UAE firm to help homeless in India during Ramadan

August 31st, 2008 - 6:34 pm ICT by IANS  

Dubai, Aug 31 (IANS) To mark the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, a leading United Arab Emirates (UAE)-based real estate developer will make significant contribution for building houses for the homeless in India and three other countries. For this the Dubai-based ETA Star signed an agreement Sunday with US-based not-for-profit organisation Habitat for Humanity International (HFHI). The property developer will donate one percent of its total earnings during Ramadan towards building homes for the destitute in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Ethiopia, according to the agreement.

“The holy month of Ramadan is considered the time for giving, helping the needy,” Abid Junaid, executive director of ETA Star, said while announcing the initiative at a press conference here.

“There certainly would be no better way than to help provide shelters to those underprivileged for whom the sky is the only roof they can call their own,” he added.

This is part of ETA Star’s ‘Homes for the Homeless’ initiative, which it had launched last year to meet its corporate social responsibility.

“We are in the business of real estate development and we have consciously made our mission to help the underprivileged to have a house of their own,” Junaid said.

ETA Star is being partnered by its new development Dubai Lifestyle City, home furnishing chain Homes r Us and cement manufacturer Star Cement.

Last year, under its Homes for the Homeless scheme, the property developer donated two million dirhams ($544,477) to the UAE’s Red Crescent Society, which, according to Junaid, has been utilised to build homes for the needy in the UAE.

“This year, Inshallah, we hope to do much more than that,” he said.

“We have got special offers lined up in Ramadan for several of our projects and we will contribute one percent of our total sales earnings during this period for this initiative,” Junaid told IANS.

According to Rick Hathway, area vice-president for Asia-Pacific at HFHI, the ETA Star contribution will be used in two projects in Delhi and Maharashtra.

“Around 1,000 families will benefit from this,” he said.

HFHI India managing director Felix Fernandes added that these projects would come up in a slum area on the outskirts of Delhi and a tribal community in Maharashtra.

The Georgia, US-based HFHI was founded in 1976 and has built 250,000 houses around the world, providing shelter to more than a million people in 3,000 communities.

Its housing programmes are not total giveaways. What makes the houses cheap is that the beneficiaries, apart from paying a low down payment and monthly mortgage payments, have also to put in hundreds of hours of their own labour, which HFHI calls “sweat equity”.

Among celebrities involved with HFHI are former US president Jimmy Carter, musician Jon Bon Jovi and Hollywood star Bard Pitt. In India, actor John Abraham is its goodwill ambassador.

HFHI came to India in 1983 and since then have built 24,423 serving 5,572 families.

Among the major beneficiaries of its projects are victims of the 2004 tsunami and 2001 Gujarat earthquake, according to Fernandes.

“Each house HFHI builds in India costs around Rs.70,000 to Rs.120,000,” he said.

According to Indian government statistics, between 2002 and 2007, India needed 22.4 million new homes, bringing the total shortage of adequate housing to some 50-60 million units.

The $6-billion ETA Star has developments spread across the Middle East and southeast Asia, including the UAE, Oman and India.

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