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Homes and Hope : Hand in hand

【明報專訊】Disaster Response stories dominated the media headlines in September 2018, with Typhoon Mangkhut smashing into Hong Kong and the Sulawesi, Indonesia earthquake and tsunami devastating Palu and the surrounding area. A few weeks later, news stories and people around the world have moved on. But for those communities directly affected by natural disasters, it can take years to rebuild their homes and their lives. At Habitat for Humanity, our Disaster Risk Reduction and Response programme allows us to guide individuals and families to take back more control of their living situation following a disaster. Our disaster response teams build connections, empathy and long-term recovery through working with families affected by natural disasters.

Disaster response marked the first page of my personal Habitat story. My first week was spent in Nepal on a home building project for families affected by the 2015 Nepal earthquake and visiting families affected by the 2017 floods. I rolled up my sleeves and worked alongside construction workers and homeowners, as well as large teams of volunteers, mixing cement, passing rocks and gravel and laying foundations to build durable and disaster-resilient homes.

Since the Nepal earthquake struck, we have helped more than 54,000 Nepali families rebuild their lives. As well as building resilience with physical shelter, Habitat also focuses on capacity building and empowering the community to face future disasters. We train both men and women in masonry skills for longer-term impact and families rebuilding their homes. They can receive technical and site supervisory support from Habitat Nepal with engineers and site supervisors on hand to advise families on construction standards.

In celebration of World Habitat Day on October 1 and to raise awareness of Habitat's post-disaster operations, we recently held a five-day disaster response exhibition at Hong Kong Baptist University. We introduced over 2000 exhibition visitors to a mock-up slum display to demonstrate how families can manage immediate disaster response. With the support of Habitat's emergency shelter kit, families can use the basic construction materials to build immediate shelters and reuse materials for permanent house construction at a later stage.

Each stage of disaster relief from emergency to recovery requires the support of many. At Habitat Hong Kong, with the generous help of our donors and volunteers, we continue to work with families weeks, months and years after a natural disaster across the Asia-Pacific Region. We stress the importance of your continuous support — this should never begin with disaster only, nor should it end when it is no longer a media headline. Let's work hand in hand with the families in disaster-prone areas and come together to build and rebuild communities!

■By Jo Hayes, CEO,

Habitat for Humanity Hong Kong

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