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Kenya and Tanzania: Canadian visitors see how Rooftops Canada helps change lives

“Participating in the 2005 Study Visit was a wonderful opportunity to see how Rooftops Canada's partners are helping people to move out of slums and build new housing”, says Pam Hine of the Canadian Housing and Renewal Association. Last November, Pam visited our Kenyan and Tanzanian partner organizations with three other representatives of our Canadian partners - Bonnie Rice of the British Columbia Non Profit Housing Association, Marc Lamarche of la Confédération québécoise des coopératives d’habitation, and Amanda Shaughnessy  of the Co-operative Housing Federation of Canada. Amanda and Pam are also Rooftops Canada Board members.
 
In Kenya, the group learned how our local partner, the National Cooperative Housing Union (NACHU) helps people form housing co-ops as the first step to better shelter. The members then save to buy land - there are no government subsidy programs! Small loans from NACHU help the co-op install basic water supply. Marc Lamarche was especially pleased to see how contributions from the Montreal Island Federation of Housing Co-ops (FECHIMM) to NACHU’s revolving loan fund are being used to help families upgrade their houses.
 
In Tanzania, the Board and staff of the Women Advancement Trust (WAT) told the visitors about the challenges facing the urban poor especially access to land and credit. WAT’s savings and credit program is one way out. It is helping over 2,400 people with small business, personal and housing loans. WAT is also helping communities with appropriate and low-cost technology for house building. The visitors helped lay bricks, made right on site, for a teacher’s new house. They were also very impressed by WAT’s advocacy work to advance women’s right to equal access to land. WAT has also been instrumental in the Habitat Forum of Tanzania which is lobbying for more government support to house the poor.
 
“I was shocked by the living conditions in huge slums like Kibera in Nairobi, but I was equally impressed by people’s determination to improve their lives with support from Rooftops Canada’s partners like NACHU and WAT”, says Bonnie. “This trip gave me a much greater understanding and appreciation of Rooftops Canada’s work and the challenges their partner’s face. I came back committed to strengthening the partnership between Rooftops Canada and the non-profit housing sector in British Columbia.”
 
“I think all of us came away with renewed resolve to find creative ways to support our partners efforts to help people move out of slums on to plots of land with secure tenure in sustainable communities”, says Amanda.
 
Reviewing the tour, Pam says, “It was clear that our partners' accomplishments are a direct result of their ability to organize and empower communities with knowledge and resources to improve their well being. This approach has evolved over a long-term partnership with Rooftops Canada. It is demonstrating sustainable community based solutions to the crisis of rapid urbanization in Africa.”