Belize -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1
Homeowner Joyce Martin works on her house. In consideration of hurricane threats to the region, Habitat houses in Belize are constructed of concrete blocks.
Eager to be a part of a Christian ministry that would change the lives of many Belizeans who were in need of a simple, decent and affordable place to live, a group of concerned citizens came together to start a Habitat for Humanity program. In 1999, HFH Belize officially opened its doors when it received government approval to operate as a not-for-profit organization.
HFH began focusing its house-building efforts in the nation’s largest metropolis, Belize City, by offering low-income families simple, decent shelter at an affordable cost. Habitat housing models include a two-bedroom house, which measures 18 x 22ft, or a three-bedroom house, measuring 18 x 28ft. Due to Belize’s location in the hurricane belt, Habitat homes are built of cement block to ensure durability and safety.
In 2002, HFH Belize began expanding its reach towards the southern region. The first group of houses built uses an innovative construction model, HABICON, which proved successful in HFH Costa Rica. These two-bedroom houses use pre-fabricated, micro concrete panels that withstand hurricanes. Built on stilts, the 20 x 20ft houses remain above ground to produce cooler interior temperatures, avoid humidity and facilitate hillside construction.
Partner families have 10 to 12 years to repay their mortgage through reasonable monthly installments. Their Habitat house is insured against hurricanes, fires and other perils.
According to a 2000 national census, 44 percent of households are comprised of five or more members, while 59 percent of houses have only two or less bedrooms – a clear signal that overcrowding is a significant problem. Poverty hits hardest in the southern region, specifically in Toledo, where 57 percent of the population lives in impoverished conditions. In Belize City, 24 percent of the population is considered poor, according to the Poverty Assessment Report. On average, poor populations nationwide struggle to survive on less than 117 Belize Dollars (about US$60) a month.
Location: Central America
Economy: bananas, coca, citrus, sugarcane, lumber, fish, cultured shrimp
Government: British system, elected democratic government
Religion: predominantly Christian
Literacy: 91 percent
Language: English, Creole, Garifuna, Mayan, East Indian