Habitat for Humanity builds homes, lives in Navotas
MANILA, Philippines - Cherry Cea, a 34-year-old vendor from a backwater fishing community in Navotas City lost her home and boat to typhoon Pedring in September 2011. Since then, she and her family of 6 have been living in a 12-square-meter space in a cramped evacuation center.
But soon they'll own a house. Cherry built it with her own hands and sweat, along with those of young builders who participated in the Asia-Pacific-wide Youth Build 2012.
Organized by the non-profit housing organization Habitat for Humanity on May 12, the campaign to build houses for homeless families involved more than 5,000 young people in China, India, Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines.
In Navotas alone, 200 families, including Cherry's, will benefit from the youth build. Nearly half of the total volunteers mobilized for the Asia-Pacific-wide action trooped to this flood-prone city in the capital region of the Philippines.
For selling fish, Cherry earns more than P700 every month, in addition to the P1,500 that her husband earns as a fisherman. According to the National Statistical Coordination Board, a family of 5 needs a monthly income of P4,869 to meet the basic food requirements and P7,017 to stay above the poverty line.
With a combined income that's way below the needed income to meet basic family needs, it's impossible for the Ceas to invest in a house. What they have are brawn and the determination to build a home for their children.
Through Habitat's "sweat equity" approach to building and owning decent and affordable houses, the Cea family invests their labor to own a concrete unit with a 20-square-meter floor area. A year after they have transferred to their unit, they should start paying a monthly mortgage of P200.
It's still a small space for their big family, but for Cherry, what is important is the sense of security and relief that she now feels.
"Naginhawahan na kami kahit nasa evacuation pa kami. Alam namin na isa sa mga raw na darating, mapupunta na sa amin itong mga bahay." (We felt relieved even if we still live in an evacuation site. We know that one of these days, we will get to own a house.)
The Cea family's future abode is part of a row of houses that will rise in a sprawling 8.8-hectare reclaimed lot. The project was envisioned to build a self-reliant community that can withstand natural calamities.
It would include a greenery program, community centers, libraries and playgrounds.
From a friend to a family in need
"The sight of 2,000 youth volunteers during the build was absolutely incredible. They were all energetic, enthusiastic, and focused on changing the lives of their fellow Filipinos -- a testament to the initiative of youth today," exclaimed Kevin Yang, the incoming president of the Philippine-based Habitat Youth Council.
Sylvia Zobel, a young daughter of Ayala Land chairman Fernando Zobel de Ayala was one of the 2,200 volunteers who braved the scorching heat of the sun to help build houses in Navotas.
She brought 50 of her friends and classmates from the International School of Manila. They raised about P1 million in memory of Harry, a close friend of Sylvia's who recently passed away.
Sylvia recalled that Harry was himself very helpful to people in need and that he would console her whenever she was bullied at school.
"We want to help people and do it in a way that Harry's memory stays alive," Sylvia said. Four of the 200 houses built in Navotas were constructed in Harry's name.
"Much more than brick and mortar though, this activity really will provide more than just the much-needed shelter to hundreds of Navoteños. It gives them a fighting chance and hope for a better future for themselves and their children," Navotas Mayor John Rey Tiangco said.
"This effort is proof that the Filipino tradition of bayanihan is alive and well. It will serve as an example to many others that we are all responsible for our countrymen," Tiangco added. - Rappler.com
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