The Publication of Habitat for Humanity International | March 2007
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Building with Bamboo in Nepal

Nepal dedicated its 1,500th house in November.
In November 2006, Habitat for Humanity Nepal celebrated the 1,500th house the organization has built in two years with a dedication ceremony in the tea plantation town of Ilam, east of Nepal.

A model of the bamboo technology that Habitat Nepal employs in its construction, this 1,500th house was made of bamboo corrugated sheets with a foundation built of rubble, clay and cement mortar. The house has three rooms, a verandah, and a toilet and bath. Habitat home partner Bhumika Rai and her husband Hukum are farmers who lived hand-to-mouth selling vegetables and cow's milk.

Nepal's bamboo technology uses weaved bamboo strips plastered with cement or clay on the walls of a house. Six bamboo pillars support the roof and the walls, providing added resistance to earthquakes. Building earthquake-resistant houses is vital, as Nepal lies in a seismically active zone. The indigenous bamboo is suitable for building houses because it is easy to use, environmentally friendly and durable.

"In the past, I could not sleep due to the poor condition of my house. Now, I cannot sleep because I am so happy that I have my own decent house," Bhumika says. "This is a model house, thus many people will visit and see it. They will ask a lot of questions. I have become a teacher to my neighbors."

Among the guests at the November dedication were 12 representatives from the Canadian Architect Legacy Fund, which has chosen Habitat Nepal as a catalyst partner. Eight of the fund representatives in attendance were architects who came to Nepal to learn about the bamboo technology that was used to build the 1,500th house. Trained in bamboo technology, the Habitat staff in Nepal gave a demonstration on using bamboo laminate panels in house construction during the dedication ceremony.

A plan is in the pipeline for Habitat and the Canadian Architect Legacy Fund to facilitate the first community-owned micro-enterprise to produce bamboo laminate corrugated roofing sheets. Previously, such roofing materials had to be imported from India. With local production capacity, the bamboo laminate corrugated sheets will help reduce house construction costs.

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Egypt

The Cairo garbage dump known as Motamadea.
For years, Habitat for Humanity Egypt has been at work in the Cairo garbage dump, an area locally known as Motamadea, helping people build and improve their houses so that they and their children do not have to live side by side with the garbage they rely upon for their income. Habitat loans often allow families to build second or third floors, providing a separate and clean living space upstairs, while facilitating the families' business downstairs. To date, Habitat has partnered with more than 600 families in Motamadea.

A typical day for Habitat homeowner Martha Michael begins at 6 a.m., when she wakes her husband Asaad to leave for his job collecting garbage around the city of Cairo, Egypt. Martha takes her children to school, and then she returns home, where she begins her day of work sorting the garbage that Asaad collected the previous day. In the late afternoon, Martha picks up her children and prepares dinner for the family when Asaad comes home, usually around 8 p.m. After putting their children to bed, Martha and Asaad continue to sort garbage together until they go to sleep.

Martha's day is the norm for many of the families who make Motamadea their home. There, generations of families have earned their livelihood by collecting, sorting, recycling and reselling useful items from other people's garbage.

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New Zealand

Habitat for Humanity New Zealand's Porirua affiliate has dedicated its 277th house, providing a place to dream and grow for a family of seven. The dedication ceremony in Foxton, located on the North Island of New Zealand, started off on a high note with music provided by the Salvation Army. Anand Satayanand, governor general of New Zealand, and his wife Susan also attended the event, which was broadcast by a local radio station.

Habitat home partner Debbie Jerard, 29, says the family takes pride in the house because it is their very own home. The children--Danica, 10; Merrick, 6; Morgan, 5; Reif, 3; and Ocean, 2--appear to be the greatest beneficiaries. With greater space, the kids are sleeping and behaving well, their mother reports, and the family is better situated to walk to the supermarket in town.

Debbie and her husband Mike, 38, worked together with the building team to construct the four-bedroom house, measuring 129 square meters in size. Along the way, helping hands included a Global Village team from the United States and group of Chevron volunteers.

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Argentina

More than 120 women, including 11 from the United States, gathered in Recreo, Argentina, in November to build during a "Women of Faith Building with Love" event.

