What is Habitat for Humanity
Habitat for Humanity International is a non-profit, ecumenical Christian housing ministry that seeks to eliminate poverty housing and homelessness from the world, and to make decent shelter a matter of conscience and action. Habitat invites people from all walks of life, to work together in partnership, to help build houses with families in need. Habitat has built more than 175,000 houses around the world, providing some 900,000 people in more than 3,000 communities with safe, decent, affordable shelter. HFHI was founded in 1976 by Millard Fuller and wife Linda.
How does it work?
Through volunteer labour and donations of money and materials, Habitat builds and renovates simple, decent houses with the help of homeowner (partner) families. Habitat houses are sold to partner families at no profit and are financed with affordable, no-interest loans. The homeowners’ monthly mortgage payments go into a revolving Fund for Humanity that is used to build more houses. Habitat carries out its mission at the community level through organised groups, called affiliates.
Affiliates around the world raise the funds used to construct houses. All Habitat affiliates are asked to give 10 per cent of their contributions to fund house-building work in other nations. In many countries, national organisations have been formed to support the development of affiliates. These national organisations also raise awareness, provide training and leadership development, and support fundraising.
Some national organisations and affiliates receive funding grants and fund-raising support from Habitat for Humanity International. Habitat is not a giveaway programme. In addition to a down payment and the monthly mortgage payments, homeowners invest hundreds of hours of their own labour “sweat equity” into building their house and the houses of others.
HFH Portugal – Crespos near Braga
Last September, Habitat for Humanity Braga carried out another project of constructing two homes in Crespos, in the district of Braga. The land had been donated by the local Junta da Freguesia, provided that the houses would be for local people.
The future homeowners, who help whenever they have free time, are the Vieira and Fernandes families, who had been selected by the family council of HFH Portugal.
Carlos and Margarida Vieira live in a very small house with their two children of nine and five. They have to share their room with the youngest son. The house is very humid and rainwater leaks into the house. The Fernandes family is composed of three generations of women – Aurora the grandmother, Madalena the mother and her one-year-old daughter Eva. At the moment, they live in a two-room shelter – a kitchen and an all-purpose room, with a tiny bathroom inside.
Each of the two houses will cost approximately 33,000 euros and is composed of a living room, two bedrooms, bathroom andkitchen. The site has a volunteer coordinator, architect André Almeida, a resident salaried building supervisor who instructs and supervises all aspects of the building work.
Since September, Braga has received six volunteer teams. The first volunteers to work on this project, in the preparation of the ground and foundations, came from Great Britain as part of the ‘Sail and Build Challenge’ programme. A team of university students sailed from Southampton to Leixões and replaced the previous team of volunteers who had been on the construction in Crespos. The first builders returned by yacht to England. The third week of September was the ‘Build on Faith’ week, where many different churches came to help build the two homes, celebrating the Christian background of HFHI in a spirit of ecumenicism.
Then, a group of 15 students fromthe Carlucci International American School of Lisbon spent two days in Crespos on the foundations of one house. St. Dominic’s International School in Lisbon also sent a party of senior school students with two teachers for two days to workon the project.
Recently, the project welcomed senior school teacher, Susana Pereira, together with students Isabella Soares, Marta Dantes da Cunha, Catarina Alves, Rita Alves, Vera Morgado, Daniela Carvalho, Bianca Ramos and Alexandra Correia, all from St Dominic’s, to work again on the project.
Susana Pereira told The Resident: “We were all very excited about entering into the spirit of the project. We were well received by the HFH team and Luís and Júlio soon realised we were novices in the building industry and were helpful and patient with us. We worked like we had never worked before, but the whole atmosphere was one of happiness. We were always singing along, carrying hundreds of stones and rocks that would fill the floor cavity. When we left Crespos, inside all of us was a feeling of gratitude from our side; we had become more humble and sensitive towards others realities and needs.
A student commented: “From now on, we will look at people who do building work everyday with much more respect. It’s so difficult and hard, yet so rewarding. We want to go back and visit the houses when they are finished, to see the happy families living in the house that we helped to build.” Last week, The Resident visited the project to see the work of HFH Portugal. There we met with Maria do Céu Jesus, director of Habitat for Humanity Portugal. She showed us the work that the volunteers had carried out and said: “I am so eternally grateful for all the volunteers who have given so freely of their time.”
While there, we also met with Canadian Nelson Byford, his Portuguese wife Maria José and their son Danny, a hairdresser, all from Lagos in the Algarve. It was their second visit to the project and the family enjoys every minute of the work. They told The Resident: “We can afford to give a donation but, once given, it is forgotten. This way we experience the work and gain knowledge of the family that will live in the home we have helped to build for them. An added bonus is that we get to make new friends with the other volunteers.”
Also on site was 21-year-old Raquel who lives locally and is unemployed and Miguel from Braga who works for IBM in Lisbon. IBM have an active social department, which works closely with voluntary organisations, and pay employees working away on similar projects as this one.
The Resident puts it to our readers: why not volunteer your services? Why not form a The Resident working party?
If you would like to join, contact [email protected]. For further details of HFH Portugal, visit their website www.assoc-habitat.pt