Category Archives: Europe

Ghor al Safi, Jordan (February 2019)

Due to economic necessity and tradition, extended families in this country tend to live together, resulting in 12 to 15 family members oftentimes sharing a small two-room house. Overcrowded living conditions and a lack of privacy endanger the health and well-being of families. Additionally, women struggle to cook in makeshift kitchens with dirt floors, which results in improperly stored food that can attract pests and rodents. Habitat for Humanity Jordan works with the local community to provide housing solutions to these families in need of healthy, affordable homes.

With 80 percent of the population currently living in cities — 63 percent in Amman, Zarqa and Irbid alone — Jordan is also faced with an urban housing crisis. Continued migration into the cities, combined with an influx of refugees from neighboring countries and the high level of urban poverty, have left many families without adequate shelter. These families are struggling with unsanitary conditions and social alienation. Inadequate housing fosters a sense of helplessness and marginalization among the poor, most of whom believe they are powerless to improve their living conditions.

Habitat for Humanity Jordan operates in 11 communities, bringing opportunities for families to lead safe, healthy and productive lives. A typical Habitat house in Jordan averages 55 square meters and is made of concrete blocks. The houses represent opportunities to build relationships across cultures, religions and classes, which consequently builds peace in the country.

Global Village is Habitat for Humanity’s international volunteer program. Teams travel to over 40 countries to work alongside communities, build housing solutions, and experience local culture. Our goal is to change the lives of the people we serve, as well as the lives of the volunteers.  To join a team or learn more, visit www.habitat.org/gv.

About Habitat for Humanity International

Driven by the vision that everyone needs a decent place to live, Habitat for Humanity began in 1976 as a grassroots effort on a community farm in southern Georgia. The housing organization has since grown to become a leading global nonprofit working in more than 1,300 communities throughout the U.S. and in more than 70 countries. Families and individuals in need of a hand up partner with Habitat for Humanity to build or improve a place they can call home. Habitat homeowners help build their own homes alongside volunteers and pay an affordable mortgage. Through financial support, volunteering or adding a voice to support affordable housing, everyone can help families achieve the strength, stability and self-reliance they need to build better lives for themselves. Through shelter, we empower. To learn more, visit habitat.org.

Braga, Portugal (April 2016)

What a fantastic trip!  In April 2016, a team of 11 volunteers traveled to Braga, Portugal with Habitat for Humanity’s Global Village program to help construct a home for the family of Maria.  We mixed, carried, and applied countless buckets of cement as we continued the work of previous teams.  By the end of the week, we’d made a lot of progress, formed many new friendships, and had a better understanding of the housing need in Portugal.  This was a wonderful place to work and to visit – put Portugal on your list of places to see!

About Portugal
Portugal is situated on the west side of the Iberian Peninsula, bordering Spain. It became an independent kingdom in 1143, and it is one of the oldest existent nations in Europe. It was the Portuguese sailors who, in the 15th century, discovered the ocean routes to India, Brazil, China and Japan, changing the way people understood the world around them.

Braga is situated in the northwestern part of the country and has been an important trading center since recorded times. In the 12th century, it became Portugal’s spiritual center and the home of the Catholic Church. Numerous cathedrals, buildings and relics testify to Braga’s religious significance. Modern Braga is also known for its unique handicrafts and delectable gastronomy. Wandering through the streets of Braga, you will find excellent pottery and wooden miniatures, but the city’s most characteristic handicraft is cavaquinho, or four-string baby viola, still manufactured in the traditional way.

About Habitat for Humanity Portugal
Housing is a major concern for Portuguese families, with 65 percent of the population living in dilapidated housing and 8.5 percent in shacks. One of the biggest challenges of HFH Portugal is a common dependency on government subsidies. The Governmental Social Housing program has been relatively effective in re-housing families that were living in poor conditions. However, support for the families that have been relocated does not exist. Social problems such as alcoholism, illiteracy, exclusion, lack of basic care and the creation of “social ghettos” are not solved with this kind of assistance. Only by promoting community-building and inclusiveness, and through educational and social programs, is it possible to break this poverty cycle.

Poverty housing in Portugal is spread throughout the country, with two distinctive kinds of housing: “hidden poverty” (typical Portuguese houses with a small orchard that hides the poor housing conditions) and the obvious shacks of the big cities. Since the 1970s, Portugal has been the destination country for immigrants from the former Portuguese colonies and Brazil and more recently, for immigrants from former Soviet Union countries. Thus, the need for housing is growing, especially in the urban areas of the country.

The first Habitat house in Portugal was built in 1999 in the town of Vieira do Minho. The following year, HFH Braga began to build in Palmeira and Cunha. In 2002, the organization began to renovate and repair existing homes and apartments and continues to find ways to serve more families. Learn more about Habitat Portugal at http://www.habitat.pt/.