Be sure to check out this new cool application Habitat for Humanity International created. It's a map that allows you to post where you've had all your Habitat experiences. Think you haven't had an experience to share? Tell everyone about your relationship with us, right here in NJ. Share a story, share a memory! Click here to visit the map app.
Written by Orville Morales, Paterson Habitat Board Member
*The links below are links to videos and pictures of the topic I am discussion to provide better context to the article.
Habitat for Humanity International is building homes throughout the world to accomplish a simple but ever challenging mission - provide safe, decent, affordable housing for all those in need! Habitat for Humanity International did not randomly choose Kenya because there is loads of poverty and decided to arrive in a white horse and shining armor to “save” people. Habitat for Humanity Kenya is an established 29 year old affiliate (even older than Paterson Habitat) that has helped more than 5,000 low income families organizing in over 100 community groups to construct simple, decent and durable houses through the provision of small incremental loans that are easy to pay off. They work in many regions, but the particular project we were working on was to house 335 families displaced by the post-election violence that occurred in Kenya after the disputed presidential election of 2007. 1,137 people were killed and 630,000 people were displaced from their homes and moved to regions where they felt safer. Frances, the village chairman was able to organize the 335 families to pool some of their money that the government gave to pay for a plot of land and divide the land equally so they can begin the process of permanently settling in this new location. They then contacted organizations such as Habitat to help them construct houses. And there we were building house number 262 for the families in Maai Mahiu, Kenya.
The house we built was for Lea and her grandchildren Jane and Joseph. Like all the other families, they have lived in small vinyl tents above a dirt floor that housed 1 adult with 2 children for years. You can see in the pictures the major improvement to their quality of life from vinyl tents to quarry stone homes. Each family will receive the same kind of home and were chosen by lottery. Many families have already received their new homes with great joy while those that wait are still happy for their neighbors. Each morning the women of the community greeted us in song praising God for our presence before we began our days work. It certainly brought a great beginning to our day!
You will see that we are not building large 2 families homes like in the States. These houses are of humble size so that Habitat Kenya and the families can afford to build the same kinds of houses for everyone at the construction cost of $2,667. This is to ensure everyone has a home with an accompanying Latrine (which was NOT present before hand). Paterson Habitat for Humanity is a long time sister affiliate with Habitat Kenya and has donated through tithing roughly $36,000 a year to Kenya. We truly feel apart of every stone that is laid in these homes.
What is most profound about this project is the people's story. We had the pleasure of speaking to the leader of security, John. John was a commander in the armed forces until they were forced to fight their way out of their village after being attacked by their own neighbors. The aforementioned issue with the elections was that of ethnic tensions gone bad. When one group lost the elections, they took the results bitterly. So anyone that was foreign or not of that tribe was pushed out of their homes.
He explained to us in tears that “few in my country acknowledge their struggles as being displaced. While foreigners have shown so much love to us.” This caused all the team members from Paterson (even the camera guy and our Habitat counterparts) to find themselves in tears while listening to his story. We were all left speechless hearing how heartbroken he was at the betrayal of his neighbors. He was sure to express that he has forgiven his attackers though he will never forget their action. John says he will continue to praise God for the many people he has been able to meet and those that have come from all over the world to help build houses for him and his people. Although John is still waiting for his home to be built, our teary eyed encounter resulted in renewed energies to finish this house and help start another one before we left. Our farewells were very emotional but rewarding! Stay tuned for more details about our experience as our trip was so rich with insight that I simply cannot write just one blog about it. Hope you enjoy!
Survivors of Hurricane Irene who suffered damage should apply for disaster assistance with the Federal Emergency Management Agency – even if they have insurance or aren’t sure they are eligible.
Federal disaster assistance will not duplicate benefits, but may provide for uncovered losses. Grants may be available to help pay for rental assistance and emergency home repairs. Reimbursement for other serious disaster-related expenses may include medical, dental, funeral or burial costs.
Also, homeowners, renters, business owners and nonprofit organizations may be eligible for low-interest disaster loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) to aid recovery from losses not covered by insurance, grants or other sources. No one is obligated to take out a loan, but the application must be completed to receive other types of assistance.
Residents of Bergen, Essex, Morris, Passaic and Somerset counties are eligible for disaster assistance. As local, state, and federal recovery experts continue to assess damages, other New Jersey counties may be added to the disaster declaration.
Here are the three basic steps to receiving disaster assistance:
STEP ONE: Registration
Register by phone at 800-621-FEMA (3362) or TTY 800-462-7585 for those with hearing or speech impairments. Specialists are standing by at the toll-free numbers seven days a week, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. local time, until further notice. Help in other languages is available. Or you can register online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov. You can also apply through a web-enabled mobile device or smartphone by visiting m.fema.gov and following the link to “apply online for federal assistance.”
