Building hope for the future

Habitat for Humanity is relaunching its Hope Builders campaign this year, and wants as much of the industry as possible on board. Suzie Mayes finds out about the campaign which raises funds to build homes for those in the poorest parts of the world

The UK’s housing shortage is a well-established fact, affecting millions. But elsewhere in the world, having even the most basic roof over one’s head is not a given. Habitat for Humanity is a humanitarian aid organisation whose mission is to build a safe environment where families and communities can thrive.

(Pictured) With the Hope Builders campaign the industry will be helping some of the world's most vulnerable people, including children and orphans, out of poverty housing

The name may ring familiar with the industry thanks to Habitat’s Hope Builders campaign. Established in 2008, this encourages housebuilders to raise funds to help lift people in the poorest areas of the globe out of poverty housing. With the Home Builders Federation in support, the housebuilding sector has to date raised more than £800,000 to aid home building for those in desperate need in countries including Cambodia, Malawi, Nepal, the Philippines and disaster areas. Impressive, but now it is time to up the ante.

Habitat is relaunching the Hope Builders campaign this year, and wants more of the industry across the board to get on board. It now has an enlarged team at its office in Slough, Berkshire, and the resources to spread the word more widely. Its ambition is to work with HBF to raise £3 million over as many years to dramatically increase its impact in aiding the world’s most vulnerable countries.

The organisation is concentrating on three main countries in its refreshed programme: Ethiopia, Malawi and Cambodia. To join the cause, the industry can volunteer, fundraise and/or participate in various fun and challenging events. Habitat is appealing to HBF members, but is also now encouraging them to engage with their suppliers, subcontractors and everyone else with a hand in housebuilding. There are also opportunities to support Habitat’s UK based projects.

Message to housebuilders
“We want to get the message to housebuilders that what they’ve already contributed to Hope Builders has been spent and has contributed to building homes for those in poverty,” says Mike Freshney, industry veteran and ambassador for Habitat. “Now we want to say, ‘this has proved achievable. Why don’t more of you get involved?’ Freshney’s distinguished career includes being md of Crest Nicholson and main board director of Berkeley Group.

Hope Builders is an obvious fit for the industry, he says, simply by virtue of its craft. “When people ask ‘why this charity?’ I say that in our careers, we put roofs over people’s heads. With this cause we’re extending our expertise and knowledge in housebuilding.”

So, what exactly can the industry do to help? It could sign up for Habitat’s signature event – the Hope Challenge – taking place from June 9-11 in the Peak District. Teams of four to six will spend a weekend building a shelter, and completing physical and mental challenges. Companies and colleagues are pitted against each other in the name of ending poverty housing. “They must come with their own materials and will be judged on how watertight their shelters are,” says Tum Kazunga, Habitat’s head of income generation. “Points are awarded for the best shelter. If you win, you get bragging rights.” Teams also aim to raise a minimum of £3,000 by undertaking whatever activities inspire – cycling, baking, painting, etc. It costs an average of £3,000 to build a Habitat home, so achievements can be easily measured.

Firms could take a Global Village volunteer trip - working alongside volunteer teams from around the world – and experience the culture as natives do. Building experience is not necessary. From November 13–17, Habitat is hosting a “Big Build” to Cambodia. Supported by a Habitat team leader, participants will paint, mix mortar and lay bricks to deliver homes for 82 families in Battambang. Habitat is looking to assemble a team of 40 from the UK housebuilding industry.

The trip could suit smaller companies if they can spare one or two people, Habitat suggests. “It’s great for networking with other small companies in the industry,” says Lilian Bankiyan-Monfard, Habitat’s corporate partnerships officer. Those interested should email the team (see Further information box below).

