Khadiza finds strength and dignity in disaster-resilient home

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Like many women in Bangladesh, Khadiza is the head of her household while her husband works as a security guard in Dhaka. She takes care of her mother-in-law Saleha, 65, and her son Hasib, 13. Whatever money that her husband Ahsan sends home, most of it was used to repair their old house in Titkata village, Patuakahli. When a cyclone or heavy storm hit, the roof would sometimes be broken and often water got in through the gaps in the wooden walls, making the earth floor muddy. Often, her family had to take refuge in their neighbor’s house. “I was ashamed we had to do that,” said Khadiza. The house repairs barely lasted a year and each time, they would spend most of the money sent by her husband, who earns about 8,000 taka (US$92) a month.

In addition, both Khadiza and her mother-in-law felt vulnerable when they two use the toilet which was located farther from the house, particularly at night.

Instead of continuing to struggle with inadequate, disaster-prone housing, Khadiza took a decisive step. She partnered with Habitat for Humanity Bangladesh to build a disaster-resilient house that is also age-friendly. The house was built on a raised plinth to prevent flood waters from entering, and diagonal bracing on the wall alongside the top fixing of roof set at certain degree angle with improved wood joining to withstand cyclonic wind loads.

For the safety and convenience of Saleha, handrails have been installed along the steps to their Habitat home as well as to the toilet just outside.

Her family moved into their new home in September 2021. “We are really thankful. Amid COVID-19,  We  no longer   have  to   take shelter in our neighbor’s house. We feel safe and secure, even if a   disaster hits. With this home, our   dignity and social   status is raised.”

Khadiza’s family is among 74 families who have partnered with Habitat Bangladesh to improve their   homes and     disaster   resilience in a project funded by the Korea International Cooperation Agency’s   Humanitarian Assistance   program.

Story of Eti

Eti Khatun 1

Eti got married at a tender age of 14 when she was still in secondary school. She sat for and passed her examinations while living in her parents’ home in Jamalpur district, Mymensingh, northern Bangladesh. Then her husband was working in another district. Without financial support nor communication from her husband after over a year of marriage, she decided to seek a divorce that was finalized when she was 18. 

Her father was a farmer with seasonal income of 5,000 taka (almost US$60) a month. He could not provide for her further education or skills training. “My family had no other source of income. We felt very helpless and unhappy,” said Eti. When she learned about from a local community leader that free training in sewing and embroidery skills was provided, she took the opportunity to improve her family’s finances. The training course was part of a partnership between Habitat for Humanity Bangladesh and the Korea International Cooperation Agency.

After her application was accepted, Eti went through the 40-day training. By November 2020, she was a certified seamstress and received a sewing machine with a toolkit. She started making women’s and children’s clothing from a room in her parents’ house. With business coming from her neighbors and community members, she earns an average of 1,500 taka per month. “This income is a great form of support for my family.”

Eti plans to start a small business in the village market where customers can choose from different swathes of cloth for her to make their apparel. Thankful for the support of Habitat and KOICA, Eti looks forward to building a better life for herself and her family.

A healthy home for Mina's family

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Young bride Mina moved to her in-laws’ home in Akrail Village of Shakua Union of Trishal Upazila in Mymensingh District 8 years back when she got married to Rajon, a barber by profession. They started living in their old tiny home that was made of CI sheet roof, bamboo, and polythene. Over the years, their family grew bigger and so did their challenges, especially ensuring a healthy place for their kids. Mina has two sons aged 6 and 1 respectively and a daughter aged 5 now. Both Mina and her husband have been so concerned about the safety and security of their kids. However, their poor economic condition barely allowed them to make a strong move to have a safe home.

Mina’s husband runs a barbershop at the local bazaar and earns around BDT 180-200(US$ 2.20-2.35) a day and BDT 5500-5700(US$ 64-67) a month. Being the only breadwinner of the family, Rajon often struggled to manage the daily needs of the family. Therefore, both Mina and her husband cherished a dream to have a good home where there would be a healthy environment for their kids and the kids would have a better place to enjoy their childhood. Their daughter Sumitra also wanted to have a better home where she could play with her siblings and even host friends as well.

