Saturday, October 28, 2006

President Carter comes to lend a helping hand

100 houses to be built in Lonavala in a week

Shevlin Sebastian

Former American President Jimmy Carter, 82, and his wife Rosalyn is coming to town. Through the Habitat for Humanity’s Jimmy Carter Work Project (JCWP) 2006, he, along with 2000 volunteers, will be building 100 houses in Patan, a village near Lonavala, from October 30 to November 3. Incidentally, Carter’s mother, the late Ms Lillian was based in Lonavala when she was working as a nurse in the Peace Corps. Carter and his wife have earlier built houses in the USA, Mexico, South Africa, South Korea and the Philippines.
Habitat for Humanity has tied up with a local NGO, the Abhinav Cooperative Credit Society, which has selected the beneficiaries. The aim: to provide for a future where every man, woman and child has a decent place to live.
For foreign volunteers, the participation fee is $800. Says Lani Leigh, a professional modern dancer from New York: “Building a home for a needy person in a JCWP brings out the best in us volunteers: the energy, the intensity, passion and teamwork in a blitz build for me is akin to the focus in my dance performances.” She adds that it is a more enriching way of travel in terms of getting to know the local people.
“We want to help the national programme through this project, so that Habitat can build more houses for people in need in India,” says Ernesto Castro, project director, JCWP 2006.
The main sponsors are Citigroup, Dow India, Vedanta, Whirlpool, Aditya Birla, HDFC and Posco of India. Says Rakesh Chitkara, Director, Public Affairs, Dow: “We want to play an integral goal in Habitat’s goal to eliminate sub-standard housing in India and around the world.”
One interesting thing is that corporates are being encouraged to roll up their sleeves and actually build houses, instead of just donating. Chitkara says it has been part of Dow culture for employees to volunteer on the builds.
A newly built house will have a living room, a kitchen, a toilet and a bathroom, comfortable for a family of four. Habitat for Humanity wants to build 50,000 houses in the next five years under the IndiaBuilds programme. At present, 350 million people lack basic housing in India.

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