Habitat For Humanity CEO Visits Cyclone Response Project, Speaks At South Asia Leadership Conference In Bangladesh At Start Of Six-Country Asia Tour

July 8, 2008

Jonathan Reckford Also Celebrates HFH Cambodia’s Signing Of World Bank-Backed Deal On Land Security In Phnom Penh

In appreciation: Peter Halder (right), chairman of HFH-Bangladesh advisory board, presenting Habitat CEO Jonathan Reckford with a plaque at the South Asia Leadership Conference in Dhaka.

DHAKA, 8th July 2008: Chief executive officer of Habitat for Humanity International, Jonathan Reckford, had a first-hand look at the progress of Habitat’s cyclone response program in southern Bangladesh at the start of his six-country Asia tour. He also spoke at the South Asia Leadership Conference organized by Habitat in Bangladesh.

Accompanied by a team from Habitat’s Asia-Pacific area and Bangladesh offices, Reckford visited the cyclone response project in Mirjaganj, southern Patuakhali district, where 136 transitional shelters have been built to date. The transitional shelters each comprise six precast columns and a tin roof. They are constructed with the view that in a few months, permanent walls made of blocks or bricks can be provided to the families on a repayment basis.

Habitat’s partner, Christian Aid Ministries (CAM), is funding the 280-transitional shelter project to rebuild the homes of families affected by Cyclone Sidr in November 2007. During his visit, Reckford officially dedicated the first transitional shelter and toured the facilities of a production center. In addition to the transitional shelters, which are expected to be completed by September 2008, the project provides disaster mitigation training to families and the community.

“While it was devastating to see first-hand the impact of Cyclone Sidr and hear about the loss of lives and homes, I couldn’t have been more impressed with Habitat for Humanity Bangladesh’s response in partnership with CAM. The speed and professionalism with which they are building durable transitional shelters is clearly providing decent homes for hundreds of families and hope for their communities. Our challenge now is to raise the additional resources to transition into a long-term regular program to meet the still significant need for decent affordable shelter,” said Reckford.

He later addressed close to 90 participants at the South Asia Leadership Conference held from 19th to 21st June in Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka. Hailing from 12 countries, the participants took part in dynamic plenary discussions and workshop sessions that focused on the scaling up of urban housing solutions in the region. A common thread through the speeches and presentations was that good housing contributes to efficiency, enthusiasm and energy.

At the urban housing conference, Reckford said: “Housing is the foundation of decent life where children’s education, health of family members and dignity of life begin. In Habitat, we do not just build houses but impact the lives of families whom we served.”

All together: Reckford (left) officially dedicated the first transitional shelter for families affected by Cyclone Sidr in southern Bangladesh. He is joined by Habitat homepartner Adul Bari and Arnold Eby (center), project coordinator of Christian Aid Ministries, Habitat Bangladesh’s funding partner in the project.

He envisions that Habitat for Humanity will be a partner and catalyst in meeting the need for shelter – an accelerating issue in urban settings. Countries such as Bangladesh in South Asia and the rest of Asia will continue to deal with developmental issues stemming from an ever-growing urban poverty housing situation brought about by urbanization.

Other key guests and experts on urban housing who spoke at the conference included Mohammad Ali Kahn, director general of the government’s NGO Affairs Bureau; Prof. Nazrul Islam, chairman of the University Grants Commission of Bangladesh; Dr Adnan Aliani from the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and Prof. Dr. Nurul Islam Nazem, department of geography and environment, University of Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Bangladesh was the initial leg of Habitat CEO Jonathan Reckford’s Asia tour that took him to Thailand, Cambodia, Sichuan province in China, South Korea and Japan. Later, Reckford met donors in the Thai capital of Bangkok before flying on to Cambodia. While in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, Reckford visited a HFH Australia-funded project and attended a dinner reception hosted by HFH Cambodia for local government, embassy and World Bank representatives.

During the project visit, Reckford witnessed the home dedication of the 339th Habitat house built in Trapeang Anchanh village, approximately 12 km. from Phnom Penh.

Greetings: Reckford meeting Habitat homepartner Pat Chunleng and his wife Seur Sokna at the dedication of their new house in a Cambodia village.

Home owner Pat Chunleng and his wife, Seur Sokna, were happy to be living in a new house and they asked Habitat to help build houses for others like them who were displaced. Pat shared with Reckford that in the past he had to pay US25 a month in rent for a 9 sq. m. space with poor living conditions. Today, he continues to pay the same amount, but for a better and larger house 45 sq. m. home that in five years he and his family will own. Pat has plans to plaster the walls, add a ceiling and extend the house to create a small grocery shop in the front.

Later that evening, Reckford was at a dinner reception with representatives from the local government, Japan embassy in Phnom Penh, World Bank and corporate sector. The dinner was to celebrate the recent signing of a major grant agreement that would harness a civil society and government partnership to deliver land security in Cambodia’s second city, Battambang.

HFH Cambodia has recently been awarded a US400,000 grant administered by World Bank to implement a pilot urban program in Battambang, the second largest city in Cambodia. The project focuses on securing land tenure and shelter for more than 400 families. The project is financed by the government-funded Japan Social Development Fund (JSDF) that works to alleviate poverty and promote social development.

Speaking on behalf of JSDF, Norio Murayama, the acting charge d’affaires at the Japanese embassy, said “I very much appreciate that Habitat for Humanity, the experienced NGO, will be carrying out the project, in collaboration with World Bank.”