DURBAN, South Africa, June 6 - Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and Millard Fuller, founder and president of Habitat for Humanity International, welcomed three African presidents and other dignitaries to the Jimmy Carter Work Project 2002 site today in Durban.
Gracia Machel, the wife of former South African President Nelson Mandela, joined His Excellency President of Malawi Dr. Bakili Muluzi, His Excellency President of Kenya Daniel Arap Moi, and His Excellency President of Mozambique Mr. Joaquim Chissano as they toured the build site and looked inside one of the 100 Habitat houses being constructed this week by more than 4,000 volunteers from around the world. The project is part of Habitat for Humanity's ongoing work to end poverty housing in 83 countries, including 25 African countries and 16 communities in South Africa.
"I urge the people to do this program (Habitat for Humanity) all over Africa and in other parts of the world because there is not only poverty here, but all over the world," said Chissano.
"The (African) presidents were here today to see what can be done with a small amount of government help and with the people in the community," said Carter, who praised the efforts of event organizers and volunteers. "Remarkable work has been done here. The most exciting thing is to work side by side with homeowner families. Thousands of volunteers have come here this week to work with them."
Former President Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, are Habitat for Humanity's most notable volunteers. Each year they give a week of their time to build Habitat houses with families in need as part of the annual work project. Since 1984, the Carters have personally worked on more than 1,000 houses around the world. The JCWP 2002 is a 1000-house build in 18 African countries, with the final 100 houses being constructed in Durban this week.
The theme of this year's JCWP is reconciliation. The main build site in Durban is significant as the location from which thousands of Indians and black Africans were forcibly removed by South Africa's apartheid government of the 1960s.
Houses were torn down, and the area was cleared to enforce racial segregation and open up the sought-after real estate for white occupation. Now this land of past racial injustice
has become a place where people of all races are working together as part of the JCWP 2002 to help 100 South African families in need build simple, affordable houses during the weeklong blitz build.
"We've come here to not only build 100 houses for 100 families this week, but to spread the word about Habitat for Humanity's ongoing work in South Africa and across the African continent," said Habitat founder Fuller. "We believe that every family should have the opportunity to live in a simple, decent, affordable house. This demonstrates that when volunteers and financial supporters join the effort to end poverty housing, anything is possible."
Among the new homeowners is 58-year-old Metrina Selepe, who is working alongside neighbors and volunteers from the global community to build her own Habitat house. For the past 32 years, Selepe has lived in a one-room plywood shack that lacked electricity and running water. She and her six children have had to depend on the kindness of neighbors to bathe. Since her husband's death in 1993, she has had to take care of her youngest children alone.
"I'm very happy that I'm going to get a nice house now," Selepe said. "Even my friends will see that now I've got a nice house. I think that they will want to know 'How did you get this house?'"
Habitat for Humanity International selected Selepe to be a Habitat homeowner because - like 40 percent of the 44 million people in South Africa - she had a desperate need for a simple, decent and affordable home. Selepe performed "sweat equity" labor on her house and the houses of some of her neighbors. She and her children will pay off a no-profit, no-interest mortgage of about US$30 a month.
For more information about Habitat for Humanity International and the Jimmy Carter Work Project, log on to our website at http://www.habitat.org .
Habitat for Humanity International is an ecumenical Christian ministry dedicated to eliminating poverty housing. Founded by Millard Fuller, along with his wife, Linda, Habitat for Humanity International and its affiliates in more than 2000 communities in 83 nations have built and sold more than 120,000 homes to partner families with no-profit, zero interest mortgages.