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A volunteering project that improves housing conditions for vulnerable or at-risk groups in rural Portugal has today been named a Bronze Award Winner in this year’s World Habitat Awards.

Camp In is a 12-day volunteering summer camp to rehabilitate houses that are unsafe and/or deteriorating. Non-profit organisation Just a Change works in partnership with local municipalities and parishes, local construction companies and suppliers, engineers and architects, and the local community – with special emphasis on improving insulation, accessibility and access to services such as water and electricity.

In total, 146 homes, housing 322 people, have been rehabilitated, with over 1,500 volunteers mobilised.

Volunteer Catarina Dias helped to renovate Mário’s home. She said: “A few days before we arrived, Mário had surgery and his foot was amputated due to diabetes. I remember thinking about what it would be like for him to return home in the conditions in which we found it, after such a serious and risky medical procedure. He would certainly have had difficulties moving around the house, completely unsuitable for a wheelchair… everything was dangerous, dirty or inaccessible to an aged person in that condition.

“It was an unforgettable experience for me and the other volunteers. We helped someone in critical conditions to have an adapted, dignified, safe and beautiful home. And he did something for us in return: he filled our hearts and reminded us of the impact we can have in a person’s life.”

David Ireland, Chief Executive of World Habitat, said: “It’s easy to overlook poverty in Western Europe, but a significant proportion of the Portuguese population live in housing poverty. Many of them are elderly people living on their own with very low incomes. Housing poverty is a trap that, particularly for older people, can be all but impossible to escape. Camp In provides a way out. Volunteers help repair vulnerable people’s houses, but it’s not just a quick fix – they stay involved sometimes for years, helping mend not just the buildings but help overcome people’s isolation too.”

The World Habitat Awards judging panel said: “A real success of this organisation is their ability to develop networks – at a corporate level and with social investors. All of that has helped to reinforce its ability to step up and increase their ambitions.”

Each year the World Habitat Awards are presented to the most outstanding and innovative housing projects from across the world.

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