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Category: Social Development | By Editor, 10-Jun-2011 | Viewed 3772  Comments 0
A low-cost shelter project incorporated rain water harvesting.

Ronald Pickford, Rotary Club of Ballarat, Victoria, Australia

"I am so happy now that I live each day without fear." These are the translated words of a beneficiary of a low-cost shelter project in the Philippines. She told us that when she lived in flimsy squatter housing, she'd been afraid of not having food and water and had feared for her safety. "I have so many friends all living in a safe, friendly village with food and water," she said.

My recent assignment to the Philippines proved a challenging venture: Days after I left an area held by rebels, the detonation of an explosive device killed several people. Later, a second assignment took me to Fiji.

It is a privilege to be able to report on the difference a low-cost shelter can make in the lives of people. They are able to move out of cities with squatter housing not fit for families and into new, sustainable communities. The shelter projects have been undertaken in response to the repeated destruction of homes by cyclones. Newly built, cyclone-resistant housing improves the quality of life for disadvantaged families and provides them an opportunity to break free from the poverty cycle.

I have come to understand how important the low-cost shelter projects are in building strong and resilient communities and providing for people's basic needs: clean water, sanitation, security, empowerment, dignity, independence, and pride. It was my joy to learn how families, empowered to acquire new life skills, develop small scale home businesses such as orchid planting and the sewing of garments to be sold in local markets.

I was able to make a purchase at a community-established cooperative where families can buy basic food and personal-hygiene items. And I met a family that had participated in family care and training, education support, and income-generating programs and had then been able to move on to an even better life beyond the low-cost shelter community.

I was most interested in the cultural values that denigrate women and children, and in living arrangements in which large, extended families crowd together, which leads to health problems, violence, and greater poverty. To address these problems, well structured social development programs aim to build cohesive communities where all members share in decision making. This helps to nurture trust and facilitate conflict resolution in a violence-free environment, helping to build a unified community that can free the next generation from poverty. Having witnessed, audited, and assessed both of these projects, I now have a strong belief in what can be achieved in the long term through well-managed projects guided by a clear vision. There is strong value in funding these grant programs, not only because they provide safe, low-cost shelters but also because the community development activities deliver less-tangible benefits.

Both the technical and social aspects of these two projects were well implemented and worthy of support. The projects effectively addressed several basic needs of impoverished families and demonstrated an efficient use of money and time.

From: Tech Talk - Newsletter of The Rotary Foundation Cadre of Technical Advisers May 2011
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