Habitat for Humanity – Sichuan Province

My attempt to write one post dealing with my Chengdu experience and my Habitat experience has failed, so I’m breaking them up into pieces to get it all out there. And to think I haven’t even started on my current location of Xi’an yet!

These are some of my guiding project questions for Habitat for Humanity in Sichuan province. The preliminary answers have been gathered through an interview with Jane Li, Government Relations and Resources Development Manager at the Sichuan branch of Habitat for Humanity China and visits to three different project sites that serve earthquake survivors of the province. This is an initial write-up with some additional fact-checking to be done, so please use this information only as insight to what I’ve been working on so far in China, and not as gospel icon smile Habitat for Humanity   Sichuan Province

 Habitat for Humanity   Sichuan Province

1. Where does Habitat build in Sichuan province?

After the 2008 earthquake in Sichuan province, Habitat for Humanity has been engaged with 10 different rebuilding projects in the earthquake zone and helped build or fix 1,700 houses in the area. While I took notes on this during the interview, the Habitat China website provides a much better write-up than my attempt:

“In May 2008, Sichuan experienced an 8.0 magnitude earthquake that killed approximately 90,000 people. Over 1.5 million people lived in the affected area with 3,476,000 houses destroyed or damaged according to government statistics. 1,263,000 houses are in need of complete reconstruction and 2,213,000 are in need of repair. Some of the families hardest hit were those living in poverty in rural areas.

Habitat for Humanity China began its operation in Sichuan province in 2008 in response to the devastating earthquake. To date, HFH China has built 1,400 houses in ten villages in the townships of Xioayudong, Bailu, Jiexing, Zhuyuan and Qionglai working in partnership with the local government.

These houses, which include single detached, row houses, townhouses and apartment buildings, were all built using the government’s quality standard for earthquake resistant housing and designs from the Architecture Design Institute in Chengdu from which the families could choose. In an effort to increase income generation for the families affected by the earthquake, many of whom lost their farm land because of the disaster, 297 of the houses were constructed with livelihood in mind. In Taizi and Yangping villages, houses were built as bed and breakfasts to accommodate the many tourists that visit the area. The houses in Luoyang and Changzhen villages were constructed so that the families would have space for a small business on the ground floor and could live comfortably above.

Habitat for Humanity’s approach to community development in China is holistic, accounting not only for the homes of families, but the education of children as well. In Zhuyan township, Qingchuan county, Habitat is building ten apartment buildings, which will house 236 families, as well as a nursery school to help replace the more than 7,000 classrooms that were lost during the earthquake.”

(http://www.habitatchina.org/eng/built_chinaprojects?i=21)

 Habitat for Humanity   Sichuan Province

 Habitat for Humanity   Sichuan Province

2. How do volunteers participate in the Habitat builds?

The volunteers come from many sources, from high school students and professionals across China looking to do service to help their country, to Global Village builds that are organized by Habitat to bring disparate volunteers from around the world to work together on local construction sites. In Sichuan, the volunteers are primarily doing a lot of the heavy lifting for seasoned construction workers. This means that they carry bricks from one worksite to the next, clear areas of debris, and assist with farming and landscaping tasks in a particular village. They don’t do the primary bricklaying of the houses, as the houses must be built to a strict standard in order to withstand future high magnitude earthquakes. For the most part the volunteers take it in stride, knowing that they save the construction workers valuable time as they prepare worksites for bricklaying and other construction.

 Habitat for Humanity   Sichuan Province

3. Which families receive houses from Habitat for Humanity?

In the case of the Sichuan Habitat office, families who are selected for the program had their homes destroyed or severely damaged by the 2008 earthquake and have applied for a new Habitat home. Additionally, even if their home is intact, they may be chosen to participate as part of a land swap with the government, to encourage them to move closer to a centralized village where electricity, gas and sewer services can be provided.

 Habitat for Humanity   Sichuan Province

To participate, they must have some savings to contribute to the construction of the house, but they also receive subsidies of 15,000 yuan from the government and also an additional 15,000 yuan per family member from the Habitat office. These subsidies are not paid in a lump sum, but are sort of like matching grants to the family once they achieve certain milestones for home construction, such as the foundation being laid on the house. Once a milestone is achieved, the family receives the next portion of the subsidy.

