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Good Housing for the Future—YouChange Provides Roof Tiles for Quake-hit Areas

 CPPCC Website, 2013-07-16 01:35

By Gu Lei

Editor’s note:

Recently, Sichuan has suffered repeated torrential rains, leading to floods in many places there. Hit by secondary geological disasters and now floods, Ya’an faces a severe challenge to provide transitional housing for earthquake victims. The general public in China has paid close attention to this issue. Your journalist recently visited Lushan, Ya’an to cover transitional housing of earthquake victims.

 

Ya’an, July. Temporary tents have been removed in earthquake-hit areas by the end of June, but it will take at least one year to build permanent housing. It has become an urgent issue to resolve this housing issue during the protracted transitional period.

 

Mrs. Wang Ping, YouChange Chairperson told your reporter that during the transition from disaster rescue to permanent housing victims tend to get less attention. In some places in Ya’an, transitional housing will be used as long as three years. It is, after all, not so transitional and housing needs of victims deserve more attention. That’s why YouChange has called for more support given to victims in this transitional period.

 

The color plate housing project launched by YouChange aims at exactly the greatest need of local people—housing. With limited investment, this project can generate more pulling effect and public benefits than any ordinary charity project.

 

In Lushan, blocks of color plate houses have already been built with complete infrastructure. Villagers will live in these houses for some time before they move into their new permanent housing.

 

Seek the most practical solution

After the earthquake hit, Zhang Zhonghua who was in charge of YouChange’s disaster relief in Ya’an visited the poorest eight villages in two weeks and strongly felt that the most pressing issue for locals was housing.

 

Located in the mountains, Ya’an has very limited land resources to build so many houses. The local government provided 3,000 RMB yuan to each household as temporary housing subsidy and encouraged villagers to rent apartments or stay with their relatives.

 

“Give villagers’ limited income, 3,000 yuan was far from enough for them to rent apartments in safe places. Moreover, staying with relatives is not a solution as many of their relative are victims themselves and villagers have to take care of their farmlands,” Zhang said.

 

Tents are not good temporary housing as they are not strong, searing inside in summer, and have little privacy. Local tile-roofed houses have been rejected by villagers as they are too complex, not water-proof, and not safe.

 

Then, some villagers proposed to build houses with color steel tiles as roof. After careful consideration, YouChange come to believe that it is worth a try.

 

Color steel tiles have some cost advantages. They are easy to transport, environment-friendly, fast to install, and easy to operate. It is also easy for villagers to participate in construction. Houses with color steel tile roof are warm, comfortable and have privacy. More importantly, color steel tiles meet construction standards, an important point in the perspective of the local government. Moreover, these tiles will be ready for second-use after the transition ends.

 

To meet their needs in work and life in the next one to three years, we estimate that each household needs an apartment as large as 30 m2 after careful calculation as they need space to store materials in the apartment. Zhang said, “If every square meter of tiles costs 30 yuan, we can keep the that part of cost of each house under 1,000 yuan.”

 

However, this proposal didn’t work well at the beginning. YouChange donated tiles and villagers themselves collected woods and bamboos to build walls and structures. Many villagers had a wait-and-see attitude when the first demonstration house was built. Lushan has many bamboo bushes, but bamboos collected for the first house were of inferior quality.

 

“We stick to our criteria and purchase high quality bamboos. We used our own hands to build the first demonstration house,” told Zhang. “Villagers discovered very quickly that this is the transitional housing they want—practical and affordable. When we returned to the village, we found that groups of villagers were building their own transitional houses.”

 

Encourage villagers to help others and themselves.

The long road in the village is lined with new transitional houses. Kids are playing and elderly people are chatting under the roof. The blue color steel tiles have become the primary color in the village.

 

Li Xianhua, a villager in Yuxi Village of Lushan County guided us to visit her home. It took her family of four people a dozen of days to build the transitional house—“three bedrooms and two living rooms”. All the tiles are donated by YouChange. The outer walls are made of bamboos and inner walls color steel tiles—breathable, water-proof and environment friendly.

 

There are sofas and a TV set in the living room, cooking utensils in the kitchen, and mosquito nets and fans in the bedrooms.

 

“It can meet our needs for the moment. It is still a little bit hot, but it is much better than the tent,” said Li, “My house did not collapse in the earthquake. But, it has wide cracks, a dangerous house now. So, we have moved basic things to this transitional house.”

 

“Folks want to have a stable life. Only with comfortable housing can they focus on production and development. Only good housing can we have a good future,” said Li.

 

Yuxi Village has 1,522 people and 519 households. Among them, 378 households have built their transitional housing with tiles donated by YouChange. Most buildings there have the same architectural style as Li’s home.

 

In Zhang’s eyes, YouChange-donated temporary housing has a profound impact beyond that. After the Wenchuan earthquake, there are several absurd cases—volunteers were toiling at the construction site while victims were playing mahjong in tents. To avoid this, YouChange was only responsible for providing tiles, while it is up to villagers themselves to build their homes.

 

“We provide some assistance in the most crucial part so that they themselves will roll up their sleeves and participate in the construction. This is our way to respect ourselves as well as others,” said Zhang.

 

For example, Yang Lin, a villager in Lingguan Town of Baoxing County spent three or four days in building a temporary house for his family with the assistance of his fellow villagers. Zhang said that this project has enabled villagers to help others and themselves.

 

After the Wenchuan earthquake, materials from dismantled temporary housing were left wasted. To prevent this and save cost, YouChange encourages villagers to source materials locally. Bamboo bushes all over the mountains provide a good choice to villagers in Yuxi. Gao Hongxue, Yuxi party secretary, said that fellow villagers helped each other in collecting bamboos and building new houses. In Luojiaba Village of Baoxing County, villagers picked bricks from ruins to save cost in construction.

 

However, temporary housing is not perfect. Li told us that it was quite troublesome to go to the toilet and fetch water as they had to walk a few meters out of their house. Yang is worried whether his parents would feel cold in winter.

 

Cooperation with NGOs.

1,000 yuan can help one household resolve temporary housing for the next one to three years—this is an attractive point during fund raising. During the construction of temporary housing, YouChange has received financial and other support from such businesses as Accenture, Give2Asia and Pacific Alliance.

 

“We have provided more than 70,000 m2 tiles to five villages in two counties as well as one centralized settlement point. This has resolved the temporary housing of more than 4,000 villagers in over 1,000 households”, Zhang told us.

 

With financial support, YouChange can spend more resources and support more NGOs in their projects to benefit more people.

 

 

Chen Yong, a staff of Deyang Cross-Land Commonwealth Organization, joined his colleagues and arrived in Ya’an after the earthquake hit this area. They worked together for a children cooperation project with YouChange in Yuxi.

One of the temporary houses in Yuxi is called “Love Home” where Chen and his co-workers help kids read, play games and in the evening play films. Sometimes, adults will also come to borrow books or play chess. Chen told us that his organization planned to spend three to five years in training local volunteers for the sustainable development of this project.

 

There are eight NGOs operating in the YouChange-assisted temporary housing. Every year, YouChange offers 50,000 yuan to each of the eight organizations for maintenance and training.

 

Zhang told us that YouChange would build a volunteer station in each of the eight poverty-stricken villages in Lushan and Baoxing to promote charity there. “All these organizations have their own expertise and we support them in playing out their expertise. Volunteer stations will coordinate and integrate resources and help spread good practice into other villages. Being present in the community will help us meet diverse needs of villagers. Volunteer stations can help NGOs form synergy so that one plus one is greater two.” said Zhang.

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