Catholic aid agencies marked the first anniversary of the Gujarat earthquake on Saturday with the opening of a rebuilt village. At a traditional house warming ceremony the people of Raidhanpur officially became owners of 152 houses which were built by CAFOD and Caritas with the government of Gujarat. Raidhanpur is one of 14 villages in which the agencies are working with nearly 3,000 families, to support them as they put their lives back together. Lakhi Ben, a widow from Raidhanpur said: "When the earthquake took place we were all shattered, but the volunteers of Caritas gave me real consolation. They came here, stayed with us, and gave us such strong and stable houses. Built from loho (iron) and bricks, they will not fall on us again, even if there is another earthquake. My three children and I are very happy to have received such a good house." Kach District Collector, Shri Chibar, said: "The permanent housing built with help from Caritas in fourteen villages so far has progressed with speed and quality, along with good participation by the people and local leaders. CAFOD emergency officer Alistair Dutton said: "The people have been involved throughout the project and have had significant control over the future of their village. When I visited there was little but rubble, the people, their hopes and their pains. Now many of the scars are healed and out of the rubble grows new hope." Caritas rushed to Gujarat on the day of the earthquake. In the first month they provided immediate relief in the form of tents, blankets, tarpaulins, household kits and food rations to people in 275 villages. When it became clear it could take more than 18 months to re-house people, they built over 9,000 semi-permanent shelters.
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