HFH Romania: The impact of disaster response on families served -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1

HFH Romania: The impact of disaster response on families served

By Adrian Ciorna

“And Jabez was more honorable than his brethren: and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, ‘Because I bare him with sorrow.’

And Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, ‘Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed, and enlarge my coast, and that thine hand might be with me, and that thou wouldest keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me!’ And God granted him that which he requested.” 1 Chronicles 4: 9-10


In December 2004, Romanians were shocked by the Indian Ocean tsunami that caused enormous loss of life and destruction. They were shocked again when interior rivers flooded Romania several times in April, May and throughout August 2005, bringing what we thought then was unparalleled destruction in Romanian history. As a result, HFH Romania undertook its first Flood Recovery Project. In April 2006, the Danube River flooded at levels that were previously unknown in 100 years. Thousands of families lost their homes and thousands more sustained severe damage to their homes, and HFH Romania undertook its second Flood Recovery Project.

Though NGOs, companies, and the public came to us for help, the decision to get involved in disaster response wasn’t an easy one for HFH Romania. But our concerns that we were not a relief organization, but a development organization, and that we didn’t have the capacity were swept away by the overwhelming need and the support of HFH’s ECA Area Office and Disaster Response department in Americus.

The response

Key to both our interventions was the presence of local affiliates—Comăneşti HFH, Piteşti HFH and Craiova HFH—in the affected areas. These affiliates handled the first on-site visits and the first needs assessment. In addition, the partnership between HFH Romania, the affiliates and the Town Hall/Mayor’s Office was critical to the interventions. In the Comanesti HFH and Craiova HFH situations, the affiliates were in their infancy—close to completing their first four new homes in two years of work. Pitesti HFH had completed 18 renovations.

When the first flood recovery project was finished, 145 families were served by HFH Comanesti and another 100 served by HFH Pitesti through new homes and renovations/repairs—more families than would have been served through the traditional Habitat program approach. With the first phase of the second project being finished, 115 families were served. The increased capacity of the affiliates and motivation due to the success of the disaster response program, led them to ask, “Where do we go from here?”

Impact of DR on the HFH Romania program

The disaster response programs have impacted HFH Romania's traditional Habitat program by opening doors for more families to be served.

HFH had favorable media coverage and response in the three counties in which disaster response programs were undertaken, after the completion of the work. The Flood Recovery projects brought us new land grants. Offers of land and infrastructure for 4.5 acres of land came from Mayor Oclei of Bechet. Near Comanesti, Mayor of Moinesti invited the affiliate to build houses and even granted land. As a result, the first traditional program houses are now built there. The Mayor of Bacau City, 50 km outside of Comanesti offered us 3 acres of land as well.

HFH Comanesti’s flood recovery work of renovations/repairs in FY06 led the affiliate into the Roma/gypsy community—a niche of service this affiliate had never considered before. The realization of the need in such poor neighborhoods produced amazing results in FY07—four new homes and 40 renovations. Forty-five families served as opposed to barely four in their pre-recovery effort.

Because of the disaster response program, all three affiliates were encouraged to consider rehabs and renovations as part of its annual programs to serve more families in need.

In FY08, 60 rehabs and repairs are planned. HFH Craiova built six new homes in FY06 and the first half of FY07. Their disaster response of FY07 helped this affiliate include 10 renovations and repairs in FY08, besides the new home construction planned. The other four affiliates in the country were inspired and added more repairs and rehabs to their annual plan in order to serve more families than just those who are served through new construction.

Another benefit of the two disaster response projects was in the area of fund raising. Companies, businesses, churches, that came forward to support us financially during the disaster response program are now supporting our core Habitat program.

Responding to disasters, transformed the affiliates. Like Jabez, after prayer, they dared to take the step forward. The affiliates were “protected from evil,” and God expanded their territory.

Adrian Ciorna is the national director of HFH Romania.