13 December 2017

Home is where the hope is

When asked the question – what makes a home? – many of us would be forgiven for thinking of the simple material things that makes our house, a home. Comfortable furnishings, the artefacts we collect on our travels, photos of our loved ones.

For millions of people worldwide though that question would provoke a very different answer – a roof that doesn’t leak, a secure place to go to sleep at night or a floor that can be cleaned to protect against disease.

For the more than 1.6 billion people living in substandard housing, the possibility of having a safe place to call home is bleak. Without access to adequate shelter, clean water or sanitation, upwards of 10 million people die each year from preventable diseases. Many of them are infants. In some parts of the world, entire families face forced eviction from property or land they own.

The enormity of the challenge to achieve a world where everyone has a decent place to live would put many people off trying, for Habitat for Humanity though, the mission is simple– “Seeking to put God’s love into action, Habitat for Humanity brings people together to build homes, communities and hope.”

A Hand Up

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who having volunteered with Habitat in South Africa is now the charity’s Patron, paints a powerful image of Habitat’s work, “Habitat for Humanity believes in putting faith into action. As the walls go up, many invisible walls come down and new hope is built in the heart of the community.”

Habitat works in partnership with volunteers, families and communities from all backgrounds and faiths to provide decent, safe shelter for families in need both in Northern Ireland and across the world.

The organisation believes in giving those in need a hand up, not a hand out. By working in partnership with families Habitat empowers them to break the cycle of poverty and build the foundation for a secure future.

Habitat works beside families who are living in constant worry because their houses are crumbling around them, they are worried about floods or strong winds or being forcibly evicted. Children get sick more often and aren’t able to study because they can’t find the space or because they have to work to support their family.

Habitat Northern Ireland’s global commitment is helping to alleviate poverty through housing, improving health, increasing educational opportunities and providing livelihood support.

Our Focus

Habitat is locally led and locally driven where people who understand the challenges in their community work every day, in partnership with families to help build a new future.

Habitat Northern Ireland is committed to extending support for Global programmes through strategically focusing on peace building, disaster response, urbanisation and vulnerable groups.

This Christmas Habitat NI is asking people across Northern Ireland to partner with them in helping one of the world’s most vulnerable groups, that of orphans and vulnerable children (OVC).

Putting it into perspective

Habitat in Ireland has long-term partnerships with Habitat Africa and the Middle East supporting OVC programs across the region.

Civil war and a HIV epidemic across sub-Saharan Africa have left families and children in immediate and dire need of shelter, food and health care. As carers and wage earners die or become too sick to work, families and communities are unable to take in the overwhelming number of orphans and other vulnerable family members.

Habitat has developed innovative, holistic solutions that address the complex needs of vulnerable orphans and children. Working in partnership with community based organisations Habitat is delivering safe decent shelter, education, nutrition and health care, succession planning training and psychosocial support.

Over the last five years Habitat Africa and the Middle East has served more than 10,000 orphaned children delivering not just a simple home but new hope for the future.

Building Hope

With over 1.1 million orphans Malawi has one of the highest prevalence of orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) in Southern Africa, more than half of which are due to the HIV/Aids epidemic.

The orphan epidemic in Malawi is exacerbated by the pervasive practice of property grabbing by relatives of deceased parents, leaving orphans and widows without shelter. Lack of knowledge of inheritance rights, absence of wills to protect inherited housing and negative cultural practices and attitudes towards orphans, all combine to increase the vulnerability of orphans and carers.

Direct support from Habitat NI established the ‘Abwezi Athu’ programme in 2009 and over the last 2 years has helped transform the lives of 34 families, delivering new homes for 136 orphans. HFH Malawi provided fully subsidised homes as well as private and secure pit latrines, mosquito nets and malaria prevention and treatment training, helping to improve the health and hygiene of the OVC families.

Habitat Malawi has also been able to provide legal and inheritance rights training to a total of 55 carers and community leaders, helping families better protect themselves.

Rhoda’s story

Rhoda Kameta may only be 25 but she is the primary carer to her late sister’s three children. Her sister died of HIV/AIDS in 2005. Rhoda was once married but her husband abandoned her and also her own child died in 2010.

Before moving into their Habitat home the family lived in a small house with just two rooms, made of un-burnt bricks, a mud floor, a leaking roof and no windows. The family were unsafe, at risk of being robbed or attacked, without a door to lock.

“Our old house used to leak a lot and my books could get wet. I was drying the books in the sun but sometimes they would not get very dry so that I could not write in class” explained Janet, Rhoda’s 9 year old niece.

A typical day starts at 6am for the family. Rhoda goes to work in the field, before returning to fetch water and prepare a meal for the family. Their first meal of the day is usually at 11am as they cannot afford to have breakfast.

Rhoda points out that it is not easy taking care of three children when she herself doesn’t have any source of income.

“I depend on people who give me work when they can, I never have enough to last through the month. With the little money I get I make sure to buy food first and sometimes I have enough to buy clothes for the children.”

When the children are sick, Rhoda takes them to a government hospital, which is almost 5km from the village. They walk to the hospital because they cannot afford to hire a bicycle.

For the past 6 months the family have not been to the hospital, the last time they visited the hospital was when Christina (2) had diarrhoea.

“I think it was because of the house we were living in, as it leaked and the whole floor was wet most of the time. This was attracting flies and producing a bad smell.”

Rhoda continued to explain that the biggest challenge comes when the children get sick as she has to leave whatever she is doing and so is unable to earn money. Moving into the new house will improve the health of the children, especially now they are sleeping under a mosquito net.

Rhoda and the children now have a safe, decent place to live and are proud of all they have achieved through building their own home.

“It was hard work to help build this house but worth it for the pleasure we have knowing we own a beautiful house which we could not have managed to get under normal circumstances. May the Lord bless Habitat and its good work.”

The Future

Continued support from Habitat NI will allow Habitat Malawi to extend the reach of the ‘Abwezi Athu’ programme, impacting more than 200 families over the next 12 months. By the end of 2011 Habitat Malawi will have served 14 OVC families with housing and mosquito nets, trained 200 families in inheritance rights and trained 200 families in basic health and hygiene and home maintenance.

This continued commitment however is only possible with the support of people across Northern Ireland. Habitat builds people not just houses, by empowering communities in the building of their own homes, families can grow into all that God intended, their children are healthier, they have new hope for the future – their whole lives are transformed. To give the gift of hope this Christmas please visit www.habitatni.co.uk/donate

Habitat NI