Building starts in Sichuan on Monday, March 30 2009
Construction has begun on the first batch of 160 new homes in an earthquake- hit village in Sichuan by the Homes for Hope project, a South China Morning Post initiative.
One early morning this month, hundreds of farmers from Qingquan village, Mianzhu city, Sichuan, gathered on an empty block of farmland to watch workers begin building the foundations of their future homes.
There was no celebration ceremony, but smiles were on everybody's faces. Ten months after the May 12 magnitude 8 earthquake killed 88,000 people and left more than 400,000 injured, villagers in the hardest-hit area are eager to move from shabby makeshift shelters to permanent houses.
"Everyone is so happy. They have been waiting for this day for months,"
Qingquan village head Tan Shaojun, 36, said. The 160 families are the first batch of 500- plus households in Qingquan which will receive help from Homes for Hope.
It will provide various construction materials to the value of about 4,000 yuan (HK$4,500) per villager to build earthquake-resistant houses.
Each homeless family will also receive from 16,000 to 22,000 yuan from the central government, depending on the number of family members. Villagers will have to provide the rest of construction costs.
"There are 69 families that have no savings and rely totally on others' help. We are trying every means to raise funds for them from the village and county governments," Ms Tan said.
Most of the houses to be built will be from 860 to 1,180 sq ft, while the ones for families without funds will be about 375 sq ft. All will be built in typical Sichuan style with white walls and grey roof tiles.
Government departments must approve all materials and architects have been invited from nearby cities to design the houses.
"In our village, bricks, wood and mud were the most commonly used housing materials, which collapsed easily in the quake. But the new ones made of concrete should be able to resist up to a magnitude 8 earthquake," Ms Tan said.
In Qingquan, the quake killed 66 people and destroyed more than 95 per cent of buildings. Reconstruction will also include houses for survivors from two nearby villages.All the 2,000 villagers involved have been living in makeshift shelters of old board and plastic cloth since the disaster.
Construction of houses, Ms Tan said, would begin before May 12, the first anniversary of the earthquake, and was expected to be completed by September.
Homes for Hope, officially launched on March 19, aims to raise HK$18 million to build houses and infrastructure for two quake-hit villages in Sichuan.
As well as Qingquan, it will also help another village, Shengnan new village, in Jiuzhaigou, Sichuan, to build roads, set up water services and other essential infrastructure.
So far, the project has received HK$10 million from the trust fund set up by the Hong Kong government to support reconstruction in Sichuan and HK$3 million from Operation Santa Claus, an annual charity campaign jointly organised by RTHK and the South China Morning Post.