- If you have insurance, contact your agent before registering with FEMA.
- When calling FEMA, you will need: your Social Security number, your current mailing address, the address of the damaged property, a brief description of the damages and any insurance information, including the policy number and the name of your agent, and a phone number where you can be reached.
- Fill out and return your SBA low-interest disaster loan application if you receive one. Returning the application does not obligate you to accept an SBA loan, but the application must be filled out in order to be considered for other types of disaster assistance.
STEP TWO: Inspections
After you register, a FEMA-contracted housing inspector will call you to set up an appointment to inspect your property. There is no charge for this service, but it is a necessary step to determine damages.
Make sure your home or mailbox number is easily visible from the road. As part of the inspection process, you must provide proof of ownership or occupancy:
- Homeowners may show a tax bill, deed, mortgage payment receipt or insurance policy with the property's address.
- Renters may show a lease, rent payment receipt, utility bill or other document confirming the home was their primary residence at the time of the disaster.
- Homeowners and renters must also present a valid driver's license or other photo ID.
STEP THREE: Keep in Touch
Among the top five reasons applicants fail to receive federal assistance grants is FEMA's inability to contact them after they apply. This can be particularly difficult for persons in shelters or temporary housing. FEMA tries to reach applicants numerous times before a decision on an application is made. It is vital that you inform FEMA of any change in telephone number and/or mailing address. This can be done by simply calling the FEMA Helpline (see below) or by visiting the disaster assistance website.
For More Information or Questions
For any assistance along the way – such as with help filling out the applications, and general questions or progress reports – call the FEMA Helpline at 800-621-FEMA (3362), or TTY 800-462-7585, and select the language option you require.
Receiving a FEMA Grant
FEMA will issue funds if you are found eligible under the Individuals and Households Program. If you have provided banking information to FEMA, the funds will be deposited directly into your account. This option can often speed up the process of receiving assistance.
If you do receive a check, deposit it as soon as possible. You must use the money for the disaster-related assistance for which it is intended. You will receive a letter outlining how the funds are to be spent.
Information from www.PatersonPress.com
Written by Orville Morales-Paterson Habitat Board Member,
*This picture is with Team Kenya overlooking the Great Rift Valley, one of the most important geological locations in the World with one of our Hosts, Festus Mutua of HFH Kenya!
Jambo and Habari Ya Asbuy!! (Hello and Good Morning) I am finally able to sit down and post about our experiences in Kenya. Its been a wild couple of days as we got adjusted to the jet lag, traveling from site to site and meetings with new people and getting to know our very gracious host from HFH Kenya, Global village, and other groups (more no them later). On Friday when we arrived, we stayed at Gracie' Guest House in Nairobi which was a very nice bed and breakfast type of compound with high security (bared wire, electric fence and 8 foot wall) where we essentially all crashed to bed. When we woke up and had breakfast on Saturday morning, the day was set to take a visit to the IDP site in Naivasha (1hr drive) where we will be building the Habitat Home for the Village (IDP means Internally Displaced Persons). However, before we stopped at the IDP site, we went to the local mall in Nairobi to exchange our dollars to shillings (93 shillings to every dollar) and get an idea what kinds of prices certain items cost. This was important because craft shopping in Kenya is all about bargaining, and we needed to learn quickly so we are not taken advantage of. I will blog about this later this week as it is a neat story.
After a pleasant lunch at the mall (Think Cheesecake Factory in the outdoor section) where we also met up with other members of our group, Donna Brightman and Michael Rolls who went on a safari and tangled with elephants, lions, giraffes, monkeys and even went on a balloon ride. We then drove to the IDP site and that is where we realized the work we came to do. After the 2007 presidential campaign, mass violence broke out that displaced many people, some of which to the IDP site. The government help them purchase a plot of land where many have been living in tents for 2-3 years. Mind you, the people who live here were not necessarily the poor of the country. They were the wealthier groups who were pushed out of their homes and lost everything all because they were members of the tribe that won the election. I will post a separate blog about the IDP site and provide more details about this particular issue in the coming week. It will include details about the election, how Habitat for Humanity got involved and how these houses are actually build.
We eventually arrived in Lake Naivasha Panorama Park and it is a beautiful, rustically built, resort like hotel where we each have our own rooms with breakfast and dinner provided 7am and 7pm, respectively. During the evenings after dinner, the Team sits down to reflect upon our experiences of the day. The first night (Saturday), we were just getting acquainted with the area and our reflection was brief. However on Sunday, after our visit to the New Bread of Life Ministries church and heard Bishop Joseph M. Wambugu's sermon regarding Spirituality, Relationships and Responsibility. This opened a wider door for many of us during our reflection as seeing the joy the congregation displayed worshipping with the Team was particularly touching. So much so even this writer enjoyed a song with full clapping and swaying left and right with two catholics by my side who were not used to such lively church service (but enjoyed it nonetheless).
