206 graduate from Habitat for Humanity construction course

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Habitat for Humanity TT chairman Derwin Howell, right, presents Aaron Jean-Michael Paul, with his certificate of completion in the construction technology training, at UWI St Augustine campus on Saturday. – Angelo Marcelle

Over 200 people graduated from the Habitat for Humanity Construction Technology Training initiative on Saturday.

This was the second tranche of graduates, with 389 people graduating in total.

There were approximately 90 graduates present at the ceremony, which took place at Lecture Theatre 1, Faculty of Engineering, UWI St Augustine.

The graduates of the programme ranged from people in their 20s to retirees.

A man in his 20s said he joined to gain knowledge of the construction field in the event he wanted to build in the future or fix things around his home. He said he did not plan to go into business but use the skills for his family and community.

A 32-year-old woman said she joined because she wanted to learn more about the field of construction so when she bought land to build her own house, she would be able to know the right way. She said it was beneficially educational for now and for the future.

Habitat for Humanity chairman Derwin Howell said the main focus of the programme, introduced in 2022 with the assistance of Proman, was to support communities by capacity building.

“This provided participates with the basic technological skills required for effective and safe construction. The programme provided participants with both theoretical and practical skills, including reading architectural drawings, health and safety on a job site, foundations, concrete and block-work, roofing and disaster risk reduction. The intent was that they learn not only fundamentals, the science behind these processes, and proper methodology, but also how to build and intervene safely.”

He said Phase 3 of the project will run into December 2023. He said 183 people graduated from the programme last year, with 14 from Tobago, and 206 were graduating at this ceremony, with 15 from Tobago. Howell said the programme comprised 33 committed hours over six weeks, with students being taught theory and then exposed to the practical elements.

Habitat for Humanity National Director Jennifer Massaiah, right, presents Arella Cyrus with her certificate of completion in the construction technology training, at UWI St Augustine campus on Saturday. – Angelo Marcelle

National director Jennifer Massiah said the organisation believed everyone deserves a decent place to live. She said they realised they couldn’t continue to build one house at a time, and came up with the idea of retrofitting existing structures. She urged the graduates to use their new skills not only for themselves but for the benefit of their communities.

“If you see people not doing the right thing, stop them and tell them to do the right thing. You owe it to humanity and the Proman Group to represent us well. Your capacity has been enriched. I challenge you to open your own companies.

“I challenge Proman and the government to have a construction fair where we match our bigger contractors with our trainees and show them that if they need a labour force, choose the ones with the Habitat for Humanity certificate.

Massiah urged the graduates and their families to sign up for a Habitat for Humanity membership.

Minister in the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development Adrian Leonce said he was glad to know the trainees would be advocating for contractors to do the right thing.

“In my ministry we need this. The worst thing is to provide a product to the public that is flawed. The more people trained, the more people understand that doing the right thing makes it better and we spend the taxpayer’s money better.”

He noted that over half of those receiving certificates were women, and said he had recently been approached by Cabinet colleague Ayanna Webster-Roy about partnering with his ministry on projects, so he would be referring her to Habitat for Humanity.

Leonce said his ministry would be approaching the contractors to work in its Home and Village Improvement Programme initiatives, which works with squatters to rebuild their homes safely, as well as with people accessing the Home Improvement Grant to improve their existing structures.

Proman corporate communications head Fazad Mohammed said it was a privilege to work with Habitat for Humanity.

“With the help of our graduates, we look forward to creating a lot more sustainable communities and building resilience. Housing represents a challenge worldwide and this is why it is important to deliver safe and affordable shelter solutions at an affordable cost. I hope the skills you learned go into re-energising your communities, your families, and your networks throughout communities in TT.”