American Airline Also Supporting 100-House Project In Maharashtra; Volunteers Include Team From Soest, The Netherlands
Mumbai, 23rd November 2007: November was an especially bustling month for Habitat for Humanity in western India as it hosted several volunteer teams. The volunteers hailed from the US, the Netherlands, Italy and from within India.
Among the bigger teams were the 40 volunteers from American carrier Delta Airlines who helped eight Habitat families to build their homes in Nagyachiwadi village of Karjat, Maharashtra state. The Delta staff were joined by six customers of the airline, who bid more than 118,000 air miles each to take part in the build. The four-day build, from 12th to 15th November 2007, is part of Delta Force for Global Good, a program to encourage socially responsible and philanthropic efforts by employees and customers.
The American carrier has also committed US$100,000 to support the construction of 100 houses in the western India state of Maharashtra. The eight houses that the Delta employees helped to build in Nagyachiwadi village are a precursor to the 100-house project.
Habitat home partners Parsha and Leela Bhala are very happy to receive the help of the Delta volunteers. They said: “We provide them with bricks, water and mud mix, and they help us with the construction. They work like masons. We hope that they will go to other villages and help other villagers too.”
Greg Kennedy, vice-president, airport customer service – Atlanta Worldport for Delta, believed that the airline’s employees and partners worldwide form a force for positive change. He said he was enriched by the experience of working with the Habitat home partners and the opportunity to help improve the lives of others.
Richard Ray, Delta employee and team leader, is gratified. He said: “To open a village culture to so many people from somewhere else is a major step and a big deal, we are thankful for them.”
The volunteers joined a larger Delta family who has participated in Habitat builds in the US, Ghana and South Africa.
Joining the Delta volunteers was Mumbai-based US Consul General Michael S. Owen and his wife Annerieke. The couple spent a day helping to build the foundation of a new home for Lata Vithal Thorad and her family. They were also present at the dedication ceremony of a new home for Chebi Shankar Kambdi, her husband and four children.
The eight Habitat women home partners in the village belong to Academy of Development Science’s (ADS) Gavki Vikas Samiti, or federation of village development committees. Habitat’s project partner, ADS, is a local charitable trust that has been working in the Karjat and Thane areas for over 20 years. ADS’s programs cover healthcare, women’s empowerment, education and food security, among others. ADS gives an initial loan to a village to set up a grain bank. In times of lean harvest, villagers can borrow food grains from the grain bank without resorting to money lenders. A village development committee is responsible for managing the grain.
The Habitat home partners’ main source of income comes from selling the rice and vegetables they grow on their own small fields, which range in size from 0.2 to 0.4 hectares (half to one acre). The home partners work on their own land for about half a year; after the harvest, they seek work as farm hands. Their average monthly income is about 2,000 to 3,000 rupees (about US$50-US$75).
With few exceptions, most of the houses in the Nagyachiwadi village have walls made of reed which are then plastered with cow dung. Many families replace the reed walls about twice a year as the walls can be badly damaged by heavy rains. It is dim inside the houses due to the lack of windows. Floors are often dusty because they are covered in dried cow dung. During the annual monsoon rains, leaking roofs are a common problem.
Habitat in India provided core houses of at least 33.5 square meters (about 360 square feet). Some home partner families may choose to build extensions to their new homes – an extra room or a kitchen. Construction materials comprise burnt mud bricks for the walls, wood and clay tiles for the roof, and stone or a mixture of cement and sand for the plinth.
There remains much to be done for the 110 families who live in Nagyachiwadi village. International financial services group Citi lent a hand by sending 39 employees from Mumbai to build in the village on 17th November 2007. The build marked Citi’s annual Global Community Day, an initiative to gather company employees, along with their families and friends, as a global volunteer team on a single day each year.
During the one-day build, the Citi volunteers constructed walls and placed door frames, working together with three Habitat home partners. In addition to learning new skills such as brick-laying, the Citi voltunteers expressed their satisfaction in contributing to a worthy cause.
Over in Tadwadi, another Karjat village, 36 employees from Dutch banking group ABN-Amro made their presence felt. The predominantly Dutch volunteers, together with a few staff from Italy, helped six families to build homes. At the end of the six-day build on 16th November 2007, the dedication of the houses was marked by rangoli, a decorative sand painting on the floor of the house, and the breaking of coconuts.
One of the team leaders and a Habitat veteran volunteer, Aart Wisgerhof, remarked: “This was the most well planned and organized build program I have experienced.”
Habitat home partners in the Karjat village of Dongerpadu also experienced the benefit of Dutch voluntary labor. The team from Soest, a town in central Netherlands, built with seven families in late October 2007. The thirty-three volunteers were guided by local skilled workmen and their efforts culminated in the dedication of seven houses.
The efforts of the various volunteer teams are an important contribution to Habitat’s IndiaBUILDS campaign, a five-year strategic initiative to improve the housing of 50,000 low-income families in India. The campaign aims to mobilize volunteers and harness capital to provide safe, decent and affordable homes in a country where 22 per cent of the world’s poor live. Upcoming builds include teams from local financial services group, ASK Financials, and Mumbai’s diplomatic and consulate corps.