The Publication of Habitat for Humanity International | September 2006
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Global Reach

This summer, in Vancouver, British Columbia, Habitat for Humanity International participated in the World Urban Forum. Established by the United Nations, the biennial event examines the impact of rapid urbanization on communities, cities, economies and policies. In celebration of Habitat's 30th anniversary, the organization shared with forum participants 30 initiatives that highlight its efforts toward improving housing worldwide. Here are a few examples:

Adnan Ubit
Indian Ocean Tsunami Update
The December 2004 tsunami swept away Adnan Ubit's wife, his home and the life he had planned for retirement. The 60-yearold former government worker now shares a new Habitat for Humanity house with three of his four grown children. Together, they started a plant nursery in front of their home so that others returning to Meulaboh on the west coast of Indonesia's Aceh province can restore their gardens with flowers and fruit trees.

Since the disaster, Habitat for Humanity has helped more than 8,000 tsunami-affected families like Ubit's in Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka and Thailand. Many more stand to benefit as Habitat continues its tsunami-recovery house construction, disaster mitigation and other services. More than 5,200 houses have been built or repaired, and more than 2,600 are under construction. Over the next year and half, plans include providing housing for an additional 10,000 families and continuing to assist with training and disaster-mitigation services.

In tsunami-affected areas, there is still great need. Many people who didn't lose their houses lost jobs, income, support systems. They are having a harder time making ends meet and maintaining their way of life. In many areas, water, electricity, sanitation and other infrastructure and services are yet to be completed. Schools, community centers and clinics are needed. The geographic remoteness of some communities and complicated process of obtaining land means that, in some places, Habitat is only now beginning construction.

Rebuilding the tsunami-affected regions will continue long into the future and Habitat national programs will be there to help. Habitat's national organizations in India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Thailand will continue to serve the housing needs of families in the tsunami-affected regions through Habitat Resource Centers. These centers offer a range of small-business and training support, bridging the housing affordability gap in communities by facilitating the development of local businesses needed to provide simple, decent, affordable homes.

Visit www.habitat.org/disaster/2004/asia_tsunami/18month to read Habitat's latest tsunami report: "Recovery and Beyond."

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The Philippines
Concrete Interlocking Block technology
Each year, the Philippines needs 300,000 housing units to accommodate its growing population of nearly 88 million--a figure that is expected to double in another 30 years. In order to serve more families at a significantly lower cost, Habitat Philippines set up a Habitat Resource Center in 2004 to provide the local population with construction training and the skills to build and repair their own houses. The HRC has developed Concrete Interlocking Block technology, which saves approximately one-fifth on the cost of the cement used in an average house build. The cost-efficient, innovative technology--which joins the blocks by steel rebar with concrete poured through holes inside the blocks--has been used to build 2,000 homes as well as 10 three-story buildings.

To date, thanks to HRC resources, more than 3,600 houses have been built and more than 100 people have been trained in construction skills and site/project management. CIB technology also has been exported to Habitat's program in the Pacific island state of Vanuatu.

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Macedonia
Official statistics estimate that 12 percent of Macedonians live in substandard conditions, but the real figure is thought to be much higher. Since average families cannot afford to buy new homes due to difficult financial conditions, many live in their parents' houses. The average age of buildings in most Macedonian cities is about 30 years, and many of them are in need of immediate renovation due to poor maintenance.

In partnership with the local affiliate of Opportunity International (Moznosti), Habitat for Humanity established a home improvement fund to help families renovate or repair their substandard housing. Families receive small loans from the fund, which they then repay over five years with subsidized interest rates. By 2009, Habitat plans to serve 328 families through the micro-loans. Habitat also provides free construction advice to families.

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Singapore
"Under No Roof" participants in Singapore
In Singapore, the government's public housing program is so successful that most people have little idea what it is like to live without a roof over their heads. In 2003, a group of concerned volunteers at Habitat for Humanity Singapore took action to build awareness of the plight of the poor and homeless in Asia and the Pacific. Their answer was the "Under No Roof " project.

The "Under No Roof " event gathers hundreds of young people to spend a night in shelters that they have constructed themselves. Participants are given cardboard boxes and masking tape to "build" shelters--in groups of 10 - in which they will spend the night. Events also often incorporate role play, having participants "buy" their building materials with a limited amount of play money. Habitat facilitators lead discussions on the problem of poverty housing and its possible solutions.

In June, the event's fourth year, HFH Singapore merged "Under No Roof" with World Vision Singapore's Famine Camp 2006, in which participants went without food for 30 hours. This year's event also included a simulated disaster scenario in addition to presentations on poverty housing, famine and HIV/AIDS. Approximately 700 students experienced the combined, two-day event.

