AMERICUS, Ga., June 5–Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and thousands of volunteers are building 100 Habitat for Humanity houses alongside 100 South African families during this year's Jimmy Carter Work Project—a weeklong build in Durban, South Africa, that will change the lives of these new homeowners by giving them hope for a brighter, more secure future.
"I am very happy for this," said 58-year-old Metrina Selepe, who is working with more than 4300 volunteers from around the globe to build houses in Durban. "For the first time in my life, when I want to go and bathe, I've got a big bath - with hot water!"
For the past 32 years, Selepe has lived in a one-room plywood shack in the Lamontville Township near Durban. She and her six children have had to depend on the kindness of neighbors to bathe. A nearby factory spews smoke into the air, creating even more unhealthy conditions for Selepe and her children. 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.
"I think everything possible needs to be done to let the former oppressed people have the fullest advantages of life and absolutely equal status," President Carter said, referring to the abolished apartheid system of government in place in South Africa until the 1990s. "I think one of the basic human rights is housing - the right not only to have a place to live but to have it be your own. One of the nice things about Habitat is that the people will own these houses."
"We've come here to not only build 100 houses for 100 families, but we've come here to create this community," said Millard Fuller, founder and president of Habitat for Humanity International. "The people who will live here named it 'The Ethembeni Community,' which is a Zulu word that means 'place of hope.' And this is a symbol of hope."
Habitat for Humanity's 100-house blitz build in Durban is the culmination of a 1000-house build throughout 18 African nations.
For more information about Habitat for Humanity International and the Jimmy Carter Work Project, log on to our website at http://www.habitat.org . (Press photos available.)
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.