100 days after tsunami, Habitat for Humanity building houses, capacity
BANGKOK (April 1, 2005) – One hundred days after the Indian Ocean tsunami, as many villagers are observing rites of mourning and remembrance, Habitat for Humanity is building and repairing houses and operating technical centers to benefit an estimated 30,000 to 35,000 families in tsunami-affected areas of India, Indonesia, Thailand and Sri Lanka. Habitat worked in all four countries before the disaster, but is scaling up to provide significant numbers of permanent houses during a two-year reconstruction program.
Nearly US$39 million has been raised to fund Habitat’s tsunami recovery effort. The organization has set a new fund-raising target of US$50 million, which will allow many more families to be helped. Corporations, institutions and individuals continue to donate money and gifts-in-kind to fund Habitat’s plans.
“We are committed to moving families out of camps and into permanent housing as quickly as possible,” said Steve Weir, vice president for Habitat’s Asia-Pacific area. “We are aiming to help reconstruct communities as well as homes, so we are partnering with other organizations that specialize in livelihood development so that we can concentrate on what we do best, building proper homes.”
“A key piece of Habitat’s rebuilding plan is a network of 10 “Disaster Response Technical Centers,” which help build construction capacity, said Weir. Experts at the centers and at their satellite operations on building sites teach construction skills and supervise production of materials such as bricks, concrete blocks and roofing tiles.
“Disaster Response Technical centers are designed to be flexible with each center emphasizing different activities depending on local needs,” Weir said. “We particularly want to equip people to help themselves, to build their own houses. That will enable more families to get out of temporary shelter and into proper homes quickly.”
After the tsunami rebuilding phase ends, the centers will continue to be a community resource providing building materials and opportunities for training and income generation. “We’ll leverage them to make an even greater impact in the future,” Weir commented.
Centers are operating in Batticaloa, Sri Lanka, in Phang Nga, Thailand, and in Kanyakumari, India. Others, including three in Indonesia’s Aceh province, and in Galle, Sri Lanka, are due to open in the next few months.
Habitat’s strategy also includes teams of skilled construction volunteers known as “First Builders” working alongside local Habitat volunteers, staff and soon-to-be homeowners. Early First Builder teams to Sri Lanka and Thailand came from Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and the United States.
“An important aspect of the First Builders program is to bring people with expertise who are self sufficient and who can cope with living and working in difficult conditions,” said Weir. “Dozens of teams are scheduled for the coming months.” When living conditions in the communities allow, Habitat for Humanity will encourage its “Global Village” volunteers to assist in reconstruction.
Habitat for Humanity International is an ecumenical Christian ministry dedicated to eliminating poverty housing. By the end of 2005, Habitat will have built its 200,000th house and more than one million people will be living in Habitat homes they helped build and are buying through no-profit, zero-interest mortgages. There is no cost to tsunami-affected families for Habitat’s housing assistance. For more information, see www.hfhap.org  and www.habitat.org .