Smiling Tien stands in front of her disaster-resilient house. Source: Habitat Vietnam
Habitat for Humanity Vietnam (Habitat Vietnam) is a part of Habitat for Humanity International, a leading global non-profit specializing in housing development in more than 70 countries. Habitat Vietnam began the operations in 2001. Through innovative program and partnerships as well as mobilization of resources such as construction materials, volunteer labor and micro-finance mechanisms, their key housing interventions aim to improve the living conditions of the communities including Housing improvement; Water and sanitation solutions; Disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation, and Volunteer mobilization.
As housing improvement is a holistic program, Habitat Vietnam also work on capacity building with training and awareness raising activities focusing on construction skills, household’s financial management, community-based disaster risk management and water-sanitation-hygiene support to the home-owner as well as community members including school children and local authorities.
To date, Habitat Vietnam has served over 100,000 families through projects cover 9 provinces in Vietnam, namely Hoa Binh, Phu Tho, Thai Binh, Thai Nguyen, Ha Tinh, Quang Nam, Long An, Tien Giang and Dong Thap provinces.
“I work endlessly without thinking that we would have a nice house like this. The only thing I could think of is how to make ends meet for daily living,” shares Tien, 33. With the mason’s monthly income of around 3 million VND (127 USD), a house at that time was beyond her reach. Now her income rises up to 4,5 million VND (191 USD) per month.
In her memory, an owned house she has been living for years was dilapidated of improper roof and floor. The house covering around 20m2 consisted of rotted materials while the floor was soiled. The substandard roof with holes allowed for raindrops to enter causing high humidity and a favorable environment for mosquitoes. Tien recounts that the highest peak of the rainy season could be daunting for finding any better places to sleep, especially when the flood submerged up to 1m tall. That is why hardly does Tien think those kind of difficulties happened a year earlier, before Habitat Vietnam volunteer team built the new house with her family.
According to Tien, she is impressed by the proactive acts and fast-moving integration from the volunteers. Thanks to Habitat’s engagement, she could communicate with the team and become close to them even though their stay in the build did not last longer than four days.
“I wandered around with them very frequently. I knew some construction techniques so I could work with them. We were a close-knit team,” said Tien. “When they began to depart, I also began to cry. Seeing them work harmoniously and willing to live under our living conditions makes me feel emotional”.
The new house is covered with concrete walls, new iron sheets roof sustained by steel-made frames. There also has a solid attic, which can protect the family from heavy storms and floods happening frequently as this is a disaster-prone area.
“Owning a house like this means significantly to us. I am no longer scare of anything else because now my children Toan, 11, and Y, 3, can stay indoors and feel warm. I used to feel deplored seeing mother and kids being cold because of big wind and torrential rain,” told Tien.
Her mother Ngung, 65, can also have a relaxing place to rest and prevent from the chronic bronchitis resulted in the inclement weather and the previous living conditions. Tien is currently the only breadwinner of the family and thus, she is still coping with financial difficulties. However, having a sturdy house weighs down her burdens a lot. After a hard-working day, she can come back home and see her children smile happily in a spacious, clean house.
“At the moment, we feel nothing completely satisfied but this beautiful house. We are still struggling with the unstable livelihood. We are using our own usable water and sanitation facility detached from the house, but we are planning to have the indoors bathroom in the future. The house is what we need but if with a bathroom, it would perfectly reflect a house I dreamt about,” she said.
“I feel extremely thankful and grateful to have a cozy shelter like this. Thank you so much for such a wonderful dedication,” Tien shared.