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Ricky Martin Foundation and Habitat for Humanity announce completion of partnership to help tsunami-affected families

Hundreds of tsunami-affected families and their children have homes in Thailand thanks to the support of the Ricky Martin Foundation and Habitat for Humanity

BANGKOK (December 21, 2006) - As the second anniversary of the deadly Indian Ocean tsunami approaches, Habitat for Humanity International and the Ricky Martin Foundation announced the completion of their partnership to restore 224 new and rehabilitated houses for tsunami-affected families in Thailand.

“Through the generosity of Ricky Martin and his foundation, we were able to leverage the funds to improve the lives of hundreds of families with good housing, upgraded water and sanitation and enhanced livelihood opportunities,” said Jonathan Reckford, CEO of Habitat for Humanity International.

As an advocate of children’s human rights, Ricky Martin visited Thailand in January 2005 to assess the needs of the youngest survivors who are extremely vulnerable to traffickers after natural catastrophes. “During my first trip to Thailand immediately following the Tsunami, I met with families that had literally lost everything, including family members who were primary care providers and their entire lives were changed from one moment to the next. The priority was to see that families, especially those with young children, were able to move out of tent camps, where they were in many cases in danger, and into good permanent housing”, recalls Martin.

Two months after The Ricky Martin Foundation visited the devastated zone, they signed a historical alliance with Habitat for Humanity to construct 224 homes for the tsunami-affected families. In July 2005, Martin returned to the coastal zone of Phang Nga to dedicate the completion of the first Habitat houses with their new owners. “The Ricky Martin Foundation puts the lives of children and families first; it is a pleasure to partner with them,” said Peter Gape, Habitat’s regional program manager for the Mekong countries. In that specific zone PhrueTiaou, Phang Nga province, a total of 60 houses were completed as part of a large relocation project serving families that were the hardest hit of the Thai tsunami-affected families.

“Working with Habitat for Humanity, we were able to move 60 families into brand new homes in a matter of months, and the effect that this had on their lives was again, life changing, but this time for the better. During my second trip to Thailand, I had the opportunity to hand the house keys to the first set of families. It was incredible… I saw that by working together, the Ricky Martin Foundation and Habitat for Humanity provided not only shelter, but more importantly hope, to some of the most vulnerable citizens, the children, and their families,” Martin concluded.

As more governmental, non-governmental organizations and the private sector joined the building effort, Habitat for Humanity International and the Ricky Martin Foundation focused on the poverty-stricken coastal community of Kho Sirey that was suffering from tsunami damage and loss of livelihood. “The fishing industry recovered slowly, so construction employment was a real boost to the community. Now there are new and improved houses and for the first time, non-polluting toilets. Kho Sirey is a model of improved housing and community services,” added Gape.

Habitat for Humanity has helped more than 700 tsunami-affected families in Thailand to construct improved housing. More than 6,000 families in India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Thailand have benefited from Habitat’s tsunami-recovery program.

About Habitat for Humanity International
Habitat for Humanity International is an ecumenical Christian ministry that welcomes to its work all people dedicated to the cause of eliminating poverty housing. Since 1976, Habitat has built more than 200,000 houses providing simple, decent and affordable shelter for 1 million people. For additional information about Habitat for Humanity, please visit www.habitat.org

About the Ricky Martin Foundation
The Ricky Martin Foundation advocates for the well being of children around the globe in critical areas such as social justice, education and health. Our flagship program People for Children condemns child exploitation. For additional information, please visit www.rickymartinfoundation.org