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Habitat Signs Deal To Provide Funds and Expertise for Housing Micro-Finance Projects in Vietnam * * * Innovative Approach to Reaching Those in Real Need in Mekong Delta

July 29, 2005

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Innovation in the Mekong: Habitat’s new partnership is designed to help the lives of farmers, fishermen and other poor families

HO CHI MINH CITY, 29th July 2005: Habitat for Humanity’s program in Vietnam is launching an innovative pilot project that will see Habitat funding and providing expertise for Vietnam’s first housing micro-finance scheme in the Mekong delta.

A letter of intent has been signed with the authorities of Kien Giang province to provide some 500 low-income families in three communities with help repairing and renovating existing houses as well as, in some cases, building starter homes.

Habitat’s partners are the provinceโs Union of Friendship Organizations, the Women’s Unions and the Kien Giang Bank of Social Policy.

“This is an exciting new type of partnership for us with Habitat providing significant funds and transferring expertise for projects that will be implemented by our Vietnamese partners,” said Steve Weir, Habitat for Humanity’s Asia-Pacific vice president, after this month’s signing in ceremony in Vietnam.

“Working in Kien Giang provides a prime example of the way Habitat is seeking to reach more of those in need of proper housing than through traditional Habitat programs.”

The 12-month project will see Habitat and the Kien Giang authorities establish Vietnam’s first “Shelter Improvement Equity Fund” for the poor. “Poor” is defined as family members earning less than 100,000 dong (about US$6.66) a month. Many are seasonal farmers; others rely on fishing or daily laboring.

Mark Estes, Habitat’s representative in Vietnam, explained local housing conditions. “Many families rely on flood-prone housing along the province’s numerous canals and waterways.”

“There are “half strong houses”, which use wood and iron sheets for roofing, hardwood for posts, tiled floor and temporary materials for walls. But they often lack any foundations.”

“Others rely on shacks of thatched leaves for roofing and walls, dirt floor.”

Estes explained that safe drinking water and sanitation are a constant problem. In some districts, families organized by the Women’s Union have taken out loans to build their own toilets. Others use their own resources to build tube wells which they share with their neighbors.

“The authorities have a housing relocation program that involves cycles of small loans for completing and improving structures. It is these efforts that the new partnership will strengthen and expand,” he said.

Kien Giang, some 240 kilometers south and west of Ho Chi Minh City, shares a border with Cambodia. The 1.6 million population relies on farming, fishing and, increasingly, tourism. The province has a 200-km. coastline with hundreds of small islands, including Phu Quoc which is now being developed for tourism.

Habitat is providing US$100,000 to capitalize the fund with the Vietnamese side adding a further US$15,000. As repayments come in this will develop into a revolving fund to help more families.

The money will provide Habitat-style Save & Repair loans to families to undertake maintenance make repairs and install toilets and decent water supplies and other improvements. Loans are expected to range from US$50 to US$620. Repayments periods are expected to be between 90 days to five years depending on the work being done and the capacity of each family to earn and save.

The Women’s Unions are selecting and supporting the families. The state-owned Bank of Social Policy is to provide matching funds for each loan.

In addition to funds, Habitat is providing expertise. Habitat will work with the Womenโs Unions, reviewing their family selection procedures and existing housing micro-finance schemes, and advising on Habitat “best practices” in these areas.

Said Estes: “We will also counsel on how to improve construction quality and design and how to lower construction costs, say, by using concrete interlocking blocks for walls.”

The three communities are My Lam in Hon Dat district, Minh Hoa in Chau Thanh district, and Hung Yen in An Bien district.

Habitat for Humanity Vietnam began operating in Vietnam in January 2001 in Danang in central Vietnam, through a partnership with World Concern.

Habitat for Humanity International is a non-profit, ecumenical Christian ministry dedicated to eliminating poverty housing. Habitat for Humanity works with people of all backgrounds, races and religions to build houses together in partnership with families.