Tsunami Relief: From Devastation to Hope

March 1, 2005

REALTOR® Villages to blossom in the wake of the Dec. 26 tragedy.

REALTORS® and REALTOR® organizations have contributed more than $1 million to seed development of new housing in the tsunami-torn areas of South Asia, fulfilling a challenge by National Association of REALTORS® President Al Mansell to fund construction of “REALTOR® Villages” in four of the hardest-hit countries.

“REALTORS® have once again stepped up to the plate with an outpouring of generosity,” says Mansell. “As they did after the 2001 terrorist attacks and last year’s hurricanes, our members have made a difference at a time when it really counts.”

Housing mission set

The tsunami that swept through the Indian Ocean Dec. 26 left millions of people homeless. In response to the devastation, NAR launched the REALTOR® Tsunami Relief Project with a $50,000 donation. The project was announced Jan. 4, and contributions from individuals and associations began streaming in immediately. On Jan. 18, with $250,000 already collected, NAR announced a partnership with Habitat for Humanity International. The goal: Raise $1 million to fund 1,000 “core” housing units, creating REALTOR® Villages in India, Thailand, Sri Lanka, and the Sumatra area of Indonesia.

“As REALTORS®, we help put families in homes,” Mansell said in an e-mail message to more than 600,000 REALTORS® on Jan. 20. “In the wake of the terrible tsunami, we have a very special opportunity to help build homes for a thousand families who lost nearly everything in the tragedy.”

REALTORS®, associations, MLSs, and others responded in force. Approximately one month after the partnership with Habitat was announced, NAR had reached its $1 million goal, and donations were continuing to pour in. Watch for more coverage of the project in the April issue of REALTOR® Magazine.

The rebuilding begins

Habitat’s construction of core houses will enable those whose homes were destroyed to move out of shelters as quickly as possible and into modest, but safe and sanitary, homes that can later be enlarged.

By mid-January, Habitat had mobilized staff in the four countries to help launch the building process. Core houses will be built, when possible, on the foundation of the previous home. Each unit will feature one room and a porch under a roof, plus sanitary facilities. Groundbreaking for the first homes was expected to be underway by February.

NAR is absorbing all costs for administering the REALTOR® Tsunami Relief Project, enabling 100 percent of donations to go directly to Habitat for construction of the villages.

“NAR’s effort to help Habitat help others exemplifies the good in humankind,” says Tom Jones, vice president of Habitat for Humanity International. “This will have permanent positive results for families rebuilding their lives.”

REALTOR® Tsunami Relief Project

Accomplishment: Exceeded $1 million fund-raising goal, which will enable construction of more than 1,000 core Habitat for Humanity housing units for victims of the Dec. 26 tsunami. More than 5,200 individuals and organizations contributed to the fund online, by mail, and over the telephone. In addition, more than 60 state and local associations and MLSs contributed at least $1,000 each, for a total of more than $240,000.

Fund-raising for the REALTOR® Tsunami Relief Project was continuing through February. Although tsunami fund-raising is coming to a close, NAR continues to accept contributions to its REALTORS® Relief Foundation, used to help victims of hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires, and other disasters.

Send contributions by mail to the REALTORS® Relief Foundation, Attn: NAR Finance Division, 430 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60611. Make checks payable to REALTORS® Relief Foundation.

REALTORS® mourn loss of their own

The last time friends, family, and colleagues saw Angela Foust, a top-producing sales associate at Windermere/Cronin & Caplan Realty Group Inc., in Portland, Ore., she and her boyfriend Luke Scully were preparing to spend Christmas in one of her favorite vacation spots: Khao Lak Beach in Phuket, Thailand. Three weeks later, on Jan. 15, family, friends, and colleagues of the two gathered to celebrate lives lost in their prime to the vagaries of nature.

Foust, a sales leader in the top 10 percent of the 12-office, 500-associate company, was 36. “Angie was such a vibrant young person,” says Michael Graeper, GRI, principal broker of Windermere/CCRG. “She had a fearless spirit and an infectious smile that made everyone around her feel good.”

Foust’s and Scully’s families have created a Web site in their memory and established the Luke and Angie Fund to provide relief to victims in, and to help in reconstruction of, the Khao Lak Beach region.

Whether in South America or Koh Phi Phi, Thailand, Ben Abels, 33, needed little more than a backpack and a tent to feel protected from the elements. But the bungalow he was sharing with a friend the night of Dec. 26 wasn’t enough to protect him from the tsunami that swept him into the Indian Ocean and left his friend, Libby North, in critical condition. North is now recovering at home.

Abels was following in the footsteps of his mother, Hope Abels, a partner at Prairie Shore Properties in Evanston Ill., when he joined the company in mid-2003. “He did great his first year and received positive feedback from everyone who worked with him,” says Mary Summerville, another partner at Prairie Shore and a family friend.

His family has created a Web site in his memory, www.benabels.com, and has established the Tsunami Relief Fund in Honor of Ben Abels to provide assistance to children affected by the disaster.

Robert Freedman

Robert Freedman is the former director of multimedia communications at NAR.

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