Sipovo – ‘Self-Help’ Repairs Homes, Restores Lives

‘Self-Help’ Repairs Homes,
Restores Lives

Under the direction of Salvationists Dawn Lambert, 24, and Martyn Smith, 26, more than 100 homes have been rebuilt in Sipovo and scores of widows and spinsters have received aid and housing.

Lambert works with “vulnerables”: primarily elderly widows or young widows with children. Visiting up to 10 people a day with Milka Rados, her translator, she assesses needs and determines ways in which the Army might help. Often as little as $300 (U.S.) can provide significant assistance for those struggling to get by on $14 per month.

“On one visit I met an 85-year-old woman whose home was destroyed by a grenade and is now living in the former pantry. Her husband died while they were refugees from Sipovo; she returned to her home a widow.”

The Army is looking into constructing prefab one-room homes for the elderly–an estimated 100 still need secure housing, especially in this hilly area where snow falls in the winter.

“The people of The Salvation Army should be proud of the work here,” says Dawn. “I think William Booth would have been all ready to do this. It’s something new, something that’s needed. The hardest part of the job is having to say ‘no’ to people when there are no more resources left.”

Martyn is responsible for the Army’s construction projects, including tracking project costs and materials. Using a team of local workers (project assistant/translator, draftswoman, warehouseman, and truck driver), his projects have included joint ventures with ECHO (European Community Humanitarian Office) and SIDA (Swedish International Development Agency) to complete projects funded by the organizations. A 40-home project joint ventured with SIDA has been completed, and another project rebuilding 100 homes is in process.

Typically, the Army provides the materials and expertise for the homes and the families receiving the aid do the building themselves, often with the help of an extended family or friends. All supplies are purchased locally–an additional stimulus to the economy. When a prefab home is constructed, it only takes six weeks from start to finish.

Initially, the United Nations was only repairing homes with walls destroyed, at a cost of $3000 DM, while the Army was repairing homes that were totally destroyed, costing $10,000 DM ($6000 US).

“How gratifying it was to see the exceptional results of the Army’s practical ministry to the people of Bosnia,” said Colonel Gwen Luttrell. “To recognize their willingness to participate in the restoration of their homes and to solicit help from their families and neighbors as the Army makes available lumber and equipment, brought great joy to our hearts.”

Martyn, who volunteered in Rwanda in 1996 and 97, says “It’s exciting work. I’m doing something helpful–not just making money. It’s not something routine, it’s really living.”

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