“I am willing to do whatever it takes.”

Shirley Elladora and Felisa Amistoso are both friends and neighbors. They live in Sitio Samar in the village of Agujo, Daanbantayan in northern Cebu. Their homes are near fish pens and a creek — it floods constantly, especially when it rains hard.

Both their homes were destroyed when Typhoon Haiyan ravaged northern Cebu in November 2013. After the storm, they salvaged wood, metal sheets and tarps to build small shacks on land that is owned by another person. They are in danger of being evicted.

But Shirley and Felisa aren’t easily discouraged. They are epitomes of the modern woman: driven, motivated, focused, goal-oriented, and put their families first. They have big dreams and high hopes, but they believe in working for it instead of simply being handed to them.

So when they saw the new houses Habitat was building in the relocation site in Agujo, they were immediately filled with hope. “It’s bigger and stronger than the house we’re living in,” Felisa says. “I really would want to live in one of those.”

The Habitat core homes are of a revolutionary design. Everything is made of reinforced concrete and steel, even the roof. The “Hypar House,” can withstand strong earthquakes and winds of up to 280kmh. The interiors are cool and spacious — 22 square meters — with a provision for a loft, which can double the floor area to up to 40 square meters.

The women were invited by the local government of Daanbantayan to participate in the World Habitat Day build last October 11. It was the first time they saw the houses, and also their first time to participate in construction as a volunteer. Felisa exclaims, “We’re happy that Habitat is here building for people like us. I’m personally willing to work just so I can get one of those houses.”

Shirley echoes the same sentiments: “You never know, right? God has a way of suprising you!”

Felisa says she has always dreamed of owning a nice house of her own. “I’ve been living [in Agujo] for 30 years. I’ve never experienced living in a big, concrete house.” Shirley, on the other hand, says they wouldn’t mind if they’re “poor, as long as we have a house of our own.”

Both their families, they say, are considered as squatters in the community. But they don’t care. “God is in control, he won’t let us down.”

Felisa says it will be a big help for her family if they are chosen to receive a new house. “If another Haiyan comes, we won’t be afraid anymore. We can live comfortably and safely. Our lives will definitely improve.”

Shirley echoes the same sentiments: “You never know, right? God has a way of suprising you!”

Shirley and Felisa have a dream: they want a new house and a better life for their families. The Habitat Hypar house is a symbol of that dream. And they are hoping, even working – towards it becoming a reality.