The event was a joint project of Habitat for Humanity International's Women Build program and Habitat for Humanity Argentina's Church Relations program. The women worked on four houses over the course of eight days, fastening concrete panels to form walls.

According to Victoria Cassels, Habitat Argentina's communications director, "Women of Faith Building with Love" not only gave the partner families a strong message of solidarity, teamwork and putting "love into action" in order to help those in need, it also signified a substantial advance in the construction of their homes.

"In numbers, this means that the work done during the eight days of 'Women of Faith Building with Love' saved the families almost five weeks of work," she says, "which is the time they would have needed to advance the construction to the same point reached during the event."

In addition to the local volunteer support, the mayor of Recreo and various officials from the municipal government and town council worked at the construction site.

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Ecuador

Two awareness-raising marches in Ecuador saw hundreds of people take to the streets in late 2006 to defend the universal right to a decent place to live. In September, more than 100 people representing various social organizations concerned with a lack of housing marched in Quito, and about 600 people marched in Santo Domingo in November, led by Olympic track and field champion Jefferson Pérez.

In Quito, marchers emphasized the necessity of prioritizing public investment in the social sector during presentations to government officials. Preliminary government studies indicate that between January 1999 and August 2004, the Ministry of Urban Development and Housing provided 61,160 certificates (vouchers) for housing; 29,370 were for new housing, and 31,806 were for home improvement.

"If you compare the demand for new housing for poor families to the capacity that the Ecuadorean state has to support the production of public housing, we see that the relation is eight to one," says Lucia Valdivieso, project coordinator with Habitat for Humanity Ecuador. "If you analyze the houses of poor families that need improvements, the ratio is worse: For each 100 families who need to improve their houses, the government can help only one."

In Santo Domingo, the march for housing was part of a larger event that involved children performing ethnic dances and a speech by Pérez exhorting spectators to support the right of all people to a decent place to live.

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United States

Habitat for Humanity Kent County (Mich.) has given "house warming" new meaning as the first organization to build affordable housing that is certified by the U.S. Green Building Council's "LEED for Homes" program.

The Kent County program was recognized in October by the council for a LEED-certified house completed in May 2006. The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Build Rating System is the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction and operation of high-performance green buildings. The affiliate partnered with the Alliance for Environmental Sustainability in a pilot program to determine a feasibility checklist for LEED criteria in residential construction.

While certified LEED homes are becoming increasing popular throughout the world due to their high energy savings and environmentally friendly qualities, they have not penetrated the low-income housing market. Low-income families, however, stand to benefit tremendously from the energy savings. A few thousand dollars invested in green-building practices could help Habitat families save an estimated $2,000 per home per year in electric, water, heating and cooling costs.

"As we applied our typical diligence to lower our homeowners' energy costs, the LEED pilot project presented itself," says Pam Doty-Nation, Kent County's executive director. "Affordability for the long run not only has to do with the house payment but also the cost of maintaining the home as a safe and hospitable environment. The more we can do to lower the total housing cost to our homeowners, the more successful they will be in retaining and enjoying the benefits of homeownership."


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Romania

Flood response in Romania.
In April and May 2006, southern Romania was flooded by the Danube River, which experienced its highest levels in the last century. In response to the urgent need for decent housing created by the catastrophic event, Habitat for Humanity Europe and Central Asia, Habitat for Humanity Romania, and Habitat for Humanity Craiova are partnering with UNICEF and local government officials to reach 300 families in the communities of Macesu de Jos and Bechet.

In Dolj County, home to both communities, 1,840 houses were completely destroyed, while 644 were partially affected by the flood. More than 4,000 people were evacuated. While local government is expected to undertake a building project to assist the displaced, Habitat for Humanity and UNICEF are focusing on assisting families whose homes have been damaged and need repair or renovation by providing access to reconstruction materials and expertise. Thanks to Habitat for Humanity Romania's experience in helping families in need through its traditional program, the organization will help families complete newly renovated homes, with repaired kitchens and bedrooms and proper heating systems and toilet facilities.

"So many were showing up at City Hall, lamenting, saying 'God, what will we do?'" says a local disaster response official. "Right now, in this case, God looks like Habitat to us."


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