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Habitat for Humanity Sri Lanka

Contact information

HFH Sri Lanka
22/5 Station Road
Dehiwala 10350
Sri Lanka

Country Profile

Habitat for Humanity began operating in Sri Lanka in 1994. The original approach of operating through affiliates has evolved: the country program is now delivered through Habitat Resource Centers that support satellite centers and individual projects in four regions. Habitat builds and renovates homes with families who save toward the cost of their houses and are willing to contribute their own labor in building their new homes. HFH Sri Lanka helps families rebuild their homes following disasters such as after the floods of December 2010 and the 2004 Asian tsunami. Habitat also lends its expertise to people displaced by civil conflict who are returning to their home areas. In addition, HFH Sri Lanka trains families to use solar cookers as an environmentally-friendly alternative to using firewood and encourages the cultivation of home gardens to improve food security.

Housing needs in Sri Lanka

With the conclusion of the 30-year civil conflict in May 2009, Sri Lanka’s economy improved strongly. The economy grew eight percent in 2010 and the momentum is continuing. According to recent government figures, the country’s poverty rate declined to 8.9 percent in 2009/10 from 15.2 percent in 2006/07. But food security and malnutrition are areas of concern, according to a joint survey conducted by World Food Programme, UNICEF and the Sri Lankan government.

Sri Lanka has a highly rural population with only one-in-five people living in towns and cities. Rural dwellers frequently lack access to basic services such as toilets, drinking water and electricity. The rural poor often live in makeshift shacks constructed with mud and discarded materials that offer scant protection from the weather and surrounding wildlife. Shelter conditions for urban dwellers are no better. The influx of rural workers seeking jobs in the capital city of Colombo has contributed to the growth of slums.

How Habitat for Humanity works

Habitat for Humanity Sri Lanka uses the Building in Stages model as it recognizes that low-income people cannot afford to build a whole new house at one time. Habitat provides small interest-free loans to help families build their houses incrementally. This model reduces the financial burden on the family and instills a sense of pride as the family can see the progress of their house being built as a result of their contribution and effort.Under the model, once the family repays the initial mortgage, a second loan is taken out to finance a second section—either the addition of another room to the existing house or additional work such as plastering or flooring. HFH Sri Lanka offers other expertise such as providing families with designs for low-cost houses. Families offer raw materials and contribute their own labor to build their houses. Habitat staff may provide technical advice and supervision during the construction progress to ensure quality control.

In August 2012, HFH Sri Lanka will hold its first-ever special build in Negombo, north of Colombo. International volunteers will help to construct 24 homes with low-income families.


HFH Sri Lanka partners with multilateral agencies, non-profit organizations, corporations, church groups and other Habitat programs to build homes, communities and hope. Funding support came from Japan Platform through HFH Japan, Jersey Overseas Aid Commission through HFH Great Britain, London Stock Exchange, Coca Cola Foundation. Millennium IT, Lions Germany through HFH Germany, APL, Habitat affiliates in the U.S. and GlaxoSmithKline, Other partners include non-government organizations such as World Concern, World Vision, Tearfund and Christian Aid, local microfinance institution SEEDS, as well as the United States Agency for International Development.


Since the 2004 tsunami, HFH Sri Lanka has hosted more than 1,000 volunteers. More than 50 teams worked on post-tsunami reconstruction sites and more than 70 Global Village teams have built on regular sites. A total of 11 international teams, or 195 volunteers, worked with Habitat in the year ended 30 June 2011. Volunteers came from USA, Canada, England, Germany, Japan, Korea, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Singapore, Australia, Hong Kong, New Zealand, India, Fiji, Egypt and Iran. Many teams comprised volunteers from local and international corporations and banks. Corporations such as retail chain ODEL, Coca Cola, garment maker Brandix, Millennium IT, Standard Chartered and HSBC banks and pharmaceuticals firm GlaxoSmithKline also provided funding and volunteer support. In addition, international schools from Qatar, Hong Kong and Shanghai lent a hand.


  • March 2012: About 25 guests representing 17 local and international companies attended HFH Sri Lanka’s CEO Breakfast held at a Colombo hotel. HFH Sri Lanka’s goodwill ambassador Otara Gunewardene, founder of retail store ODEL, shared about the benefits of a Habitat partnership.
  • October 2011: To mark World Habitat Day, Otara Gunewardene issued a statement calling on her fellow citizens to contribute time, labor and resources to ensure adequate housing for all. She also organized a two-day fundraising drive in aid of HFH Sri Lanka at her flagship store in Colombo.
  • June 2011: Habitat distributed more than 400 clean-up kits and over 1,300 emergency shelter kits to families affected by flooding in Pollonnaruwa and Batticaloa districts in central and eastern Sri Lanka respectively. Habitat has also built nearly 240 transitional shelters and 20 core houses in the same districts. Another 17 core houses were constructed for internally displaced persons in Mannar district, in the north.
  • January 2011: U.S. Ambassador Patricia Butenis and Negom bo’s mayor, Hermond Cooray, dedicated four houses built by U.S. and Canadian volunteers in western Sri Lanka.
  • December 2010 : HFH Sri Lanka completed a partnership with ODEL to celebrate the fashion retailer’s 20th anniversary in business. The ODEL 20/20 project saw ODEL Foundation fund the construction of 10 houses for families affected by the December 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. ODEL’s staff also helped to build another 10 Habitat houses in other parts of Sri Lanka.
  • December 2010 : HFH Sri Lanka hosted Breakfast of Champions in Colombo to encourage volunteerism among local and multinational business corporations.
  • June 2010: HFH Sri Lanka partnered with International Indian Film Academy to build 100 homes for people displaced by de cades of conflict in Vavuniya, northeast Sri Lanka.
  • October 2009 : HFH Sri Lanka launched “The Indicators to Measure Adequate Housing 2009” to mark World Habitat Day. The report was the result of two years of research and inputs from the government, local and international NGOs, the UN and academic institutions.


Population: 21,481,334 (July 2012 est.)

Capital: Colombo

Land Area: 65,610 sq. km.

Ethnic Groups: Sinhalese 73.8%, Sri Lankan Moors 7.2%,

Indian Tamil 4.6%, Sri Lankan Tamil 3.9%, others 0.5%,

unspecified 10% (2001 census provisional data)

Languages: Sinhala (official and national language) 74%,

Tamil (national language) 18%, others 8%

Religions: Buddhist 69.1%, Muslim 7.6%, Hindu 7.1%, Christian

6.2%, unspecified 10% (2001 census provisional data)

Literacy: 90.7% (2001 census)

Urbanization: 14% (2010)

Population Living on US$1.25 a Day: 7% (2005)

Access to Improved Water Sources: 91% (2010)

Access to Improved Sanitation Facilities: 92% (2010)

Sources: World Factbook, World Bank