Wells Fargo and Habitat for Humanity India Improve Living Conditions of Irula Tribal Community in Tamil Nadu


Chennai: Housing non-profit organisation, Habitat for Humanity India, has successfully implemented a housing project for the Irula community, one of the most socio-economically disadvantaged tribes in Tamil Nadu, in partnership with Wells Fargo India. The project extended financial support to 43 Irula tribal families in Thiruvallur, empowering them to complete their unfinished houses following the homeowner-driven construction method.

The project is in line with Habitat for Humanity India’s continued efforts to address the major challenges faced by the Irula community related to housing and access to land. Earlier, the Irula community lived in the forests and eked out an income by bartering or selling honey, wax, herbal medicine and firewood to local villagers and by catching snakes. In recent decades, the tribal community has been living in mud huts with straw roofs and dirt floors, living a hand-to-mouth existence through manual labour and fishing.

In the project spanning January-June 2022, construction was completed of 21 unfinished houses in Pazhaverkadu and 22 unfinished houses in Pondavakkam, enabling all 43 families to realise their dream of owning a home for the first time. The construction of these homes was left unfinished for many years due to the financial constraints faced by the homeowners.

“We never thought that we would be able to finish building the house. I was worried about my children’s safety, especially my daughter. Now I can go to work without worrying, as we have a safe home. Since we moved into our new home, we have been able to sleep at night peacefully. Now we have solid ground under our feet and a roof over our heads,” said Malathi, a widow, with five children.

Commenting on the initiative, Dr Rajan Samuel, Managing Director, Habitat for Humanity India said, “Our efforts to uplift the living standards of Irula tribes are driven by a firm belief that healthy homes help families achieve the strength, stability and self-reliance they need to build a better future. It provides them with a foundation to break the shackles of poverty. We are thankful to Wells Fargo for enabling the successful completion of these homes and ensuring them a comfortable life.”

“At Wells Fargo, we believe everyone should have a quality, affordable place to call home, which is the foundation for wellness, dignity, and economic opportunity. Wells Fargo is committed to helping communities thrive and become self-reliant to be able to live a life with dignity. We partnered with Habitat for Humanity India to identify and support Irula families and we are happy that 43 of them now have a place to call home,” said Arindam Banerrji, Managing Director, Wells Fargo India and Philippines. 

Habitat for Humanity India adopted rigorous Know Your Customer and due diligence processes before selecting homeowners for the project. A memorandum of agreement was developed for each homeowner. Habitat India’s team closely monitored the progress of the project to help the homeowners at all the stages of construction, as well as to optimise the cost.

Each home has a living room, a bedroom, a bathroom and a sanitation unit, offering privacy, dignity and improved living conditions for the families.