For families that need additional funds beyond the Habitat and government subsidies, they would apply for a mortgage from a local bank that provides a 3-5 year mortgage for the gap financing. I was quite shocked to learn how short the loan repayment terms were! In the United States most mortgages have small down payments and 15-30 year terms. This likely has a lot to do with the sky-high savings rate in China and the terrible savings rate in the United States.

4. How much do the new homes cost?

On average, the building cost for each house is 900 yuan per cubic meter. China has regulations for new buildings that require each family have 30 cubic meters of space for each occupant, so the cost runs around 27,000 yuan per occupant in a family. Given that most families have 3-5 members, the average cost of a new Habitat one family house is about 120,000 yuan. This is about $20,000 US dollars and is considered quite expensive for the region due to the materials used in construction and the tight earthquake building standards.

5. What style are the houses built in? What materials are used?

The new houses are very simple structures and are standalone brick one-family homes. While brick is the primary building material, the important sections are reinforced with concrete and rebar to provide earthquake protection, and wood is used for interior and exterior finishes. The roof is primarily made of concrete. While the Chinese government does use more expensive and sustainable materials in some houses for earthquake survivors, it is not common because the scale of destruction was so vast that it needs commonly available materials to rebuild houses rapidly. Additionally, these materials are a significant upgrade from the previous homes which were made of dried bamboo, clay and bricks made of sunbaked mud. These materials were not very insulative and often exposed homeowners to the elements. They were also incredibly fragile when subjected to a major earthquake, which accounts for 80% of the structures in the area being decimated in 2008.

Old House:

 Habitat for Humanity   Sichuan Province

New Construction (This is a multi-family unit built at a different site. All the houses at Mayan Village where the old house is pictured were still under construction at the time of my visit):

 Habitat for Humanity   Sichuan Province

The Chinese government provides the design for the houses and also arranges the contractors to do the actual construction. In this way, the government takes a primary role in the home building process that is distinct from how Habitat operates in the United States. Habitat serves as the primary builder and lender for houses built in the states and also solicits designs from architects across the country.

6. How much money do homeowners spend on energy in the new houses?

For most of the homes, electricity costs about .57 yuan per KW and natural gas costs 1.89 yuan per cubic meter. If a house is primarily occupied by elderly residents, they could spend as little as 5 yuan a month on electricity, as they use few appliances or electronics in their households. For younger households, the monthly electric bill could approach 80 yuan as they use air conditioning, computers and appliances such as refrigerators.

As an aside, I have to remark on how energy efficient the Chinese people are in almost all the cities I’ve been. Even as I write this in Xi’an on the top floor of a modern high-rise condo building that I’m staying at with a family member, almost all appliances are unplugged from the wall, the windows are used instead of air conditioner, and the lights remain off. My host even unplugs things such as the cable modem and router at night to save electricity! As I blogged earlier, this is likely to change with younger generations of Chinese citizens who become acclimated to Western taste in electronic usage, but for now it still impresses me greatly.

7. Does Habitat for Humanity refurbish houses in Sichuan province?

As soon as I learned a little more about the earthquake, I realized how foolish of a question this was! Given that 80% of the houses were rendered uninhabitable in the earthquake area, there was very little to rebuild after 2008. And even the structures that remained were often abandoned due to susceptibility to future earthquakes (and the aftershocks from the 2008 earthquake that continued at up to magnitude 6.0 for months after the initial quake).

However, Jane did tell me that the Habitat branch in Shanghai has a project to refurbish “old-age” buildings in the central city. I will investigate this further during my trip.

