US Students Build Habitat Homes in St. Ann

While thousands of American students continue to converge on Jamaica’s hot spots for the annual spring break vacation, several others from Georgetown University in Washington arrived in the island earlier this week for a non- traditional vacation of sorts.
These students, who are part of the university’s Habitat for Humanity chapter, will participate in building and refurbishing homes in Claremont, St. Ann and will also live in the community while immersing themselves in Jamaican culture. Their visit to the island will be facilitated by Habitat for Humanity’s Kingston office, which will be overseeing the general coordination of the group.
Miguel Alampay, president of the Georgetown chapter, told JIS News that the participants were anxious to make their contribution to provide housing to the Claremont community. He noted that the group was highly motivated and wanted to use the spring break vacation for a meaningful activity, which would have the potential to change people’s lives.
“The first and foremost requirement for participants is a commitment to social justice,” Mr. Alampay said. “The trip’s intent is to promote global service and learn about social justice issues outside of the United States. Our aim is also to increase our understanding of poverty and homelessness, not only in the context of the United States, but also internationally,” he stated.
The chapter president also emphasized that cultural exchange between Jamaicans in the Claremont area and the Georgetown delegation, would serve to promote closer bonds between ordinary American and Jamaican citizens and allow Americans to gain a perspective on daily life – particularly in rural Jamaica – and outside of the typical tourist context.
Speaking to the actual construction and renovation activity, which the group is expected to undertake, Mr. Alampay indicated that beneficiaries would be expected to work side-by-side with the Georgetown group and would be an intrinsic part of the whole process. “While many on our delegation have not attempted construction projects in a setting such as Jamaica, we are really looking forward to making our contribution and making a difference,” he said. Habitat for Humanity began its operations in Jamaica in 1992 with support from overseas contributors as well as local businesses. That year, the first Habitat-built house was constructed in Highgate, St. Mary. Since then, the organization has facilitated building projects in Kingston as well as several other parishes in rural Jamaica.
Housing models vary between one and two bedrooms, with a kitchen and bath, with running water and electricity. Habitat houses are also built to conform with existing code in the island and are structured to withstand hurricanes and floods, particularly in low-lying areas.
Contributions to the local Habitat for Humanity programme also helps to provide 10 to 12 year loans for recipient families whose monthly payments, in turn, fund a revolving scheme, which serves to assist other families in need.
The Georgetown Habitat Group will return to Washington D.C. in mid-March.

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