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2,000 volunteers build houses in India
03 November 2006

Lonavla, India: "The biggest challenge of our times is to reduce the gap between the rich and the poor. The rich nations are getting richer and the poor nations are getting poorer. And within nations, the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. We need to address this issue because this divide also creates a communication gap between people," says Jimmy Carter, the former US President and Nobel Peace laureate who is overseeing the construction of 100 houses for the poor in this area of Maharashtra.

With the help of more than 2,000 volunteers from the Americas, Europe and Asia, Carter and his wife Rosalyn are leading the annual Habitat for Humanity Project that will provide the houses to 100 families of this region.

"We have been active in India since 1983, and in 2005 we launched a five-year strategic initiative to provide decent homes to 250,000 poor people by 2010," the former American President said while addressing a round-table with a small group of mediapersons from Mumbai.

Asked about the changes he has seen in India since his last visit to the country, Carter said, "It’s really impressive to see India growing so fast, at the rate of 10%. India is blossoming and that’s very good. Now the challenge is to ensure that the prosperity is properly shared."

However, the American leader, who has been building houses for the poor around the world, was disappointed by the fact that caste still remains a social problem in India.

Like other volunteers, Carter and his wife too have been working on a house that will be handed over to a local family this weekend.

"It’s nice that people from all the world are involved in projects like this," said Carter who has built houses for the tsunami victims in Thailand as well as in India.

On Thursday, apart from the volunteers from around the world, Bollywood heartthrobs John Abraham and Diana Hayden also worked on the pre-fabricated houses at the site.

While the shutterbugs tried to follow the celebrities around the construction site, a team of volunteers from the USS Boxer and four other US Navy ships currently anchored in Mumbai quietly worked on a house at the site.

Known for taking part in social initiatives for the underprivileged around the world, the American sailors were here to lend a hand to the housing project.