6 May 2011 – Fifteen members of the National Association of Women in Construction (NSW) and three women from Dexus answered a call in Nepal from the charity Habitat for Humanity and helped build the first 10 of 250 homes for female-headed households in March.

The Australians worked alongside 80 fellow female volunteers, local families and workers for five days, using basic tools and materials sourced from the community, and ended with a special handover ceremony with the local families.

The project in Itahari in Nepal’s south east, coincided with the centenary of International Women’s Day on 8 March.  HFH Australia sought 100 women to each donate $5000 to help build the homes. The money also helped fund health and education for children, and better employment and entrepreneurial opportunities for women. In total 95 Australian women raised

From Dexus: chief operating officer Tanya Cox, head of marketing and communications Emma Parry and head of human resources Pat Daniels.

$500,000+, funding 250 new houses to be built over the next two years

Included in the contingent were three women from Dexus –  chief operating officer Tanya Cox, head of marketing and communications Emma Parry and head of human resources Pat Daniels.

Together they raised $19,235.

A newsletter based on the trip included the following highlights:

About Nepal
Population 29.5 million Economy Tourism and agriculture Literacy rate 48.6 per cent Life expectancy 62 years

Though it has ancient roots, the modern state of Nepal emerged only in the 18th century. Squeezed between the Tibetan plateau and the plains of the subcontinent, Nepal has long prospered from its location as a resting place for traders, travellers and pilgrims. A cultural mixing pot, it has bridged cultures and absorbed elements of its neighbours, yet retained a unique character. Those who have travelled to India would notice many similarities, particularly in Biratnagar where we stayed, which geographically and culturally is much closer to India.

Sakuntala Mahato with her son Prajwol, four

About Sakuntala
35 year-old Sakuntala Mahato lives in Sunsari with her son Prajwol, aged four. Her husband left her five years ago after just five months of marriage and has not returned since. Her neighbours supported her during her pregnancy and delivery in the absence of her husband. As her son is young she can’t go out for work; instead she prepares snacks and sells them to the children who attend the nearby school. This earns her $2 a day. With her savings she has managed to purchase a piece of land. Sakuntala lived in very vulnerable and poor conditions in her house of around 11 square metres. The roof leaked, it was close to collapsing and it flooded in the monsoon season.

Sakuntala slept on a bamboo bed on the mud floor. As there are no windows, the rooms were very dark and smoke could not escape easily. The family has one goat that lives inside the house with them. “I feel very lucky that I will be receiving support from Australia to build my house during the Hand in Hand Build,” she said.

Prajwol, right, and friend

About Tara Adhikari
36 year-old Tara Adhikari was widowed last year after her husband died of tuberculosis due to a lack of ade- quate care and medication.

She lives in Sunsari with her two daughters, Narmada, 15, Patriba, 10, and two sons, Youba Raj, 12, and Sanjaya, five. Tara works more than 12 hours a day. In the morning and evening she works as a house-maid, cleaning, and washing clothes and dishes, and during the day as an unskilled labourer on a construction site. She earns between $2 and $2.50 a day, which is not enough to adequately feed, clothe and educate her children.

Due to her miserable conditions, Tara‘s neighbours often offer support to her and her family. Tara and her children lived in appalling conditions in a one-room house of about 15 sq m. The walls were falling down, the mud floor was constantly wet and it was freezing in winter. The unhygienic state of the house caused the children to suffer regularly from viruses, colds and stomach ailments.

Before he died, Tara’s husband purchased a piece of land and dreamt of building a house on it. Her children longed for a house that was safe and adequate with enough space to read and write and bring friends home to.

Habitat for Humanity
Established more than 30 years ago, Habitat for Humanity‘s vision is a world where everyone has a safe and decent place to live. It has built more than 400,000 homes around the world, providing shelter to more than two million people worldwide.