HFH Philippines Completes More Than 500 New Houses And Renovations In Mindanao

Funded by European Commission, The Build For Peace In Mindanao Project Also Provides Livelihood And Skills Training Through Habitat’s Partners

MINDANAO, 21st April 2008: Since 2001, Habitat for Humanity Philippines has been advocating peace through building homes in the southeastern Mindanao island where thousands of people have been displaced from their homes in the 30 years of armed conflict between the Philippine government and several rebel gangs. Despite the signing of a peace agreement in 1996, an uneasy truce remains.

Sheltered: One of the houses completed under the Build for Peace project in Midsayap city, Cotabato province, Mindanao.

Here we go: Women volunteers helping at a build site in San Jose barangay, General Santos City.

The ongoing Build for Peace in Mindanao project, funded by one million euro (about US1.6 million) from the European Commission, has been making steady strides in the conflict-affected island with hundreds of families benefiting to date. Build for Peace was launched in April 2006 and since then, Habitat has built and renovated more than 500 houses in the cities of Tacurong, Midsayap, General Santos City and Kidapawan.

The three-year project aims to build or renovate 1,000 hopes, helping internally displaced persons, former combatants and their families who have sought refuge in peace and development communities established by the Philippine government and a United Nations multi-donor program.

Recently, the Build for Peace in Mindanao project was extended to two barangays or villages in Sarangani province to build 25 new houses and renovate another 25 homes. Another 50 home renovations in two villages in Kidapaywan city, Cotabato province, are expected to start this June.

In addition to housing, the project aims to build peace and break the poverty cycle for affected families through livelihood and other opportunities. Various non-governmental organizations are partnering with Habitat to provide infrastructure, livelihood skills training, community centers and waste management training. Habitat’s partners include Alterplan, the United Nations Development Program-ACT for Peace Program, non-profit corporations SAO Philippines, Angelo King Foundation and The Community Education, Research and Extension Administration (CEREA).

Current activities range from mushroom cultivation for families to construction skills training for out-of-school young people. The local government’s agriculture department from Tacurong city recently showed Habitat home partners in Bual barangay, Sultan Kudarat province, how to plant beds of mushrooms. The seminar was held with the view of encouraging the Habitat families, especially the women, to take up mushroom cultivation as a good source of income.

Over in Ilian barangay, Cotabato province in Mindanao, another 80 out-of-school young people started a month-long building trades training course under Alterplan, a local non-governmental organization started in 1990 by a group of architects and planners. The participants will put what they have learnt to use in on-the-job training at a Habitat build site in Ilian.

Habitat’s skilled construction workers are among the trainers in the building trades courses. The young participants, aged between 17 and 24 years old, are not only taught basic house construction techniques, innovative Habitat construction technology but also lessons on entrepreneurship and peace. Psycho-social workshops are held to help former child combatants.

The building trades training course was piloted in July 2006 in Midsayap,Tacurong and General Santos cities. To date, more than 360 out-of-school young people have been trained and more than 70 per cent of them have found jobs with Habitat as skilled construction workers.

Armed with his new-found skills, Hamsa Pagayan was gratified. “Who would have thought that we acquire these skills and jobs,” said Pagayan, then 24 years old, in an interview withInquirer Mindanao, a local newspaper.