24 families end decade-long wait for decent homes with the help of more than 150 international volunteers and Habitat supporters
NEGOMBO, August 14, 2012: Habitat for Humanity ended its “Rebuild Sri Lanka” event on August 11 with the completion of homes for 24 low-income families in Pathamyawatte village, Negombo.
Over 150 international and Sri Lankan volunteers worked alongside Habitat home partner families to construct 23 houses during the build, which kicked off on 5 August. Another house was completed earlier as a model house in July with a team of volunteers from the United States. Volunteer teams from Millennium Information Technology and ODEL helped with the pre-build preparations.
“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 such as building communities and relationships. We are most thankful for the passion of our volunteers and the commitment of our sponsors in making the build a success,” said Tony Senewiratne, national director of Habitat for Humanity Sri Lanka.
The six-day event saw the participation of volunteers from as far as Australia, Cambodia, Great Britain, Japan, New Zealand, and the United States. The completion of the build today was capped by a celebration where volunteers joined the families for a traditional Sri Lankan ceremony where families boil milk. When the milk boils up over the pot, it signifies prosperity and abundance. It was an emotional moment for the families when they entered their new homes.
The houses were constructed with bricks and have a living room, bedroom, kitchen, toilet, 20-feet-deep tube well with hand pump, and an area for a home garden. A community center and small playground will also be built in the village in the next six months.
Nilani Fernando, homeowner and mother of three, never expected volunteers from other countries would come to her village and help her build her house. “It feels like a dream,” she said. “All my hopes are fulfilled.” Nilani’s 16-year-old daughter Lakshani will be sitting for her ‘O’ level examinations this December and will finally have the space and quiet she needs to concentrate on her studies.
The Habitat build in Sri Lanka was special as well for Australian volunteer Ranee Carey. She was born in the island state and was adopted by an Australian couple when she was just six weeks old. Ranee had always wanted to find a way to give back to the people of Sri Lanka and thought this Habitat build would be the perfect experience.
On the family she worked alongside all week Ranee said: “I feel so honored that Rupika and Jude gave us an opportunity to be part of this experience of building their house. It’s been amazing.”
Sponsors for the “Rebuild Sri Lanka” event included Habitat for Humanity New Zealand, Greater Green Bay Habitat for Humanity, Habitat for Humanity Japan, Habitat for Humanity Snohomish County and Greater Plainfield Habitat for Humanity. Also supporting the Rebuild event were local corporations Millennium Information Technology, ODEL, Build Mart, Coca-Cola and The Sri Lankan Tourist Bureau.
‘Rebuild Sri Lanka’ was the culmination of 10 years’ hard work by these 24 families, who named themselves the Society of Landless Families, to secure land. With the assistance of a local Negombo-based non-governmental organization (NGO), Janabodaya Kendraya, all 24 families succeeded in securing a plot of land. The NGO then introduced the families to Habitat for Humanity Sri Lanka which helped these families move out of temporary houses into new, decent and adequate homes.
To date, Habitat for Humanity Sri Lanka has helped more than 17,000 families improve their shelter conditions all over the island state. 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.