We've had this post in the pipeline for ages, but events in the Indian Ocean have prompted us to move it up the list. Habitat for Humanity is a widely respected, nonprofit organisation that seeks to "eliminate poverty housing and homelessness from the world". Originally conceived in the US back in 1976, they now operate in 100 countries. Basically partner families contribute a huge amount of 'sweat equity' - their own time as labour in constructing the houses. They can then buy them using a no-interest loan from Habitat, who make no profit from the loan either. Through this unique participatory approach, Habitat expects they will have, by 2005, provided housing for one million low income peoples around the globe. Habitat for Humanity already had a presence in Tsunami effected countries of Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, Thailand, Malaysia and Bangladesh. They are now working with the local people to gauge needs in short and long term housing. For example, HFH Sri Lanka believe that for less than $100 USD they can make many damaged homes habitable. You can support such work by donating online. Although an 'ecumenical Christian housing ministry', Habitat for Humanity does not discriminate according to race, religion or ethnic group. And Worth magazine has deemed Habitat for Humanity International one of the top 100 nonprofits in the United States, indicating that maximum result is obtained from every dollar donated.
Clearly they are big on the social aspects of building industry but Habitat for Humanity International also participate strongly in the environmental side as well. They construct modest scale shelters, using less materials and transport, while being cheaper to heat or cool. In the US and Canada they offer ReStores, selling reused building materials. In Uganda they operate tree nurseries to replace the timber used for housing, while in Peru educate homeowners to use household 'greywater' to nuture trees. They design housing respecting the needs and traditional materials and architectural styles of local cultures. No cookie cutter McMansions here. In El Paso HFH was the first house builder to be certified under the EPA's "Energy Star" program. HFH have also been involved in many strawbale construction projects. If you wanted to experience they work they do first-hand, they have a worldwide volunteer program, where you can help alongside the homeowners as their new house is built. Another form of legitimate eco-travel. Even outside of the current crisis, they are an exceedingly worthy organisation to support. ::Habitat for Humanity [by WM]