partnerships, and potential involvement by Habitat for Humanity supporters and French tennis stars Amelie Mauresmo and Mary Pierce.

Habitat et Humanisme has been fighting poverty housing for more than 20 years. Created in 1985 in Lyon, H&H currently operates in 70 French cities and has helped 30,000 people in need to find accommodations.

"For years, French pioneers in this field, such as the late Abbé Pierre [founder of the Emmaus movement] and Father Bernard Devert [founder of Habitat et Humanisme] have been inspirations to all of us striving to end poverty housing and homelessness," says Don Haszczyn, Habitat's vice president of Europe and Central Asia. "We're delighted that H&H in France will be adding their voice and expertise to the global cause and to be working in partnership with them."

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Singapore

In early June, Habitat Singapore will attempt to set a Guinness World Record. The title Habitat Singapore has in mind is for the largest packaged-product display.

Over three days, about 100 volunteers will work in shifts to "build" a village of five houses made with bricks of Tetra Pak drink cartons. The event will be held outdoors at Vivo City, Singapore's newest and largest mall. It is expected to attract hundreds of visitors each day, and Habitat Singapore hopes to raise S$100,000 (approximately US$65,450) to support its work.

Event participants will be able to make a donation and have their names written on the Tetra Pak "bricks" or to volunteer to build the houses. Habitat Singapore has worked to tap the interest of businesses that may sponsor walls or even a whole house. The main sponsor for the event is Cathay Pacific Airways.

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