The Publication of Habitat for Humanity International | October / November 2001
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Asia / Pacific Region

HFH India Shifts Focus to Meet Post-Disaster Needs

By working at the grassroots level to recruit volunteers, raise funds and address cultural and religious differences, HFH India has succeeded in building more than 6,000 houses since 1982.

But when natural disasters strike—as in India earlier this year—priorities drastically change to focus on the immediate needs of those devastated by the loss of lives and homes.

In early 2001, a 7.9 magnitude earthquake hit Gujarat state in India, killing as many as 30,000 to 40,000 people. The massive tremor destroyed 8,000 villages and left 600,000 families homeless. Temporary shelters emerged amid the dust and rubble of former villages and cities as those devastated by the quake began to dig out from the wreckage of their former homes.

“The damage has been so severe that Habitat India intends to respond as quickly as possible,” says national director P. Augustine of the relief effort, which includes HFHI’s Disaster Response Office. “We welcome international, national and local nongovernmental organizations as partners to join with us so we can work more effectively and efficiently.”

Immediately providing emergency relief, the international community began to consider plans for clearing away tons of debris and rebuilding. In July, HFH India received nearly $2 million through a partnership with USAID and World Vision, which has earmarked $1.5 million of the grant to build 665 houses during the next two years with HFH India and Gujarat earthquake victims. World Vision also will implement community-development programs in the areas where HFH India plans to build. The partnership, a key to the program’s success in Gujarat, is expected to act as a springboard to spread the mission of Habitat for Humanity throughout India.

In the wake of the massive earthquake, the city of Anand has been chosen as the affiliate to represent HFH India during the rebuilding phase in Gujarat state. More than 650 earthquake-resistant houses are scheduled for construction in the villages of Shikra-Bachau Taluk and Khamdaria-Rapar Taluk. HFH India expects to dedicate at least 30 houses each month, hoping to complete the project by March 2003.

Natural disasters such as the Gujarat earthquake and last year’s floods that washed through the city of Hyderabad— where Habitat is building 500 houses with families whose homes were destroyed by floodwaters—are only some of the obstacles facing HFH India. The need for funding and partner organizations, the country’s cultural and religious differences and the vast number of people affected by poverty and natural catastrophes provide ample challenges in Habitat’s mission to end poverty housing in India.

The hope is that Habitat’s work and its vital role in the country’s rebuilding process can serve as a groundbreaking for a more extensive foundation within the country, one that breaks down barriers and reaches those people most in need.

“We have nothing left from our lives as we knew it before,” says one earthquake victim. “But even as we have fallen, we are confident that we will rise again, as does the sun.”

HFH Philippines is Community Catalyst
Habitat for Humanity Philippines has been working to help house people in need since 1988. To date, the organization has built more than 4,660 houses toward its goal of completing 20,000 Habitat houses by the end of 2005.

“The Habitat program, through its affiliates, can build as many houses as are needed,” says HFH Managing Director José Mendoza. “But it is not our practice to build individual houses. Instead, we build communities by allowing the families to access jobs, education and health.”

According to Mendoza, one of the obstacles HFH Philippines faces in building communities is the need to broaden the support base and develop a long-term system of funding that goes beyond grants and donations.

“We need to transform one-time
donors into lifetime partners and new affiliates into well-established partners,” says Mendoza. “HFH has been successful in tapping into the corporate sector, but there are still a number of businesses asking how they can participate and a number of churches unaware of HFH.”

Strengthening ties with other institutions that address shelter and community development could build HFH’s network as other nonprofit organizations begin to replicate Habitat’s model, says Mendoza.

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