Building Homes across the Globe with Habitat for Humanity, 17th May 2016
The May event of APM Hong Kong branch was held at Wharney Guang Dong Hotel Hong Kong on 17th May 2016 evening following the AGM on the same day. The interesting topic is “Building Homes across the Globe with Habitat for Humanity” presented by Ms Ruth Bailey with Habitat for Humanity (HFH). HFH is an American charity. The presentation focused on her adventures when volunteering with HFH, with whom she signed up for a number of projects. The presentation was attended by over thirty members and non-members.
HFH advocates that everyone in the world should have a simple, decent and affordable shelter, more than just a roof over someone’s head. It believes that improved health and better educational and economic opportunities can be achieved through the provision of safe and decent housing.
It is the foundation of sense of dignity and pride. Since 1983, HFH has supported an estimated 400,000 families in the Asia-Pacific region. In the first year since the earthquakes struck Nepal in 2015, HFH provided assistance to more than 43,700 families through various disaster response programs. Back to Hong Kong, Habitat Hong Kong (HHH) has offered housing support services to those low-income families to improve their living conditions through community engagement since 2006. HHH takes up an important role as a global fund-raising hub. It initiates various programs to rally financial support for the needy families.
By profession, Ruth is a chartered civil and structural engineer with over 14 years’ international experience in the construction industry. She has worked for major international contractors, engineering consultants and project management companies.
She has worked in Hong Kong for the past seven years with several construction industry-related charities in the UK and internationally, including Teambuild (teambuilduk.com) and HFH.
In the presentation, Ruth shared her experience in her three Global Village Projects in Romania, Ethiopia and Hawaii. They were: 1. A straw bale community centre in rural Romania, 2. Construction of six family homes in Ethiopia as part of the largest HFH community in the world, and 3. Relocation of a timber club house and re-purposed as low cost housing in Hawaii. The three projects were completed in three months. The project objectives were to create a positive change in the world, learn about the poverty housing and experience the community’s culture, language and social practices. The ultimate goal was to improve the standard of living in rural areas through home building, rehabilitation and repairs, the HFH’s vision.
For the straw bale project Ruth participated in Romania, a small oil producing area with very high unemployment rate, Ruth and her team of 12 people worked very hard for a week to set up a community centre through straw bale. For the Ethiopia project, in Addis Ababa, 80% of the houses are in poor condition and below standard and 78% of people earn less than $2 per day. So, the need for decent housing is huge. A total of 600 houses were built. The project commenced in 2004. It is the largest single HFH project in the world. Ruth’s team was a diverse group of people working harmoniously toward the project goal. They also mixed well with the home owners, and volunteers of all sectors, races, working well along with them and playing well with children, too. Improvements on home were made through community engagement. For the project in Hawaii, where the homeless rate is the highest in the State with little household income relative to cost of living, a club house was donated to HFH. It was demolished in two weeks, then relocated and re-constructed somewhere else. The environmentally friendly project emphasized re-use and recycling of building materials.
Ruth disclosed that there was a set of criteria for receiving housing benefits in these projects. The home owners shall demonstrate that they had stable family income and were able to pay mortgages by themselves. Finally, Ruth appealed to the audience to join the HHH’s Women Build 2016 with a view to forming a volunteer team, raising fund and addressing the housing needs of all women.