13 August 2018
Housing shortages are no stranger to Sandra Manson. As a WYG Planning Director in the UK, she knows the ins and outs of the market’s inherent struggles. But in rural villages like Pondicherry, India, housing woes paint a markedly direr picture, with hundreds of families lacking sufficient shelter and water. To help make a difference there, she volunteered with Habitat for Humanity to build homes for the Irula Tribal community.
Working with a team from Miller Homes North East and Pod Architects, Sandra dug in deep to set the foundations and reinforced concrete columns for two of the 22 homes during her nine-day visit in September. This meant mixing more than 10 tonnes of concrete and back-filling 12 tonnes of soil manually. Without proper equipment, her team had to continually transfer 15 filled pans of water, sand, cement, and hardcore to where the concrete was made.
The project represents one of several initiatives by the charity to build homes in the region, where the majority of homes are built from mud and subjected to devastating effects from flooding.
Joining the project proved a no-brainer for Sandra. It presented a unique opportunity to give something meaningful to a community hurt by extreme poverty.
Sandra said: “I had just made some life decisions of my own when this opportunity came up and it really put into perspective how fortunate we are here. As a planner, working with house builders to gain permission on schemes is what I predominantly do on a daily basis, but the challenges here are the polar opposite of what’s happening in places like Pondicherry. The chance to be part of a project that significant was something I leapt at with both hands.”
There is more to the project, though, than building houses. It also involves building resilient communities and giving the local people the tools and know-how to become self-sustaining. As part of that, future residents of the new homes had the chance to work alongside Sandra and the other professionals.
She added: “They’ll get to become self-sustaining in terms of all of their life elements, so on top of access to a home, water, and other facilities, they will also learn to support other members within their own internal community. Quite often on these projects, the locals subsequently take the initiative to handle other elements of the projects themselves, so it just perpetuates itself.”
At WYG, we continue to support charity organisations to support local communities in need throughout the world. Most recently, we have supported Community Action Nepal with rebuilding essential infrastructure following the devastating Nepalese earthquakes in 2015.