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Private Australian charitable foundation agrees to finance ambitious plan to provide decent homes for 1,600 people in Cambodia

March 19, 2004

SYDNEY & PHNOM PENH, 19 March 2004: A private charitable foundation in Australia has agreed to finance most of an ambitious US$582,000 project to provide simple, decent, affordable homes for hundreds of poor working families in Cambodia, according to the Australian arm of Habitat For Humanity International, a non-profit Christian ministry devoted to eliminating poverty housing.

Habitat has secured funding worth more than US$400,000 from the foundation to help 264 families build new homes in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. The families, all Kampuchea Krom who fled Vietnam, had previously saved enough money to buy their own land. However, they need assistance to build decent homes where they can raise their families in safety and with dignity.

The foundation, which does not wish to be identified, has a specific charter to assist the poorest of the poor in developing nations.

The Kampuchea Krom project is located near the main highway between the city and the international airport, in Kok Khleang village, Russey Keo district. The project commences on 1 April 2004 and should last four year. It is the first Habitat for Humanity project to be implemented since Habitat for Humanity Cambodia officially opened in January 2003

“We are delighted to have such a generous supporter to help us help some of the poorest families in one of the poorest nations in Asia,” said Michael Pailthorpe, director of Habitat For Humanity Australia, who was closely involved in developing the relationship with the sponsor. “The foundation’s funding helps Habitat’s work in Cambodia to get off to a flying start, just one year after starting in the country.”

The Kampuchea Krom project will use Habitat’s “Save & Build” model.

“Save & Build” brings together low-income families in a community to form savings groups. The groups, usually ten to twelve families strong, save money and materials together. When a group has sufficient savings to build one house, Habitat normally provides matching loans to build two more, and construction on the three houses commences. In the Cambodian project, the Australian foundation is to provide all the matching funds.

Construction and saving continue until all group families are housed. A cycle normally takes about two years. Groups elect their own leaders – often women – to manage and monitor members’ savings, decide which families are housed in which order, and provide “sweat equity” – volunteer labor – for construction.

After the group has built all their houses they continue to save and pay off their outstanding no-profit, no-interest loans to Habitat. The repaid money becomes part of a revolving fund to assist further “Save & Build” groups.

The 264 families have already begun to be formed into some 22 savings groups to save for core housing loans. The families previously saved towards the acquisition of their own land.

Habitat for Humanity Cambodia was registered with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation on January 2003. It is already active in Cambodia with the launch of “Save And Build” programs and partnerships with other non-government organizations.

Twenty-six “Save and Build” groups, involving nearly 300 families, are being established in the Russey Keo district of Phnom Penh. Investigations are under way to establish groups in Siem Reap, Battambang and Koh Kong.

In addition, Habitat is partnering with BILEG Community Outreach International, which is working in the Anlong Kngan resettlement area of Sen Sok village, Russey Keo district, Phnom Penh. Three savings groups, or 36 families, are being assisted to buy back land ownership documents from moneylenders. Simultaneously, while paying back their Habitat loans, they will be saving an amount towards house renovations.

Habitat for Humanity Cambodia is working with Maryknoll, also in the Anlong Kngan resettlement area, on a pilot “Save & Repair” project. A group of six poor families will begin to save towards house renovation. Maryknoll will match the savings of the families and provide opportunities for income generation so that the families will be able to repay the full amount.

Habitat For Humanity Cambodia plans to establish a Building and Training Center to provide practical technical assistance for homeowners and groups interested in eliminating substandard housing. This will include assistance with simple house designs, appropriate local building materials and technologies, empowering communities to help themselves for housing and related infrastructure, training for homeowner groups, other NGOs, and government officials on housing issues, and information on housing matters and other issues.