The year 2020 has come to be the utmost blessed year for Mina and Rajon’s family as they have been chosen to be a home partner of Habitat for Humanity under the Trishal Housing Project. Mina and her family moved to the new “Habitat Home” in March 2020. This home has a big room, a veranda, and a sanitary toilet attached. “I can’t express my joy to have such a beautiful home. My kids just love this home”-said, Mina. Not only a decent and secure home, but they also have access to improved sanitation facilities, she added.

Rajon can now enjoy a stress-free work at the shop thinking, no money to be invested in repairing their home in the upcoming monsoon. This gives him a big relief and mental peace.

Habitat for Humanity has been working in Mymensingh for more than 20 years and supported thousands of families with decent homes, water, sanitation and hygiene, and disaster risk reduction and response, and provided training on various awareness-raising and income-generating issues.

A comfortable home for Maya Rani

10Maya Rani is more than 80 years old, living a life of struggle. She has aged but remains a pillar of strength through every hardship she faced. She has lived through difficult times and has pulled through this far. She says with a heavy sigh “I have seen many hardships in my life. I don’t think it ever really ends.”

Maya Rani recounts her whole life as though she can see it pass right in front of her eyes. She remembers becoming orphaned at a very young age, living with her maternal uncle. Married off young as was the norm back in her days, she left her village for a new life. It was not all bad when it started. Ever since her marriage, she has lived here in the village of Brahmongaon, Kaliganj, Gazipur. Her husband owned considerable land, but when he passed away, he left her alone to care for their seven children.

Being able to finish up to class 7 in school, Maya Rani was qualified enough to work for the government’s family planning interventions at her village. Things soon began to fall apart as the liberation war began. When it ended, the chaos that followed left her in ruins with barely anything left but the small square piece of land on which she lived.

Now, decades later, when her children have all grown up, she continues to struggle to live every day. She doesn’t know where her next meal will come from. Her son provides little to no support to her and her daughter is also estranged. She lives in a mud house with no windows to let fresh air and light into the house. A patchwork on her roof leaves marks of storms in the past. Cracks in the walls are proof of the long years the house has withstood.

At this age, all she needs is just a little place of comfort. She sits in her new house, and thanks to the Abinta Kabir Foundation and Habitat Bangladesh for giving her a house that is open and airy, and allows not just comfort to her physical body but to her aching soul. Her son is more attentive to her needs, perhaps not to the extent one would expect but yet it’s a start.

Building the foundation for a better future

Bidhan 1Bidhan Dhali, a former bus driver, who lost both his legs 12 years ago is still a young man of about 35 years. He lived in a rented house in Kanial under Birisiri union in Durgapur Upazila, Netrokona with his wife Kalpona and two daughters who are 13 and 7 years old.

Bidhan was a respected highway bus driver. In 2006, an accident took a toll on both his legs. He survived but continues to carry the stigma of that accident. Life became a nightmare for Bidhan after that incident. He lost all his savings on his treatment, had no income and he had to depend on others’ mercy for a long time. He still continues to be assisted by some generous people around him.

Brother Frank, one of the devoted Christian priest from the Taije Brothers community, came forward to support Bidhan and made a small wooden shop in the Durgapur Bazar. Bidhan sold his gold chain and some other ornaments kept aside for his daughter to manage the capital to start the shop. He now earns a living selling betel nuts, biscuits, snacks and some stationery goods in his shop. His wife helps him run the shop. She walks with Bidhan every morning, helps him open the shop and returns again in the evening for closing. Sometimes she also sits in the shop to help Bidhan. The income from the store is not enough to lead a smooth life but they are content with the small things they have in their lives.

During the initial days, Bidhan’s sister had offered shelter to him and his family. After a while when he began earning again, he was able to move to a home he had rented from a local primary school teacher. Living in a rented house was not easy for him and considering his condition, the landlord had generously offered to keep the rent minimal. Although a blessing for Bidhan and his family, the shop was too far from his residence and he needed constant assistance moving to and from it.

Bidhan2Bidhan’s elder daughter studies and lives in Mymensing Baptist Mission Girls Hostel and visits them during her breaks. It was challenging for Bidhan to pay the house rent, support his daughter’s education, and provide for family healthcare and other expenses. During the month of Ramadan, the Muslim fasting month, and some other times of the year, sales go down and it becomes harder to meet the daily needs on top of the house rent.

Considering his situation, Habitat Bangladesh with the generous support from the 12 Presbyterian Churches in Illinois built a new home for Bidhan’s family. A generous man from his area had granted a piece of land with at a minimum cost which Bidhan prepared to build his own home on. This place is very close to his store and would make it easier for him to access the bazaar.

