Decade-long wait over for 24 Negombo low-income families who finally secure land to build homes
Volunteers from Japan (top) leading the stretching exercises before everyone gets down to work.
Habitat partner families and people from the local community getting ready to meet the volunteers under a welcome arch which they made out of palm leaves and flowers.
COLOMBO, August 6, 2012: Habitat for Humanity welcomed more than 150 international volunteers to its first large-scale volunteer event in Sri Lanka. An opening ceremony was held for Rebuild Sri Lanka in Negombo, about 40 km. from the capital Colombo, on August 5.
In addition to the international volunteers, 50 local volunteers will partner with 24 low-income families to build homes in Pathamyawatte village.
“Habitat’s mission is to bring people together to build homes, communities and hope. When people come together from across local and international boundaries and help each other regardless of race, religion or economic status, it always has an immensely positive effect on everyone,” said Tony Senewiratne, national director of Habitat for Humanity Sri Lanka.
During the week-long event, volunteers will partner with families to build 24 safe, decent homes. Each home will have a living or bedroom area, kitchen, toilet, 6-meter-deep tube well with hand pump, 500-liter water tank and an area for a home garden. A community center and small playground will also be built in the village.
Through the event, Habitat for Humanity Sri Lanka hopes to promote reconciliation between Singhalese, Tamil and Muslim communities, in addition to assisting those who were displaced by the civil war and seeking to return home.
Rebuild Sri Lanka is the culmination of ten years of hard work by these 24 families, naming themselves the Society of Landless Families, to secure land. With the assistance of a local Negombo-based non-governmental organization (NGO), Janawaboda Kendraya, all 24 families succeeded in securing a plot of land. The NGO then introduced the families to Habitat for Humanity Sri Lanka and, by the end of this week, their dream of moving out of temporary houses into new, safe and secure homes will be complete.
“Secure land tenure leads to stability that brings about better shelter, health, education, hope and future promise. It short circuits the cycle of poverty for many internally displaced families,” added Senewiratne.
Many partner families that Habitat has worked with have also given back to their community because of the transformative experience of building and owning a home. One such family is Sandanam Rathnawathi and her son Thushanth, who recently built their home with the support of Habitat for Humanity volunteers.
“It’s a really great idea. People who have a lot are helping people like us. They should do more of this”, said Thushanth. He has already started helping his widowed neighbor, Subramaniam Annammah, construct the foundation of her new home in Pathamyawatte village which Habitat for Humanity volunteers will complete this week.
Since 1996, Habitat for Humanity Sri Lanka has assisted more than 17,000 families by building and improving homes, and by providing training and access to resources to help families improve their shelter conditions. HFH Sri Lanka’s Habitat Resource Centers located in the east, west, south and central regions of Sri Lanka aim to assist low-income families, as well as families affected by disaster and/or displaced by conflict, to build and improve homes utilizing local resources and local labor. For more information, to donate or to volunteer, please visit hfhlsl.org  or follow us at facebook.com/hfhsl .