November 18, 2004
ANURADHAPURA, 18th November 2004: Leslie Fernando, who earns a living collecting sand, and his six children marked a significant Habitat for Humanity milestone when they received the keys to their new Habitat home at a special ceremony in the village of Ikiriwewa in central Sri Lanka.
His was the 500th home to be built by the affiliate of Anuradhapura, the pioneer of Habitat’s innovative “Save & Build” micro-credit, house building model. “Save & Build” is now used in many Habitat localities across Asia and elsewhere in the world.
The completed of the 500th house came almost four years to the day since the first “Save & Build” experiment began in November 2000.
HFH Anuradhapura worked together with Ceylinco Shriram, a local branch of a national banking and insurance conglomerate to build the 500th house. The house was dedicated at a ceremony attended by special guest Rev. Norbert Andrade, the Catholic Bishop of North Central province, and senior local policemen.
In a personal message, Rev. Andrade spoke about the need to be free from prejudices and develop open hearts. He said, “Consider the activities of Habitat for Humanity as a peace building initiative in a country so wounded and torn-apart due to destructive misconceptions.”
Board members and staff from the Sri Lankan national organization and various affiliates attended the ceremony. Mark Estes, Habitat for Humanity International’s regional manager for South Asia was also present.
The Anuradhapura affiliate began in 2000. Thirty-eight homes have been built in Samanalagama village using the traditional Habitat model. To enhance their capacity to eradicate poverty housing from this central Sri Lankan district, board members and affiliate staff agreed to experiment with “Save & Build” as a way to provide decent homes for the poorest sections of the community.
“Save & Build” involves groups of ten to 12 families who save money and materials together. When there are enough savings for one house, Habitat provides a matching loan to build two more. Construction then commences on the first three houses. After about two years, everyone in the group has a home.
Groups elect their own leaders – often women – who manage and monitor members’ savings, decide which families are housed in which order. They also organize “sweat equity” for construction work.
The model allows Habitat to provide secure, decent and affordable homes faster, for more families. It is suitable for families with very low-income levels, such as seasonal plantation workers found in many parts of Sri Lanka.
All ten Habitat affiliates in Sri Lanka have now adopted the “Save & Build” model. This year, HFH Sri Lanka expects to serve some 2,000 families.