NEW YORK CITY, USA. (16th June 2008): Habitat for Humanity’s Women IndiaBUILDS program took center stage as philanthropists Meera and Vikram Gandhi opened their New York City home to a dazzling crowd of supporters to raise awareness about Habitat’s work in India among Indians living overseas.
One of the nearly a dozen celebrity attendees, Indian model Diana Hayden, flew in from Los Angeles to attend the event. Hayden, a former Miss Universe, had the crowd in tears as she described her personal experience on a Habitat build site. Sabira Merchant, who traveled from Bombay to attend the fundraiser, talked about the success of the Women IndiaBUILDS program in India.
The celebrity-filled guest list included lighting maverick Baldev Duggal; one of New York’s leading cardiologists, Dr. Neil Coplan and his wife; Reshma Dordi host of the television show ShowBiz India; Monica Weston, who owns and runs her own children’s camp in Africa; Kelly and Vishal Bakshi from Credit Suisse bank; Bronwen Booth (sister-in-law of Britain’s former prime minister Tony Blair); daytime TV actress Fiona Hutchinson; Ambassador Francis Lorenzo from the Dominican Republic mission at the United Nations; and many others.
Women IndiaBUILDS is part of Habitat for Humanity’s five-year IndiaBUILDS campaign. IndiaBUILDS aims to provide innovative housing solutions for 250,000 people in India who lack proper homes. The wider campaign aims to engage one million volunteers and raise funds for a sustainable revolving fund worth US$50 million.
Women IndiaBUILDS extends Habitat for Humanity’s efforts through housing non-profit micro-finance programs in a new direction, connecting women donors with women savers. Women from economically well-off backgrounds match the collective savings of self-help groups made up of women from some of the poorest families in India.
Matching funds are a crucial component of Habitat-supported housing microfinance schemes as they allow more families to build or repair homes more speedily. It is ideal for families, such as those reliant on seasonal work, who otherwise would not meet conventional criteria for a Habitat home. Often poor families take out a small first loan to build the first stage of a new home or to make crucial renovations or repairs to an existing property. Once the loan is repaid, new loans are taken out to finance subsequent stages of the work.
Microfinance schemes are particularly popular with women in the Asia-Pacific region. The goal of Women IndiaBUILDS is to quickly provide sufficient funds to enable 300 families in these self-help savings groups acquire simple, decent and affordable homes this year.
Habitat for Humanity India has built, rehabilitated and repaired homes for more 22,000 families including more than 6,500 families affected by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Thousands more are benefiting from mitigation programs to protect their families and homes from future natural disasters. The need for housing in India is dire since nearly a quarter of its 1.1 billion population lives on less than US$1 per day. About 60 per cent of India’s estimated 180 million dwellings are in a dilapidated condition or temporary shelters. For more information, http://www.habitatindia.in/