Fall 2012 Course: Ecology and the Himalaya

Ecology and the Himalayaginacoursephoto Fall 2012 Course: Ecology and the Himalaya

IS 8277 – UENV 3707

Instructor: Georgina Drew

4:00-5:50 Tuesdays

66 West 12th Room 405

Overview

Join us for an interdisciplinary seminar that engages the key issues and debates on the state of Himalayan ecologies and the human-nature interactions that influence resource management strategies. The aim of the course is to encourage the exploration of environmental challenges while addressing the complex social and cultural practices that inform, and/or deter, efforts to promote sustainability and human resilience in the face of rapid ecological change. Students will have the opportunity to pursue their own areas of interest in this course and to identify or expand upon areas for future research and writing. The course is cross listed in environmental studies and global studies and is open to students of diverse disciplinary backgrounds.

Course Context

This course is linked with an initiative on Everyday Religion and Sustainable Environments in the Himalayas (ERSEH) that is coordinated by the The New School’s India China Institute. The initiative, chaired by Ashok Gurung, is in collaboration with the departments of Environmental Studies, Religious Studies, Global Studies, and the Parsons School of Design. Inquiries that ERSEH asks include: What does “sustainability” mean in, and for, the Himalayas? How do ecological interconnections, social systems, and politics constitute and transform the “Himalayas”? What role does everyday religion have on human interactions with the environment?

Instructor

Dr. Georgina Drew is a postdoctoral scholar for the India China Institute’s initiative on Everyday Religion and Sustainable Environments in the Himalayas. Her work at the institute builds upon her doctoral studies and her extensive research activities in the Indian and Nepali Himalayas.

Planes, Trains & Busses

This is my 16th day in India…forgive me for not writing before, but between blog issues and the unpredictability of internet in rural India, here’s the best I can do! I’ll break my story so far into a few more manageable chunks.

First, some background: I received a fellowship from the India China Institute to conduct research on social innovations for sustainability. After very extensive Googling, I found an organization to work with that amazingly combined my three biggest passions: sustainability, yoga, and the outdoors. The Dharmalaya Institute is in its first stages of development in the hills above the village of Bir in the Himalayas. In its completed form, it will be part a sustainable living school, which teaches organic farming and green building, part a sustainable community development center, which provides green jobs and training to local residences, and part an ashram that teaches yoga and meditation. I planned to study how yoga bridges the gap between personal transformation and global sustainability, using Dharmalaya as a case study. As I research, I am also volunteering at the Institute.

The general theme of my trip so far is that each and every plan I have made has been broken inevitably for the better. I arrived in Mumbai on Friday, May 13, and decided to visit the Elephant Caves on an island off the coast. However, the taxi driver I hired to take me to the ferry had very different plans for what to do with me. He somehow persuaded me into going on a full-day private tour his idea of the highlights of Mumbai. Why not?

With my new pal Sunil the Driver, I saw the beautiful, the ugly, the smelly, the embarrassing, the modern, the ancient, the Western, and the very, very, very non-Western of Mumbai. I was not so fond of many of the tourist-y spots, but some of the things that he showed me were real gems. He took me to the lush hanging gardens and this amazing little temple, where I wandered around a bit, and found this incredible banyan tree behind it. And he brought me to the sea and convinced me to go in. However, it got really interesting when he carried me along to pick up his cousin and drop her off at her mother’s house, which was way out of the way of where any tourists would go. His sister was lovely and invited me to come into her mom’s house, where her two little daughters were roller-skating around indoors. It was interesting to note that my driver found nothing unusual about taking his client to run his errands and to his family’s home.

Then I was off to Delhi, slowly making my way up north to Dharmalaya. In Delhi, I stayed at the residence/office of my tour guide/friend from my first trip to India. He was not using it while I was there, but his caretaker’s family was around a lot, so I got to spend some time with them, and enjoy his caretaker’s wife’s amazing dal!

That evening, my plans failed in a big way, when I missed my train to Pathankot because the caretaker of the apartment I was staying at accidentally padlocked me out with my bag inside, because for some reason he thought I had left that afternoon. So, I had another day to spend in Delhi. The most interesting event of that day was deciding to go for reiki treatment, since its something I have been curious about for over a year, but is way too expensive in the US. The reiki place was quite the experience- I was picturing some sort of spa, but the room where they did the reiki was underground with just a few desks (the kinds with chairs attached) and a LOT of flies. I had a really good conversation with the reiki master about the power of energy. When I reached for my wallet to pay the price listed on the website, he said that everyone only had to pay if they wanted to, and giving him a glass of water would be enough. I thought this was wonderful.

