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「扶助貧困及受難者安居,沒有疆域的限制。」—仁人家園 Habitat for Humanity

仁人家園信念   安居方可脫貧

問你一條簡單的數學題:目前全球人口為74億,16億人居於貧困環境,即佔全球人口多少百分比?答案是21.6%。一個安穩、舒適的家,是每個人的精神支柱;但原來在這世界上,每五人就有一人生活在貧困環境,飽受流離失所之苦。這是多麼嚴重的現象!正如仁人家園香港區總幹事Heron Holloway說:如果人類沒有像樣的居所,則遑論提升其教育或健康。安居乃扶貧的先決條件,因此仁人家園的願景是「世上人人得以安居」。

要達成這個願景,實屬不易。其中一個原因在於,每個國家均有其獨特的住屋問題,仁人家園不能把同一對鞋套在不同腳上:某些國家需為貧困者建立新家園;某些則需要災後重建;某些人需要房屋修繕;某些人則需爭取土地權益以合法在家園建屋。因此,Heron說:「仁人家園是絕對不可能獨力達到我們的願景的,我們必須通過與不同團體合作以完成工作。」除了與受助家庭合作外﹙這是理所當然的,因為仁人家園必須了解受助家庭的真實需要﹚,他們亦會與地區及國家政府、當地非牟利組織、金融機構﹙向低收入家庭提供房屋借貸﹚、建築商,以至與聯合國、紅十字會等跨國組織合作。事實再次證明,合作的力量有多巨大:在2015年,仁人家園已為近180萬人改善居所。2020年前,他們將為1,500萬人提供居所。

面對危難 發揮人類團結精神

仁人家園特別重視災後重建的合作。Heron表示,當大型災害發生後,災民除了水、食物、醫療支援外,緊接需要的便是住所。因此他們與聯合國就著「災害後合作及互相支持」上,簽訂了合作協議,此合作協議確保所有人道救援組織在災後提供一致的居所及一致程度的援助予災民。

當重災發生後才想對策,已經太遲。若我們能事前確立愈多合作模式,便愈能防患於未然,於最短時間內救助最多人。

Heron向我們分享,原來數年前聯合國制定了非常成功的「人道主義組群系統」﹙Cluster System﹚,系統的11個組群﹙Cluster﹚旗下有相應領導機構及合作伙伴。例如仁人家園屬於「住所」組群,另有「弱勢者保護」、「食物安全」、「水衛生」等。當出現緊急情況時,組群中所有人道組織都會聯合起來,定期開會、制定規則及分工、分享災情信息,以確保救援的高標準及迅速反應。

永生難忘   日本311地震救災

面對災後的頹垣敗瓦及無數死傷,讓人心酸落淚。Heron與我們分享2011年日本海嘯大地震後的救援經歷,也許成為了她終生不能磨滅的印記:「那是海嘯發生的三星期後,當時我與首批日本義工學生乘巴士前往災區大船渡。我還記得當巴士跨過一個山頭後,我們從窗口入目所見的土地——在山與海之間的整片土地——像是人生中所見過最大的垃圾場。所以建築都被摧毀,沒有一磚一瓦是完整的。巴士上,前一秒,一班日本學生仍像學校旅行般歡聲笑語;下一秒,當他們目睹眼前的滿目瘡痍,巴士內的聲音都被抽走了。然後一個接一個的哭泣。」對學生來說,這必然一個感受至深的經歷:因為這是他們的土地、他們的家園。從前他們於其他國家,由零開始建屋;如今他們卻於自己的國家,清掃一堆化成零的文明。

大自然災劫,人類時難倖免。但幸有仁人家園及其他人道組織存在,無論災難於何地發生,他們亦致力拯救。難道這不是演繹了「人類的親愛精神沒有疆域的限制」這青商精神嗎?

Decent shelter is the foundation of poverty alleviation

One simple Math question: currently there are 7.4 Billion people in the world, 1.6 Billion people are living in a poor condition, then what is the percentage of this bunch of people? The answer is 21.6%. A safe, decent home is the spiritual pillar of everybody; yet in the world, one in five people is living in a poor condition. How serious this situation is! Heron Holloway, the CEO of Habitat of Humanity Hong Kong, says, “If you don’t have a decent home, then any improvements to education, health, will never take hold.” To her, having a decent shelter is the foundation to make poverty alleviation possible. Hence Habitat for Humanity’s vision is “A world everyone has a decent place to live”.

Achieving this vision is not easy. Since every country has its own housing situation, Habitat for Humanity can never lump different matters together: while some countries need to build new houses from scratch; some countries need rebuilding after disaster; in other places Habitat might be doing renovations; in other countries it might be securing land rights for disadvantage groups, so they own the land on which they build the houses. “There is no way that we can ever achieve our vision by doing it on our own.” Heron says, “We have to work in partnership with others.” Not only does Habitat work with families (Of course – Habitat must have to know the real needs of families), it also works with local and national government, local NOGs, micro-financing institutions that offer housing loans to low-income families, manufacturers of construction. The partnership even extends to multinational organizations say the United Nations, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. Fact proves again how tremendous the power of collaboration is – In 2015, Habitat improved shelter to nearly 1.8 Million people; by 2020, it will provide shelter to 15 Million people.

We work as one against catastrophe

Habitat emphasizes the importance of partnership in the context of after-disaster. Heron mentions that shelter is victims’ immediate need right after water, food and medical care. It’s very important that different NGOs or humanitarian agencies collaborate and work together to ensure the affected families get help of what they need ASAP. Habitat signed an agreement on how to collaborate and support each other after disaster with the UN, to ensure all humanitarian agencies were going to provide shelter in the same way to the same level of standard to the victims. “It’s too late if we start to think when disaster strikes.” Heron explains, “The more agreements we can arrange way before the disaster, the more possible we will save as many people as possible in the shortest time.”

Heron also shares to us that years ago the United Nations has implemented the Cluster System, which has been proven as a great success. The 11 clusters consist of relative leading organizations and partnering agencies. There are Protection, Food Security, Water Sanitation cluster, etc. Habitat belongs to the Shelter Cluster. The idea of the Cluster System is whenever a disaster strikes, all humanitarian agencies will get together, having meeting on regular basis, confirming rules and division of labors, sharing information, to ensure a high and fast response of rescue.

Witnessing heavy devastation and casualties after disaster always tears our heart. To Heron, what she has gone through after the Japan earthquake and Tsunami in 2011 might eventually be a mark in her life that never goes away. “About 3 weeks after the earthquake and Tsunami happened, I went with the first team of Habitat Japanese student volunteers, heading to the area called Ofunato by bus. I remember well that, when our bus came up over the mountain top, we look outside the window. The flat land in front of us – basically all the flat land between the mountain and the sea – was like the biggest rubbish dump you have ever seen. EVERYTHING was GONE. And there was nothing standing anymore. The bus until that point had been bunch of students laughing, listening to music, talking, like a school trip. But at the moment they saw the devastation in front of them, they were absolute silent on the bus. And one by one, every single person on the bus started to cry.” It was a very emotional trip to the students, because Japan was their land, their country. And whereas before, the students had been building houses, giving hope to life and mind; in that trip, they actually cleared away debris of life and mind.

Despite the inevitability of natural catastrophe, there are humanitarian agencies like Habitat for Humanity, always devoting all their efforts against disaster and to save life. Isn’t it a perfect practice of our JCI Creed, “the brotherhood of man transcends the sovereignty of nations”?

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