March, 19 2001 - Two months after a series of earthquakes left more than 32,000 destroyed houses in its wake, Habitat for Humanity in El Salvador is building 56 houses in just seven days.
"We are not building temporary shelters; these are new homes" said Ernesto Castro, who works in Habitat for Humanity's Latin American Disaster Response office. "And even though this is a lot of houses to build in one week, it's only the beginning. We are going to build more than 700 new homes over the next 14 months."
'Blitz builds' -- building a large number of houses in a short amount of time, using volunteer labor -- have become a signature event of the grass-roots movement. Habitat in El Salvador has been hosting blitz builds -- or 'construcciones relampago' -- during Holy Week for the past four years.
This year the focus is on families affected by the earthquakes. "The most important thing is to support the community," says Claudia Garcia, a spokesperson for Habitat El Salvador. Volunteer Larry Pearce adds, "We have people set up to address the community's housing needs. It just seems natural that we take part in the reconstruction." Over 600 volunteers are expected to participate in the event.
Habitat homeowners and Salvadoran volunteers will be joined by groups from Northern Ireland, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and North America.
The annual event, named 'Rise Up and Build,' was begun with the idea of bringing churches of different denominations together. Juli Porter, a volunteer from Northern Ireland is bringing what she calls a "cross community" team: "... a mixture of Catholics and Protestants who share a common goal -- to see poverty housing a thing of the past."
Juli participated in the Salvadoran blitz build in 2000, and likens her volunteer work with Habitat to childbirth. "You forget the pain afterwards, and are left with a lasting joy because of what has been achieved -- new lives for people. And it's very special being a small part of that."
For more information, please contact Steve Little at Habitat for Humanity's Latin America/Caribbean office in San José, Costa Rica. (+1)506 296-8120 ext 6119
Habitat for Humanity is a nonprofit Christian organization dedicated to the elimination of substandard housing worldwide. Habitat unites people in need with people of resources to build simple, decent and affordable homes. The houses are sold at cost, with no-interest loans. Habitat has built more than 100,000 houses since Millard and Linda Fuller founded it in 1976. Nearly 35,000 of those houses are within Latin America and the Caribbean.