Chris Endsor, ceo of Miller Homes, and a team of employees took a Global Village trip to Malawi last September. Tum Kazunga joined them. “The team was taken aback by the scale of poverty and the fact they could make a practical difference to the locals’ lives. And the ceo was there alongside everyone, digging cement”. Those from Miller who did not take the trip rallied behind it, Habitat says. Such a venture seems invaluable for team bonding and personal experience. (For more on Miller’s trip, see box). Crest Nicholson also took part in a building project in Malawi as part of its support for Habitat and to mark its 50th anniversary in 2013.

As a Habitat ambassador and seasoned volunteer, Mike Freshney fully appreciates the misery that some people half a world away must endure. In 2013, he visited the main slum of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, which sits over an open sewer. “It gets into all of the senses. The moment you walk among the people, suddenly you realise what poverty means. Most families there have HIV and there are a lot of orphans.

(Pictured) Mike Freshney in a slum in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where many families live in homes built on stilts over an open sewer

“You won’t change the world but you can make a difference. It’s amazing how little it takes.” He speaks warmly of the people he has seen move from slums into their new homes. Even if their new abodes are simple: “You see their delight at being in a safe, secure home with sanitation and electricity, and somewhere for children to learn.” A decent home creates a foundation for general life improvement - in health, cleanliness and access to jobs, Freshney points out.

Beyond the Hope Challenge and volunteering, the industry can fundraise or donate through golf days, charity balls (including the HBF ball) or whatever activities – or methods - grab them. For example, for every home Bath-based Charlcombe Homes sells, it submits a donation to Habitat.

Any donation will make an impact, Habitat insists. And supporting Habitat will not detract from any other charity work a housebuilder wishes to undertake. “Being a Hope Builder is not exclusive. It can add value to what a company is already doing,” Kazunga says. From a local publicity angle, it could be very beneficial, particularly for building relationships with the housebuilder’s local community. Becoming a Hope Builder partner “creates a story” beyond the housebuilder itself, adds Lilian Bankiyan-Monfard, Habitat’s corporate partnerships officer. “It’s a different way of defining yourself”.

Involvement can only help bolster the industry’s image, perhaps causing those who level claims of “money grabbing” at housebuilders to think twice, Freshney indicates. It makes for a potentially powerful CSR statement for the industry. Freshney has dropped Habitat leaflets on desks in planning departments and seen attitudes change.

Habitat has launched a new section of its website which allows newly joined Hope Builder partners to download everything they need to become part of the Hope Builders movement.

“Partnerships are tailored to what companies are looking for,” says Bankiyan-Monfard. “As our capacity has grown, there’s now room [for this flexibility].” And, Kazunga says, as Habitat forges closer ties with the industry, more ideas for helping the effort will develop, including opportunities to involve the whole supply chain. “Ultimately it’s about helping the poorest and most vulnerable people in a fun and engaging way.”

Freshney looks forward to encouraging the Habitat “ambassadors of the future”. As for his own motivation for the cause, he says: “The housebuilding industry has been good to me. I want to give something back.”

Global Village Trip

(Pictured) Chris Endsor, Miller's ceo, and his team in Malawi

In September 2016, Miller Homes took part in a Habitat for Humanity Global Village Trip to Malawi, to build Habitat homes for families as part of the orphans and vulnerable children project.

Chris Endsor, Miller’s ceo, says: “I wanted our support to be about much more than just fundraising so we also sponsored a team of 16 Chris Endsor, Miller's ceo, and his team in Malawi volunteers from a cross section of the business to travel to Malawi to actually build Habitat Homes, giving them a unique opportunity to experience our fundraising effort in action.

“I was privileged to be part of that team, and for all of us it was an incredibly emotional yet extremely rewarding experience and allowed us to see for ourselves the massive difference our fundraising efforts make to the families we are supporting.”

Through a spectrum of fundraising events, including marathons, pigeon racing and charity balls, Miller smashed its 2016 £100,000 target for Habitat. The current fundraising total is more than £210,000 – enough to build more than 70 Habitat homes.

Further information

Email: Mike Freshney:
Tum Kazunga:
Lilian Bankiyan-Monfard:

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