I finally managed to get on the sleeper train up north, and landed in a compartment with a guy who had brought at least 12 large pieces of luggage (there is no luggage area). He thought he had reserved 2 berths for the bags, but the train line had mistaken his reservation. Had this happened in the US, the customer and the other people who had to sit on, under, and squeezed between his luggage, would probably have been furious. However, on this train, everyone is the compartment was quite understanding and accommodating. Several people even offered to share their bunk with this stranger. It was cool to see.

From Pathankot, I decided to take a “toy train” to Bir, which I had heard was slow, but had incredible views to make up for it. What I didn’t realize was that ‘slow’ meant a journey that would take 4 hours by taxi takes 11 hours by train…the people at the station said it would take 5…hmm…Still, I’m glad I sat through this mess, since I got to benefit from more wonderful people’s kindness. I was directed to the female carriage at the back of the train, which turned out to be a very cool woman experience. When I got on, all the seats were full, but several women squeezed together and insisted that I share a 2 person seat with them. When I gave this seat to an older woman, several other women squished together and demanded that I join THEM. Though they didn’t speak any English, they were adamant that I did not give up my seat to anyone else, and even shared their food with me. I made friends with the only person who spoke English, a 9-year old girl, who’s family invited me to come to their home. Sadly, I had to refuse, but I was touched to find that many Indians are as welcoming as I’ve heard from other travelers.

After six and a half hours on this incredibly sweaty train with no water and way too much sticky soda and mango juice, I decided to jump off and find a bus. I really had no idea what I was doing, but finally I found some guys who worked in car repair shop and spoke a little English. They offered me tea and got me on the right bus. I really appreciate how being confused while traveling has allowed me to see the best in people.

Planes, Trains & Busses

This is my 16th day in India…forgive me for not writing before, but between blog issues and the unpredictability of internet in rural India, here’s the best I can do! I’ll break my story so far into a few more manageable chunks.

First, some background: I received a fellowship from the India China Institute to conduct research on social innovations for sustainability. After very extensive Googling, I found an organization to work with that amazingly combined my three biggest passions: sustainability, yoga, and the outdoors. The Dharmalaya Institute is in its first stages of development in the hills above the village of Bir in the Himalayas. In its completed form, it will be part a sustainable living school, which teaches organic farming and green building, part a sustainable community development center, which provides green jobs and training to local residences, and part an ashram that teaches yoga and meditation. I planned to study how yoga bridges the gap between personal transformation and global sustainability, using Dharmalaya as a case study. As I research, I am also volunteering at the Institute.

The general theme of my trip so far is that each and every plan I have made has been broken inevitably for the better. I arrived in Mumbai on Friday, May 13, and decided to visit the Elephant Caves on an island off the coast. However, the taxi driver I hired to take me to the ferry had very different plans for what to do with me. He somehow persuaded me into going on a full-day private tour his idea of the highlights of Mumbai. Why not?

With my new pal Sunil the Driver, I saw the beautiful, the ugly, the smelly, the embarrassing, the modern, the ancient, the Western, and the very, very, very non-Western of Mumbai. I was not so fond of many of the tourist-y spots, but some of the things that he showed me were real gems. He took me to the lush hanging gardens and this amazing little temple, where I wandered around a bit, and found this incredible banyan tree behind it. And he brought me to the sea and convinced me to go in. However, it got really interesting when he carried me along to pick up his cousin and drop her off at her mother’s house, which was way out of the way of where any tourists would go. His sister was lovely and invited me to come into her mom’s house, where her two little daughters were roller-skating around indoors. It was interesting to note that my driver found nothing unusual about taking his client to run his errands and to his family’s home.

Then I was off to Delhi, slowly making my way up north to Dharmalaya. In Delhi, I stayed at the residence/office of my tour guide/friend from my first trip to India. He was not using it while I was there, but his caretaker’s family was around a lot, so I got to spend some time with them, and enjoy his caretaker’s wife’s amazing dal!