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Canada
Partnering with British Columbia Housing in 1999, Habitat for Humanity Greater Vancouver signed an affordable housing agreement with the provincial government that allowed the affiliate to purchase available government-owned land along a railway corridor at 25 percent of its market value. The land was originally zoned for the construction of just one house, but a public hearing resulted in a plan for a 27-townhouse community.

The Vancouver site, which was raw land, required intense prep work; the entire development was planned in six phases over several years. By the spring of 2002, four families were able to call the development home. With sponsorship and the opening of a ReStore, the second phase of four houses was completed in 2004. By this winter, 12 families will have found new homes in the development.

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Angola
Angola came to the end of a 35-year civil war in 2002. The conflict, which destroyed towns and cities and severely damaged the country's economy, killed or wounded hundreds of thousands of people and displaced another 1.2 million.

In May 2004, Habitat for Humanity International, through the First Shelter Initiative program, started to assist returning families in the central province of Bie. By the end of October 2004, 100 families had been assisted with shelter solutions, with 300 additional families assisted in 2005.

The shelter program has provided a sense of housing security and certainty that the war is past. On the platform of this intervention, Habitat is now exploring options and models for a sustainable housing program.

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Colombia
In an effort to reach the poorest level of the country's population, Habitat for Humanity Colombia has initiated a program to help small groups of families form savings groups, or "trust banks," which can be used to finance their housing needs. The groups are self-managed and contain representatives from no more than five families.

HFH Colombia invests $300 to $500 for each participating family into the trust bank, and the families are required to use those funds toward housing improvements. Those funds are repaid through weekly quotas, paid over the course of six to eight months. Prior to being accepted into the program, the families need to save 10 percent of the loan they are seeking. Each participant in the group signs a promissory note, as well as other documents guaranteeing the loan repayment, and also is required to attend the trust bank meetings and help other members in the construction or repair of their houses. If a participant fails to make a payment, the other members of the trust bank are held responsible for his or her payment.

The first trust bank was formed in July 2004, in a neighborhood of Bosa, located south of Bogota, and the program has extended to Suba, north of Bogota, and to the municipality of Soacha. A year and a half after the initial project, HFH Colombia had distributed more than US$130,000 to more than 120 low-income families to use in housing improvements.

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Armenia
Samvel and Sirun Poortoyan and their children - Ishkhan, 15; Narineh, 14; and Sona, 7--were forced to live in a stable for animals. Samvel works as an electrician earning about $80 a month, while Sirun manages the family's cow and a couple of turkeys and chickens. Their income barely covers the family's food and clothing. Now, in a Habitat for Humanity home, their lives and health have improved.

"I remember my mother's eyes were always full of tears of sadness," Sona says. "Now every morning I see her eyes full of happy tears and I join her to bless and pray for all those in need, so they also could have a chance to sleep under a safe roof."

Habitat for Humanity Armenia has been working with families like the Poortoyans since 2000, and in that time it has provided homes for more than 1,000 people.

September 2006 marked the "Build on Faith" event, a one-week building celebration in northern Armenia, led by the Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians.

The Armenian Habitat program consists of constructing new homes, conducting renovations and finishing homes that families began constructing but were forced to abandon due to lack of funds. Through a partnership with the Armenian Apostolic Church, Habitat will provide 100 families with homes over the next three years.

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Jimmy Carter Work Project 2006 Heads to India

India, one of the world's most populous countries, needs some 2.5 million new homes each year just to keep pace with its growing population. The current shortfall is more than 41 million houses, and more than 60 percent of the country's estimated 180 million dwelling places are temporary or in a dilapidated condition. Poor quality bricks and cement are common. In rural areas, shelters often rely on mud, grass, leaves, reeds and bamboo. In urban areas, the poor live under bridges, on train and bus platforms, as well as in crowded slums.

It is in this complex environment that the Jimmy Carter Work Project 2006, with its thousands of volunteers and high-profile publicity, seeks to make an impact Oct. 29 to Nov. 3. Pre-build volunteers worked throughout the summer to ready the site for the project.

"The homeowner families have been working and saving for months now in anticipation of the build," says Habitat for Humanity International special events manager Rita Bennett. "Having a decent, affordable place to live will make a difference in their lives that cannot be overstated. The children, especially, are looking forward to their new houses."

Habitat for Humanity India began working in India in 1983 and is one of Habitat's largest country programs. Its current house-building work falls under the umbrella of indiaBUILDS, Habitat for Humanity India's ambitious campaign to provide better housing for 250,000 low-income Indians over the next five years and to inspire others to champion innovative solutions for the estimated 315 million Indians who lack a decent place to call home.






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