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Building team to Tsunami-affected Sri Lanka

Habitat for Humanity New Zealand prepares to send building team to Tsunami-affected Sri Lanka.

Auckland (6 April, 2005) - One hundred days* after the Indian Ocean tsunami, as many villagers observe rites of mourning and remembrance, Habitat for Humanity is building and repairing houses and operating technical centres 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 programme.

Habitat's strategy includes sending teams of skilled construction volunteers known as "First Builders" who will work alongside local Habitat volunteers, staff and soon-to-be homeowners to rebuild houses destroyed or damaged in the tsunami. Habitat for Humanity New Zealand is currently preparing to send its first such team, due to arrive in Sri Lanka on 14 May. Other First Builder teams to Sri Lanka and Thailand are being sent from Australia, the Netherlands, Singapore, Great Britain and the United States.

"An important aspect of the First Builders programme is to bring people with expertise who are self sufficient and who can cope with living and working in difficult conditions," says Steve Weir, vice president for Habitat's Asia-Pacific area. "Dozens of teams are scheduled for the coming months."

When living conditions in the communities allow, Habitat for Humanity will encourage other volunteers to assist in reconstruction. These 'Global Village' teams do not necessarily have construction experience, but are supervised by those who do. Both Global Village and First Builder teams are self-funded.

"Our initial First Builder team is from Canterbury," says Habitat for Humanity New Zealand Global Village Co-ordinator, Donna Roberts. "We have another team from North Taranaki planning to go to India in July or August, as well as one, possibly two, Global Village teams from the Waikato to Sri Lanka in July."

Another key piece of Habitat's rebuilding plan is a network of 10 'Disaster Response Technical Centres', which help develop construction capacity. Experts at the centres 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 centres are designed to be flexible with each centre emphasising different activities depending on local needs," says Weir. "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 centres 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," says Weir.

Centres 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.

Nearly US$39 million has been raised to fund Habitat's tsunami recovery effort. The organisation 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," says Weir. "We are aiming to help reconstruct communities as well as homes, so we are partnering with other organisations that specialise in livelihood development so that we can concentrate on what we do best, building proper homes."

*The 100-day commemoration is an important moment in the bereavement process for Buddhists, especially in Thailand.


Habitat for Humanity is an international Christian organisation dedicated to eliminating substandard housing. Working in partnership with people of goodwill and families in need more than 200 houses have been built in New Zealand since 1993. Internationally, 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.habitatnz.co.nz

Habitat for Humanity New Zealand

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