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At the end of 2021, Pat Elderfield retired as a Trustee and Honorary Treasurer from the World Habitat Board after almost half a century of dedication service to the charity. She has been involved with the Building and Social Housing Foundation and World Habitat throughout our entire history and was married to our founder Peter Elderfield. Pat was also Chief Executive and Secretary of East Midlands Housing Association from 1985 to 2004, having served as its Head of Finance for 15 years.  In this blog she provides a unique perspective on her time with us, from being our Treasurer since the organisation’s formation in 1976, a Trustee in 2002 and undertaking evaluation visits to more than 40 housing projects in challenging and remote parts of the world, including the fascinating places and projects described below.  

Forty-six years ago, I was allocating the assets of the East Midlands Housing Association, which had been building social housing for 30 years. The allocation was in preparation for the gifting of our non-state aided assets to a Charitable Foundation that could continue to do the innovative work we were recognised for – but were then prohibited in doing so as a Registered Housing Association.

I have maintained a watchful eye on our finances throughout those years, during which I have seen our work programs extend to touch many parts of the world. Those land assets have largely been converted to cash and very recently we have seen our selection of investment managers to deliver our income in line with our objectives, seeing that initial £1.25 million gift become the £37 million of today.

I’ve worked with three Directors, many valued colleagues and had the opportunity to meet some truly inspirational individuals who have conceived and delivered the wonderful projects we continue to recognise through the World Habitat Awards.

The assessment and evaluation work [for the World Habitat Awards] has given me incredible experiences, from walking over the still hot ash, engulfing homes following the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in the Philippines, to sleeping on the floor of the family home of the City Planner in Hiroshima.

I’ve flown in helicopters over the Karakorum Range and through the Amazon to Iguaçu. I’ve memories of long train and plane journeys across China visiting projects where methane digesters provided energy and straw bales were used for construction. I’ve witnessed Village Reawakening in Sri Lanka and the completion of the greening and modernisation of the last kampong in Surabaya, which is now recognized as the third greenest city in the world.

My travels covered hundreds of kilometers of dirt roads visiting rural farmers in Argentina, I’ve walked around favelas with armed guards in Rio and through the ‘no go’ areas of Johannesburg; visited disaster prevention work in Vietnam and extensive infrastructure works in India.

My culinary experiences have been as rich as the cultures we have visited but I think the most notable was the deep-fried maggots provided as a treat in the builders’ mess hut, in the incredible energy efficiency, green mortgages, project in Mexico.

I have valued and appreciated the experiences the organisation has given me, and I wish you all continuing success as I step down from my role as a Trustee and the Honorary Treasurer.

I know I leave the Foundation in good hands with an excellent team of Trustees and the skilled staff team – and trust I will continue to be kept in touch with your future successes.

Pat’s work with World Habitat has ultimately led to many innovative housing solutions being adopted and adapted across the world, including the transfer of the Community Land Trusts movement from the USA to the UK, and the establishment of a campaign to end street homelessness in several European cities. As honorary treasurer of World Habitat she has managed its finances and investments and has seen a successful growth in the organisation’s assets and its activities. She carried out all these roles as a volunteer.

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