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Ricky Martin aids Habitat tsunami relief

Ricky Martin aids Habitat for Humanity tsunami relief effort
International superstar and advocate for children partners with Habitat for Humanity to build 224 homes

AMERICUS, Ga. (May 6, 2005) – After a visit to the affected regions following the Tsunami in December 2004, Ricky Martin comes to the aid of children around the world affected by the tragedy by partnering with Habitat for Humanity to build and restore an initial 224 houses as part of a more extensive project in Phang Nga province, Thailand.

The Ricky Martin Foundation donation will help more than 1,000 people move out of temporary shelters or overcrowded camps. No longer threatened by disease, crime and overcrowding, these initial 224 families will move into simple, safe shelters where they can piece their lives back together.

Martin visited Thailand shortly after the Dec. 26th tsunami ravaged the Indian Ocean basin. There, he told reporters at the Foreign Affairs Ministry, “After looking at those images on television, it was impossible for me to stay at home with my arms crossed.” Upon arrival, he began to explore ways to show his concern for the country and its people.

“Ricky Martin’s gift mirrors our mission – to demonstrate love through action,” said Paul Leonard, chief executive officer of the global nonprofit homebuilder. “His gift will help rebuild not only homes, but families who lost more than possessions in the tidal surge; giving mothers, fathers and, especially the children, hope and opportunity.”

“Solidarity transcends borders, race, and cultures. This case is an excellent model of how governments and the private sector can successfully unite for the well-being of humanity” said Angel Saltos; executive director of the San Juan, Puerto Rico-based Ricky Martin Foundation.

Habitat for Humanity has been working in Thailand since 1998 and has built more than 470 homes there. Operations have been set up in Phang Nga in southern Thailand. There, plans are being developed to provide for consultation, construction of new homes and repair. Habitat for Humanity is establishing a Disaster Response Training Center, a facility where people can learn skills such as how to use tools, earn a wage, and help manufacture building materials for the reconstruction effort.  The Center also provides a regular income for wage earners who lost their livelihoods in the tsunami.

Housing remains a key concern, Foundation officials say, providing a safe haven for children who may have been left orphaned or who may be spending too much time alone as their families struggle for normalcy in their lives. “It would be too easy for these children, given the chaos and dislocation, to be further victimized by those who exploit them,” said Martin. “A home gives them a place to be: safety in numbers, shelter from storms – potential and real.”

The Ricky Martin Foundation project is part of a larger Habitat program to benefit 1,000 tsunami victim-families in Phang Nga Province. The project, estimated at $2.8 million, will be funded by the foundation gift and other donations to Habitat’s tsunami relief fund. Work is expected to begin in April and be completed by March 2007.

About the Ricky Martin Foundation
The Ricky Martin Foundation, located in San Juan, Puerto Rico, monitors and combats a range of problems relating to the abuse and exploitation of children, trafficking in persons and related issues.. The organization also works in areas such as education, health and human development in general.

About Habitat for Humanity International
Habitat for Humanity International, based in Americus, Ga., is an ecumenical Christian ministry dedicated to eliminating poverty housing. By the end of 2005, Habitat will have built its 200,000th house and more than one million people will be living in Habitat homes they helped build and are buying through no-profit, zero-interest mortgages.