After church, we were taken out on a water safari where we had pleasant encounters with Fish Eagles, pelicans, giraffes, zebras, hippos (from a safe distance) and even a Baptism! We also drove on land to see baboons, impalas, wart hogs, more giraffes and zebras, OH MY!! We ended the day early so we can rest as we will go out today (Monday) to start our build. I hope this update provides a little insight of our experience (though it wont be the same unless we tell you about it in person and more so if you were here). I will try to post photos but with the speed of the internet, it might be difficult. Take care everyone, hope seeing President Obama was exciting!
Written by Orville Morales-Paterson Habitat Board Member
Everyone is making their own preparations on this day as we set up to meet at JFK airport. As I am preparing to go, I have a sad feeling of leaving behind North New Jersey which just suffered some of the worst flooding in recent history. As people are losing their businesses and have their homes and vehicles damaged by flooding, leaving has its bitter sweet feeling. Though I must remind myself that one cannot measure human suffering through comparisons. Going to Kenya where there is sustained poverty and strife, I feel that it is okay to dedicate some time to Africa until I return home and continue my work with Paterson Habitat for Humanity. Please share your thoughts and discuss this amongst yourselves as I would love to read your comments. In the meantime, I bid you farewell and I will report after this long day of travel with the feelings of my fellow team members. God Bless my Friends!
Written by Orville Morales, Paterson Habitat Board Member
*This is the final member of Team Kenya to be posted before I begin blogging for the week.
Michael Rolls is originally form Staten Island but grew up in Wayne, NJ. Graduate of St. Johns University in Queens NY as a Certified Public Accountant, he presently works as CFO of PC Tan in Ridgefield, NJ. He is currently Paterson Habitat's Board treasurer and has been on the Finance Committee for 10 years. Michael has never been on a build like this one. While he protects us from going over budget, he is also going to share in the great experience that is serving mankind in Kenya.
211 is helping with flood clean up for your home. This is a volunteer service who responds in order of priority such as: the elderly, single parents & those with no flood insurance.
You MUST register first to be assisted.
How to register with 211
Dial 2-1-1 or you can register online at www.NJ211.org
Our thoughts and prayers go out to those affected by the aftermath of Hurricane Irene. Paterson Habitat has been building primarily in the Northside of Paterson since our start in 1984. Many of our homeowners are living in the neighborhoods where the flooding has been the worst ever seen in history. Here are some photos taken yesterday and today of the Northside area. Thankfully, the Northside seems to be in much better condition since yesterday morning when the water reached record highs. View photos here.
Written by Orville Morales, Board Member
In the next couple of days, we will be introducing to you one by one, the team of volunteers that will be flying to Kenya to participate in the historic 500,000th Habitat for Humanity Build. We are posting one by one because each individual is special and each offers something unique to the team. We hope you would say a prayer for each team member as we post. The final post in this series will be a group picture when we all arrive in Kenya. Many blessings to you all who have us in your prayers and double blessings to the families that benefit from all your love, support and dedication to the work of Habitat for Humanity.
Lynn Florence is a hospice nurse for Hospice of New Jersey and she finds it to be the most rewarding job in the world. Lynn is no stranger to serving a greater purpose such as serving in a foreign land. Ten years ago, Lynn had a wonderful opportunity to serve in the Peace Corps in Lake Naivasha, Kenya. To return to Lake Naivasha with Habitat for Humanity is such a great opportunity for Lynn to reconnect with her "family" that she left 10 years ago. Team Kenya is especially fortunate to have a nurse on board and someone who has had experience in the land where many of us never fathomed visiting. She is an outstanding addition to Team Kenya!
Written by Orville Morales, Board Member
In the next couple of days, we will be introducing to you one by one, the team of volunteers that will be flying to Kenya to participate in the historic 500,000th Habitat for Humanity Build. We are posting one by one because each individual is special and each offers something unique to the team. We hope you would say a prayer for each team member as we post. The final post in this series will be a group picture when we all arrive in Kenya. Many blessings to you all who have us in your prayers and double blessings to the families that benefit from all your love, support and dedication to the work of Habitat for Humanity!
Meet Jolie Umstead, our youngest and most energetic team member. She is a Public Relations major at William Paterson University. In March of this year Jolie went to Lynchburg, Virginia to help build a Habitat home for a family in need. During the one week of build, Jolie fell in love with Habitat and it's mission. The experience enriched her life in so many ways. She expected to help a family but found that she gained so much more for herself. She felt she found her purpose, her calling, helping others thru Habitat for Humanity. She learned what regular volunteers called, "feeling the feeling." Her role along with T.J. Best is to engage the local children in activities and gift giving.