The Publication of Habitat for Humanity International | March 2008
The 25 students and five teachers from Lincoln School built with four Habitat home partner families in Kavre district, about 25 miles (41 km) from Kathmandu. The families in Patalekhet village have been saving construction materials such as clay and stones for some time. The home partners were happy that they would finally escape living in dark and stuffy houses and jostling for space with their animals, which were kept in the houses.
During their five-day build in October 2007, the volunteers helped to dig the foundations, pass buckets of mud and water, mix mud, and carry bricks and stones just like a Nepalese mountain porter--in a doko (basket) with a namlo (single strap) around their heads. The students also built a wall for one of the houses.
Construction work aside, the volunteers had the opportunity to interact with the village community through sports and a cultural program put on by the villagers. "It was a lot of fun working with and getting to know the local community. It was fun to play football with the local school," says Daniel Peniston.
Their youthful enthusiasm touched the Habitat home partners. "It was really a wonderful experience for me, working with international people whom I have never met in my life, and I am proud that these [students] built a home for me. I have to preserve my house as they have contributed their sweat in this house," says Sita Lama, a 30-year-old mother of three. She and her family are looking forward to their new 306-square-foot, two-story house. Habitat for Humanity began its work in Nepal in 1997 and has built more than 1,700 homes.
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Habitat for Humanity Mongolia played host to 30 dusty travelers in September when the participants of a novel transcontinental car rally, the Peking Challenge 2007, passed through the Land of the Blue Sky. While in Mongolia, the 15 teams, each including a driver and a navigator, helped two Habitat partner families to build their houses.
Mongolia was the penultimate leg of the 6,835-mile (11,000-km) rally, which started in late August 2007 in the Netherlands and took participants through Germany, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Russia. Organized by The Challenge Company, the rally required all participants to be part of its Adopt a Hero campaign. For every kilometer traveled, 10 Euro cents (14 U.S. cents) would be donated to six nonprofit organizations, including Habitat Mongolia.
The participants joined a Habitat home partner in the ancient capital of Kharkorin, in central Mongolia, to build the foundation for his house. The foreign volunteers attracted not just the attention of the Habitat home partner's relatives but also the governor of Kharkhorin county, who showed up to bid the participants farewell.
Then it was back to the road for another 250-mile (400-km) drive to the Mongolian capital Ulaanbaatar, where the participants visited a Habitat build site in the Bio Kombinat area in Khan Uul district. The volunteers joined the Habitat workers to nail wooden frames that formed the walls of the house and wooden planks for the flooring.
"I am touched by the work of Habitat and its staff, who are committed to building simple houses to help families with low incomes in Mongolia," says Pieter Van Mullekom, who took part in the rally with his wife Gaby. "I have enjoyed very much the Mongolia leg of the rally, the beautiful people and the landscape of Mongolia."
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Habitat for Humanity Guatemala dedicated its 25,000th house in late November after a four-day build in which local and foreign volunteers helped families build 25 houses.
"This special celebration is possible thanks to the wonderful communal working spirit of the Guatemalan people, of which I am proud to have been a witness," says Víctor Martínez, president of the national board of Habitat Guatemala. "When I started working with Habitat Guatemala more than 20 years ago, only 500 houses had been built in the whole country."
The 25-house build took place in Teculután, Zacapa, in the heart of the eastern part of Guatemala, an area in which Habitat has been building an 80-family community. The dedication not only marks the completion of 25,000 houses but also kicks off Habitat Guatemala's next initiative: 50,000 housing solutions by 2012.
The milestone occurred on the heels of special recognition from the president of Guatemala, Oscar Berger Perdomo, who awarded Habitat for Humanity Guatemala the Presidential Medal on Nov. 19, 2007, for its contribution to solving the problem of the lack of affordable housing. The Presidential Medal is the highest honor given to persons or institutions that have made a significant contribution to the improvement of the life quality of the Guatemalan people.
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Chill October days did not scare a group of Consolis employees away from coming to help at the construction work of a 12-family building in Gliwice.
Consolis, a corporation producing concrete prefabricated products, has just begun a three-year partnership with Habitat for Humanity International. The company sent employees to Poland as volunteers to assist in finishing houses, and during two days, they installed ceiling panels in four of the eight flats in the homes being currently built. They also had the opportunity to meet the families they helped--the representatives of Habitat families also took part in finishing both their homes and the homes of their neighbors-to-be.
Among the 24 representatives of 12 European countries, there were two representing Poland. "I'm very glad that I decided to take part in this project," says Wioletta Florczak, HR manager of Consolis Poland. "Initially, it seemed to me that, as a woman, I'd be useless rather than useful, because I know little about building and interior decoration. It turned out that responsibilities can be divided in the way that men performed the works requiring more physical strength, whereas I handled the work which involved greater precision. I didn't feel useless anymore--on the contrary. I came in very helpful and necessary.
"I regard Habitat as a fruitful experience. Firstly, I laid my brick to create a dream house for a Polish family. Secondly, I became familiar with many people from my company, who would probably have stayed unfamiliar to me, had it not been for these works. Thirdly, I discovered something new about myself. I also admit--proudly, as a Pole--that the organization of our construction work was immaculate, which made it easier for foreigners to combine voluntary work with tourism."
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Egypt and Malawi
Habitat for Humanity's Africa/Middle East region will celebrate several milestones this spring with ceremonies, celebrations and site visits.
Homeowners, government officials, community leaders and partners will celebrate Egypt's 10,000th house and the region's 50,000th house on March 27 in Al Minya with a ceremony and site visit to meet homeowners.
The celebrations will continue during the third week of April, when the region's 50,001st house will be dedicated in Lilongwe, Malawi.
Habitat Egypt's housing program began in 1989, where its strong growth can be attributed in part to the practice of working in close collaboration with existing community groups. Al Minya is a province 150 miles south of Cairo, where unemployment and poverty are high. Habitat Egypt is boosting the local economy by purchasing construction supplies, including white limestone, from the quarry and employing local builders.
Malawi is one of the least developed countries in the world, with a heavily agricultural economy that is vulnerable to droughts. Habitat began working there in 1986 and in 2002 began offering home improvement loans. The HIL project is designed to enable families who live in poverty housing to improve their living conditions one step at a time, according to their own financial circumstances. For example, a family living in a thatch house may receive a small loan to acquire a durable roof, a better floor, a latrine, or doors and windows. As one loan is paid off, the families may apply for another loan.
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Members of America's Community Bankers and the ACB Housing Partners Foundation helped frame a Habitat house inside the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas in early November. After the conference, the framed house was transferred to a build site where Habitat is constructing seven new houses. The Venetian Hotel was the site of the trade group's annual convention.
Last year marked the seventh year that ACB has partnered with Habitat for Humanity to build in the city that hosts its convention. ACB and the foundation fully sponsored the house with a contribution of $85,000.
In addition to the build, Habitat's "Slam the Door on Poverty Housing" maze was set up in the convention expo hall. The maze, which debuted at the National Mall in October, is an audiovisual representation of the types of challenges confronting both urban and rural families in poverty around the world.
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