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U.S. Congressional Leaders Help Construct Habitat House in Belfast

U.S. Congressional Leaders to Help Construct Habitat for Humanity Home in Belfast

Belfast, Northern Ireland - August, 8 1998 - On Tuesday, Aug. 11 a delegation from the U.S. House of Representatives will join Habitat for Humanity Belfast in work on “The House That Congress Built/Belfast.” Led by Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) and Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.), the delegation will work alongside Catholic and Protestant volunteers and lay the foundation for a new Habitat home.

“The House That Congress Built/Belfast,” will be constructed in the Glencairn Estate on Forthriver Crescent in Belfast, one of several Habitat for Humanity homes to be built in that Protestant neighborhood. Located directly alongside “The Peace Line” that traditionally has separated Catholic and Protestant Belfast, its construction follows that of 11 other homes in the Catholic Iris Close section.

“The work of Habitat for Humanity in Belfast is solid and substantial proof that peace can be achieved in Northern Ireland,” said Gingrich. “These Habitat for Humanity homeowners, volunteers and staff are showing that it is indeed possible to overcome the differences that divide this province, and for the people to join together to create positive change in their community.”

“The House That Congress Built/Belfast” is sponsored by donations from Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, the National Association of Realtors and the National Association of Home Builders, primary supporters of “The Houses that Congress Built.” Initiated by Rep. Lewis, “The Houses That Congress Built” challenges members of the United States Congress to build Habitat for Humanity homes in the 435 Congressional districts. There are currently 375 House members actively committed to the program.

The delegation’s work on “The House That Congress Built/Belfast” will be complemented by meetings with Belfast Habitat homeowners. The members of Congress will hear stories of both Protestant and Catholic homeowners who are forging relationships for the first time. In addition to building with both Catholic and Protestant volunteers, Habitat for Humanity Belfast hopes eventually to construct an integrated project, and through it, model the goals of the recently approved Good Friday peace accord.

“It has been said,” explained Peter Farquharson, executive director of Habitat for Humanity Belfast, “that the poverty we face in Belfast and Northern Ireland is not just physical, but spiritual – the need for reconciliation. At Habitat for Humanity Belfast our mission is clear: to call the church into action, to build houses and rebuild community. We thank the members of the delegation for supporting us in this task.”

The bipartisan delegation is in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland Aug. 7 -15 to meet with the civic and political leaders responsible for implementing the Good Friday peace accord. The delegation also includes Reps. Ken Bentsen (D-Texas), John Dingell (D-Mich.), Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), Ray LaHood (D-Ill.) and Jim Walsh (R-NY), all of whom have completed “Houses That Congress Built” in their districts. They will be joined in their work at “The House That Congress Built/Belfast” by Habitat for Humanity International Board Members Billy McGivern, a Belfast resident, and Jim Copeland of Washington D.C., Tom Jones, managing director of the Habitat for Humanity International-Washington Office, as well as board members and staff from Habitat for Humanity Belfast.

“The House That Congress Built/Belfast” partnership will continue beyond this visit. Delegates and building sponsors are scheduled to return later this year to the Glencairn site as part of a Habitat for Humanity “Global Village” short-term mission. “The House That Congress Built/Belfast” will be dedicated on Good Friday, April 2, 1999, the first anniversary of the signing of the peace accord.

Habitat for Humanity International is a nonprofit, ecumenical Christian organization dedicated to eliminating poverty housing worldwide. Habitat brings together people with resources and people in need to build simple, decent, affordable houses. The homes are sold to those in need at no profit, through no-interest loans. Founded in 1976 by Millard Fuller along with his wife Linda, Habitat for Humanity has built more than 65,000 houses, providing shelter for more than 300,000 people worldwide. It has affiliates in every state of the United States and in 59 other countries around the world.