The home that was built had attached facilities and an entry ramp in order to allow Bidhan to overcome his physical limitations. It has been built with the tube-well, kitchen, and toilet attached so that the family might have better comfort and also ensuring accessibility for Bidhan.

“The income I made every month was not enough for me to rent a house. But I did not have options. It’s a blessing to have a home of our own which helps us lead a better life”, said Bidhan.

 

Now Bidhan does not need to travel a long way to reach his shop. His wife always keeps the house neat and clean and helps Bidhan attend the shop on time. ”My home is my biggest comfort zone. I live in peace here with my family. It saves a lot of money that I used to pay to my landlord earlier. I can afford better food, basic amenities, education for my daughter and my medical expenses”, Bidhan mentioned.

Bidhan combined1He sometimes becomes ill due to complications from his injuries and must bear additional medical expenses. “Earlier, we had to think twice before spending money on anything, no matter how important that issue was. Nevertheless, this beautiful home has given us the strength and ability to invest our money in potential sectors including medical treatment, our girl’s education or in our small business” Kalpona added.

It is his dream to ensure proper education for both of their girls and let them excel in life. With access to a safe and secure shelter, Bidhan Dhali hopes to regain the life he dreamt of prior to the accident. “I am so thankful to Habitat Bangladesh and the donors for making my dream come true. A home is a place where everyone wants to belong to at the end of the day. I am so blessed that Habitat made this happen for me. I wish them all the best and pray that many people like me will transform their lives through Habitat Bangladesh”, Bidhan quoted. Bidhan has taken a loan after completion of his house to enclose additional space but has not yet completed the brick plastering. Bidhan continues to be courageous in the face of the challenges in his life and with this support from Habitat he dreams of independence and peace. Bidhan’s story is one of the many examples of how Habitat builds strength, stability, and self-reliance through shelter.Bidhan combined 2

Peace after the Storm

StoryIf Promila had not received Habitat for Humanity Bangladesh’s support through the project funded by the Abinta Kabir Foundation, her family would still be living in a small mud-walled house, still fearing the slightest change in weather, and having her children be deprived from a healthy and clean environment.

Promila Rani Das is a day labour working in a factory near her small village of Brahmongaon, Kaliganj, Gazipur. She lives with her husband Sandeepon Chandra Das, and two children Sampa Rani Das and Durjoy Chandra Das. They live a simple life on a very limited income. Promila’s husband has a small fisheries business that he runs from Gazipur, where he often has to stay back. Their daughter Sampa is a student of Class 10 and son Durjoy studies in Class 6. Their house had been made of mud walls and a CI sheet roof. It was inadequate in many ways, but mostly it lacked the proper environment for a healthy lifestyle. There was little ventilation and it was dim and dark inside.

Promila“We did not have a latrine or our own water source. The nearest water source was at least a 5 minutes’ walk, but the water itself was not that clean,” Sandeepon says. “Whenever we had to use the toilet, we used to go to the nearby shrubbery.” The house was old and it had multiple cracks. The roof had flown away on many occasions whenever storms would hit with strong winds, especially during the early seasons of “Boishakh” (first month of the Bengali calendar). Promila and her husband had been aware of the support NGOs were providing to people like them living on minimal income who needed assistance with improving their housing conditions.

They contacted the local CBO office and found out all the details pertaining to the application process. They soon applied, and after all the processing was complete, they received news of being selected. The news could not have come at a better time. Just a few days later, a storm had blown away their roof. Abinta Kabir Foundation’s donation towards the cause of providing a house, latrine and tube-well to 12 impoverished families allowed Promila and her family a chance at a new life.

The house not only gave them a place to live in, but it created an opportunity for them to contribute in the construction through providing their unskilled labour. Habitat’s volunteer program created an opportunity for youth with a tenacity for serving the society to be able to work alongside the homeowners, helping them and interacting to get to know about their hardships first-hand.

“Life is very different now,” says Sandeepon. “The most important difference is that we no longer have to feel worried about the house falling apart in a storm. Our children now have a much better environment to study and grow up in.”

Habitat for Humanity Bangladesh

  Level 3, House # 12, Road # 16/A, Gulshan- 1, Dhaka 1212, Bangladesh
 Phone:  + 88 02 8832945
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