Carter project gives them a dream home

Lonavala, October 30:

Dressed in a colourful sari, 30-year-old Jayshree Gablu Gonte, towing her eight-year-old son Atul, is elated that after years of backbreaking toil in the sparse fields of the Lonavala hills, she is able to have a dream home of her own. Jayshree’s dream, like those of her 100 colleagues in a local self-help group, has come true thanks to the efforts of Habitat for Humanity International (HFH), a non- governmental organisation. Situated on a seven-acre transformed barren waste plot on the outskirts of this hill resort, Patan village will see by the weekend some 100-odd one-storeyed houses built in partnership by the homeowners and 2,000 dedicated volunteers of HFH from across the world. More than 30 people are engaged at a time in constructing each house that consists of a hall-cum-bedroom, a kitchen, a toilet, a bathroom and verandah.

“We have been working as volunteers ourselves on the project for the past six months, working with HFH volunteers from across the country and abroad. This is the happiest day for me and my family. We can now be proud to own a home of our own. Guess what! We will even have a water connection of our own,” said Jayshree, looking forward to moving by Saturday into her new home - House No 1 of the HFH’s Jimmy Carter Work Project 2006.

“My children will also be able to attend the local school,” she adds with pride.

Like Jayshree, 31-year-old-clerk Lila Baburas Kadam is also elated that she too can shift into a dream home of her own which she is helping build. “Now I can own a house of my own with the money that I have saved. I am thankful to HFH for being able to help build my own house. I lost my father when I was very young. I had to look after my widowed mother and then she too passed away, and I went to live with my brother’s family and other relatives in a small house.” “Although they have the basic amenities like toilets and water, there is little privacy. Here in my own home I will have both,” said Lila, who has been a self-help group member for the past eight years teaching kindergarten children.

The HFH builds houses in partnership with homeowners through non-profit loans, explains Lila. “I had to make a modest down payment of Rs 5,000 Indian Currency (IC) and a monthly mortgage payment. The rest of the funding comes from non-interest loans. What is unique is that the homeowner has to invest hundreds of hours of his or her own labour, known as ‘sweat equity’, into building our own houses and those of others.”

Each house costs around Rs 350,000 IC. “Costs are kept low by using locally available materials and volunteer labour. Habitat chooses homeowners based on their level of need, their willingness to become partners in the programme and their ability to repay the non-interest loans,” said HFH International chief executive officer (CEO) Jonathan Reckford.

Habitat’s work comes under the HFH’s ‘India Builds’, a five-year strategic initiative to create decent homes for the poor in India, said Reckford. “Launched in October 2005, India Builds aims to provide decent homes for 250,000 poor individuals by 2010,” Reckford said.

Millar Fuller started HFH International along with his wife Linda in Americus, Georgia, in 1976. Former US president Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn have been long-time Habitat supporters and volunteers who help bring national and international attention to the organisation’s house-building work.

“They lead the Jimmy Carter Work Project (JCWP) to help build houses and raise awareness of the need for affordable housing. Since, the first work project in 1984, more than 2,000 houses have been built in conjunction with JCWP events,” Reckford added.