Habitat For Humanity Dedicates Two Houses Built By US Volunteers In Papua New Guinea’s Western Highlands

To Date, 21 Houses Constructed With Habitat Also Training Young Men In Carpentry And Sawmilling And Promoting HIV And Aids Awareness

WESTERN HIGHLANDS, 24th March 2010: Two houses built by a Global Village team from the US were dedicated in the Western Highlands province, Papua New Guinea. About 21 houses have been built in the Western Highlands by Habitat for Humanity and its partners.

The community turned out in force for the dedication of two houses built by a Global Village volunteer team from the U.S.

Habitat houses built in the Western Highlands include wooden houses on stilts (above) and brick houses on concrete foundation (below).

Australian volunteers on a previous build.

Habitat started its pilot 15-house project in Western Highlands in January 2007 with the aim of assisting low-income families especially those with disabled members, widows and the under-privileged in three communities — Moyam, Nelga and Kuma.

The bulk of the population in these rural communities live in thatched roof huts built with bush which needed to be replaced after three to four years. Habitat typically builds brick houses with concrete foundation or wooden houses on stilts. The houses, which comprise either two, three or four bedrooms, can be built in less than a week by Habitat volunteers who were mostly from the US or Australia.

As part of its pilot project, Habitat also helped train young men in carpentry and sawmill operating skills to enable the communities to have a pool of skilled workers. Habitat’s partners in the Western Highlands included local organization Community Development Scheme.

In interviews with Habitat staff, home partners have said they considered themselves blessed to have decent homes where their children could have a conducive study environment and be more resistant to common illnesses such as asthma and other respiratory diseases and malaria.

Families who benefited from permanent houses include Lina Buldi, a mother of five who is an amputee. She moved into her three-bedroom house in Tega village, Moyam community, in October 2009 and expressed her gratitude to Habitat for building homes in Western Highlands.

Thirty young men were also trained to help Habitat families farm timber from their forests with the use of chainsaws and sawmills. Today, six young men are still working as sawmill and chainsaw operators and Habitat hopes to tap on their skills to continue serving families in need.

In addition, Habitat partnered with local organizations such as the province’s Aids council secretariat to raise the awareness of HIV and Aids in communities where Habitat works.

The Western Highlands provincial government also provided support to Habitat’s program worth 50,000 kina (about US18,100).

Incorporating local customs into Habitat’s Save & Build housing finance concept has worked well in the Western Highlands. At each house dedication, other families who are saving toward the cost of their houses are to each contribute 20 kina to the new home owner. Generally, about 3,000 kina can be collected during house dedication with another 1,000 kina coming from the home owner’s own savings group. By the end of the dedication service, the home owner receives at least 4,000 kina which is half of the 8,000 kina house cost. Through this Homeowner Support Program, Habitat home partners in Western Highlands are able to complete repayment for their houses more quickly and community support is also ensured as everyone has a share in the house.