That evening, my plans failed in a big way, when I missed my train to Pathankot because the caretaker of the apartment I was staying at accidentally padlocked me out with my bag inside, because for some reason he thought I had left that afternoon. So, I had another day to spend in Delhi. The most interesting event of that day was deciding to go for reiki treatment, since its something I have been curious about for over a year, but is way too expensive in the US. The reiki place was quite the experience- I was picturing some sort of spa, but the room where they did the reiki was underground with just a few desks (the kinds with chairs attached) and a LOT of flies. I had a really good conversation with the reiki master about the power of energy. When I reached for my wallet to pay the price listed on the website, he said that everyone only had to pay if they wanted to, and giving him a glass of water would be enough. I thought this was wonderful.

I finally managed to get on the sleeper train up north, and landed in a compartment with a guy who had brought at least 12 large pieces of luggage (there is no luggage area). He thought he had reserved 2 berths for the bags, but the train line had mistaken his reservation. Had this happened in the US, the customer and the other people who had to sit on, under, and squeezed between his luggage, would probably have been furious. However, on this train, everyone is the compartment was quite understanding and accommodating. Several people even offered to share their bunk with this stranger. It was cool to see.

From Pathankot, I decided to take a “toy train” to Bir, which I had heard was slow, but had incredible views to make up for it. What I didn’t realize was that ‘slow’ meant a journey that would take 4 hours by taxi takes 11 hours by train…the people at the station said it would take 5…hmm…Still, I’m glad I sat through this mess, since I got to benefit from more wonderful people’s kindness. I was directed to the female carriage at the back of the train, which turned out to be a very cool woman experience. When I got on, all the seats were full, but several women squeezed together and insisted that I share a 2 person seat with them. When I gave this seat to an older woman, several other women squished together and demanded that I join THEM. Though they didn’t speak any English, they were adamant that I did not give up my seat to anyone else, and even shared their food with me. I made friends with the only person who spoke English, a 9-year old girl, who’s family invited me to come to their home. Sadly, I had to refuse, but I was touched to find that many Indians are as welcoming as I’ve heard from other travelers.

After six and a half hours on this incredibly sweaty train with no water and way too much sticky soda and mango juice, I decided to jump off and find a bus. I really had no idea what I was doing, but finally I found some guys who worked in car repair shop and spoke a little English. They offered me tea and got me on the right bus. I really appreciate how being confused while traveling has allowed me to see the best in people.

Georgina Drew: Post-Doc Fellow

Drew Profile Photo small Georgina Drew:  Post Doc Fellow

ICI is happy to announce that Georgina Drew has been selected for the position of Post-Doctorate Fellows Position. See below for her bio and further information.

Georgina Drew is a Post-Doctoral Fellow of the India China Institute at The New School where she works with an initiative on Everyday Religion and Sustainable Environments in the Himalaya. Georgina’s past research has examined the cultural and religious dimensions of environmental conflict along the upper stretch of the Ganga River in India. Her work and writing explores mixed development desires, gendered practice, human-nature relationships, and the cultural politics of resource management. At ICI, Georgina teaches, continues her research, and helps to build a network of scholars investigating the significance of everyday or lived religion in rapidly developing centers of the Himalaya.

Visit http://www.indiachinainstitute.org/everyday-religion/ for more information about the Everyday Religion and Sustainable Environments in the Himalaya Project.

ERSEH Project Groups

Four Thematic Groups were formed during the October, 2010 Conference, consisting of esteemed scholars from India, China, Nepal and the United States. Each group will work on a collaborative project addressing a different aspect of the ERSEH initiative. Bios of the participants can be found here.

