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Creating a Foundation for the Future
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Zach Abraham , Regional Communication Delegate for the American Red Cros
 
July 19, 2007

A Sri Lankan family oversees the construction of their new home through the American Red Cross owner-driven housing project in the town of Kinniya.
A Sri Lankan family oversees the construction of their new home through the American Red Cross owner-driven housing project in the town of Kinniya.
(Photo Credit: Zach Abraham/American Red Cross)
Following a long, curved stretch of red clay road leading into the village of Faizal Nagar, Kinniya, in the Trincomalee district of eastern Sri Lanka, stands a row of homes in varying states of completion. Some need doors and windows; others need walls and a roof. Yet, inside of each house are smiling, determined faces of families working under the hot sun to finish their homes.

These new houses will replace ones that were destroyed by the December 2004 tsunami. The families are part of an owner-driven housing program that is being supported by the American Red Cross and Swiss Red Cross.

“I like my house because it is my design, and it fits my needs,” said Thambi Sellaiyah, one of the homeowners in this area. Sellaiyah is designing his house to include an area where he can resume selling goods for the first time since his shop was destroyed by the tsunami.

Working in partnership with the Swiss Red Cross, the American Red Cross is empowering families to design and construct homes to meet their own specifications and desires.

“In looking at the most effective way to provide permanent housing, we feel the best approach is to put the power in the hands of the eventual homeowners,” said Ricardo Caivano, Senior Field Representative in Sri Lanka for the American Red Cross.

The owner-driven housing program provides people with cash grants given in four installments. Each installment requires the completion of pre-defined construction goals before the homeowner can move to the next phase.

Houses being constructed through the American Red Cross owner-driven housing project in the village of Kinniya in the E ast of Sri Lanka.
Houses being constructed through the American Red Cross owner-driven housing project in the village of Kinniya in the E ast of Sri Lanka.
(Photo Credit: Zach Abraham/American Red Cross)

“Once they finish the foundation, they get the next installment so they can start building the walls,” said Aziza Usoof, Monitoring Officer, Housing and Livelihoods for the American Red Cross. “This lets people build at their own pace, while still having to meet very clear objectives.”

By closely monitoring the construction of these houses, the American Red Cross helps to ensure that the houses meet local building standards, while enabling the owners to set the timetable for construction. Many of the people have been living in temporary shelters and have been waiting for this opportunity to return to their villages.

“The American Red Cross helped me move from a hut to a house, my own home,” said Abdul Kudoos Kasaldeen, whose original home was ripped to pieces by the force of the waves.

In total, the American Red Cross will provide US $2,500 to each homeowner, which is matched by the Swiss Red Cross. Together this project will assist approximately 4,200 people to move into a new home.

A Sri Lankan man holds a receipt showing he received a grant for the construction of the next phase of his house.
A Sri Lankan man holds a receipt showing he received a grant for the construction of the next phase of his house.
(Photo Credit: Zach Abraham/American Red Cross)

“By working together with the Swiss, we are able to provide incredibly affordable permanent housing that often surpasses the homes that were destroyed in the tsunami,” said Ms. Usoof.

For many homeowners, these houses are about much more than construction; they are about creating homes for their families to live in for years to come.

One homeowner, an assistant mason, is personally constructing both his cousin’s and his own home. “I prefer working on these houses rather than being given something without my input,” said Chandrasekaran Vijai. “I know what I want and what my cousin wants, so I am happy we have been given the resources to do this.”

In response his cousin, Peethamparam Ananthan, simply states, “We are working together to make stronger homes.”

You can help those affected by countless crises around the world each year by making a financial gift to the American Red Cross International Response Fund, which will provide immediate relief and long-term support through supplies, technical assistance and other support to help those in need. Call 1-800-RED CROSS or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish). Contributions to the International Response Fund may be sent to your local American Red Cross chapter or to the American Red Cross International Response Fund, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013. Internet users can make a secure online contribution by visiting www.redcross.org. The American Red Cross honors donor intent. If you wish to designate your donation to a specific disaster please do so at the time of your donation.


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