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Habitat For Humanity Nears Target’s End


Habitat For Humanity Nears Target’s End

Two years after the devastation of the Christchurch earthquake, Habitat for Humanity New Zealand is nearing the end of an ambitious target to renew hope for Christchurch families.

Recent funding has meant Habitat for Humanity, and their 200-plus volunteers in the devastated city,will achieve its goal of repairing 50 Christchurch homes by the end of April, a project which has been described as a lifesaver by families like lifelong Christchurch residents Dennis and Julie Jeffries.

Dennis and Julie have lived in their St. Albans home for 33 years, along with sons Jake (14 years) and Jesse (11).

Life hasn’t been easy for them. Suffering from multiple sclerosis, Dennis’ deteriorating health forced him to stop work and live off an invalid’s benefit. Money was tight, but they learnt to make do. When the government offered a subsidy to help insulate their weatherboard home, the couple saw it as a practical way to make life better for their family. Sacrifices would have to be made, but they determined to make it happen.

In a cruel twist of fate, Dennis and Julie, who had insured their home for 30 years, decided to stop payments to take advantage of the offer. That was just before disaster struck.

“When the first quake occurred, I awoke thinking that a train had hit the house,” says Julie. To the Jeffries’ surprise it had sustained only minor damage. Any thought of restoring the home’s three cracked chimneys was put paid to with the second February 2011 earthquake. With chimneys reduced to rubble, the home sustained damage throughout. To fix its cracked foundations alone, the family was presented with a quotation of $80,000.

Devastated, but grateful to be alive, the resilient family did their best to make do. Struggling to stay on his feet, Dennis made a number of arduous climbs up a ladder to clear brickwork from the ceiling.

“It was a big job,” Julie says.

The family’s lucky break came when they were referred to Habitat for Humanity New Zealand and the charity’s Rebuild Christchurch work. Through the assistance of volunteer labour, the family were able to rebuild their chimneys, and regib and replaster rooms where necessary. Habitat volunteers have also built an external ramp for Dennis for when he is no longer able to use his legs.

Living from room to room, the family pitch in whenever they can, and the work continues. With two rooms still to go, they remain upbeat and positive. Julie says that as each room has been given a new lease of life, she feels like she has too.

“I was depressed. I didn’t realise how low I was. We found ourselves in a difficult situation. Habitat was there when we had no one to turn to.”

Dennis and Julies story is one echoed by other families who have had the chance to rebuild their homes, and their lives, through the efforts of Habitat for Humanity New Zealand, their volunteers, and their corporate sponsors and supporters.

To date, 44 homes have been repaired in Christchurch, and the conclusion of the project in April will see Habitat for Humanity New Zealand continue its work throughout the country supporting families with home repairs and new homes, adding further to the 530-plus families the organisation has helped in this country since it started in 1993.


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