A. Atlas/mapping of the continuities and changes in sacred conceptions of the environment:
- David Germano
- Pankaj Jain
- Mark Larrimore
- Thomas Mathew
- Tudeng Nima
- Pitambar Sharma
- Dong Shikui

B. Dynamics of local knowledge and practices:
- Anil Chitrakar
- Kul Chandra Gautam
- LHM Ling
- Sonam Puntso
- KC Sivaramakrishnan
- Anne Rademacher
- Chukey Wangchuck

C. Urbanization/migration/ globalization:
- Elizabeth Alison
- Narendra Bajracharya
- Sanjay Chaturvedi
- Ashok Gurung
- Xiaoli Shen
- Cameron Tonkinwise

D. Bridging institutions and perspectives: monastery/temple, civil society, government, science-culture interface:
- Du Fachun
- Sumitra M. Gurung
- Nimmi Kurian
- Mahendra Lama
- Deepak Tamang
- Sara Winter

October Inaugural Workshop Resources

The official launch of ERSEH took place at at 5-day workshop in Kathmandu, Nepal (October 24-28, 2010). Thirty scholars and experts from India, China, Nepal, Bhutan, and United States, representing the disciplines of religious studies, environmental studies, international affairs, and Himalayan studies, collaboratively developed the foundational research questions, established project goals, and, began to build a community of experts to explore new perspectives in religion, sustainability, and their policy implications.

Faculty members from The New School — Ashok Gurung, L.H.M. Ling, Cameron Tonkinwise, Mark Larrimore, and Sara Winter — make up the core members of ERSEH.
They led small group discussions on the themes of:
- Dynamics of local knowledge and practices
- Urbanization/migration/globalization)
- Mapping continuities and changes in sacred conceptions of the environment

(See workshop agenda, full list of participants and their bios, and research questions below.)

Culminating with a range of interpretations and perspectives, the workshop was a strong starting point to grapple with the complexities of international environmental policy and the role of religion within it. It laid the groundwork for the next few years as ICI continues to spearhead further inquires on the Himalayas’ pressing issue of environmental policy and climate change.

FINAL_LuceProjectSummary
FINAL_KTMWorkshop_Questions
FINAL_ParticipantBios

Social Innovation for Sustainable Environments

The third round of India China Fellowship Program focuses on Social Innovation for Sustainable Environments.
India and China face unprecedented environmental challenges and opportunities in their intertwined futures. Both countries are increasingly conscious of the negative consequences of their current rapid development, such as ecological degradation and global warming. In practice, however, ecological concerns, including water contamination, greenhouse gases, poor urban air quality, and industrial waste dumping, have been sidelined due to urbanization pressures, industrialization, and the current economic downturn. Although the past few years have brought positive experimentation in environmental governance in both countries, much remains to be done to bring attention and action to these pressing issues.

STUDENT TRAVEL/RESEARCH FUNDS 2011 – $3,000 award for travel and research in India or China

The deadline for this program has passed. Thank you for all your applications and we will get back to you shortly.

Five awards are available for undergraduate or graduate students to support an independent study project, or to defray the cost of attending a New School program in India or China. The field visit has to be taken by the end of Summer 2011. The funds could be used towards expenses such as airfare, local transportation, room and board, and interpreters.

Eligibility

  • Be a degree-seeking undergraduate or graduate student in any discipline
  • For undergraduates, a minimum of 12 credits completed, and for graduate students, a minimum of 9 credits completed by the end of Fall 2010, and planning to enroll in the Fall semester 2011.
  • Has a minimum Cumulative GPA of 3.3
  • Know a New School faculty member who can supervise the project
  • Prior knowledge of India and China is not necessary. MA and PhD students specializing in India and China may apply. However, priority will be given to non-specialists looking to deepen their knowledge of one or both countries.

Application Requirements

  1. A completed application form
  2. Curriculum vitae, including a list of academic accomplishments and interests
  3. Statement of purpose (maximum 3 pages, double-spaced) describing:

a) How the funds will expand your knowledge of India and/or China

b) Your independent research project or The New School summer program

  1. One letter of recommendation from a New School faculty member
  2. A signed New School Faculty Mentor Form
  3. Applications on any topic are eligible, but preference will be given to those addressing this year’s theme “Social Innovations for Sustainable Environments” with particular focus on the social, political, and market barriers to addressing environmental challenges.

Award Requirements

Please refer to full program guidelines. Recipients of ICI travel/research fund are required to make a public presentation of their works in mid-fall 2011. They must also submit a final written report on their project by mid-February 2012.

Deadline Application due October 14, 2010, Interviews November 11th and 12th.

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