Homes built by Habitat for Humanity survived Cyclone Pam

This home in Saviri village built by Habitat for Humanity survived Cyclone Pam without any damage.

BANGKOK (April 20, 2015) When Cyclone Pam hit the island nation of Vanuatu on March 14, the people living in the village of Saviri feared the worst. As their village is a low-lying community on the northern coast of Efate Island, they were right in the path of the storm, and damage there was expected to be severe. When the wind and rain pounded the island for hours, everyone huddled in their homes, hoping and praying that their homes and lives would be spared.

The next morning after the storm passed, the people of Saviri were finally able to emerge from their homes. Fortunately, nobody was injured in the disaster, although 10 homes in Saviri had been damaged, mostly with the rooftops torn off

Many of the houses in the village suffered only minor damage, or no damage at all. These included two homes built by Habitat for Humanity nearly a decade ago.

Rachel Authour lives in one of the Habitat houses that was not damaged by the cyclone. A 34-year-old mother of two, she rode out the storm with her husband and two children inside the house.

“We were afraid of the strong winds, but we felt safe inside the house,” Rachel recalled of that storm-filled night. “This was the strongest cyclone, and it didn’t remove the building. So the building is very strong.”

Rachel’s neighbor Toumelu Steele agrees that the Habitat homes are of good quality. “This is a number one house,” she said, “a strong house.”

While Rachel’s house weathered the storm, there was a minor problem. “The wind and rain brought some water in through the windows and louvers,” Rachel explained.

Rachel Authour and her family sheltered inside their home during the storm.

An additional room that Rachel and her family had built on their own, without Habitat’s supervision, also did not do as well. The roof of the room, that was adjacent to her house, was completely blown away by the cyclone’s winds. For now, the room has been temporarily covered with tarps until it can be fixed permanently.

The two Habitat houses that withstood Cyclone Pam have thick walls and strongly anchored roofs. Habitat volunteers and Saviri’s villagers built these houses over a six month period in 2005 and 2006.

“This is a strong house, a good building,” said Emile Kanas, referring to Rachel’s house. Emile is a 45-year-old farmer and fisherman in Saviri. Like most men in the village, he participated in the construction of the two homes. “They taught us how to make bricks. Then we made the bricks. Then we built the house.”

In addition to providing labor, Saviri’s villagers also contributed some materials which helped to keep costs down. “We provided the timber,” said Emile. “We cut our own timber in the forest.”

Between 2002 and 2006, Habitat for Humanity built 21 homes on Efate island, including the two undamaged houses in Saviri village. Constructed in several different neighborhoods, all of the houses survived Cyclone Pam without significant damage.