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Dow Team Completes Habitat’s First Corporate Build In Vietnam

12 Volunteers Help Construct A New House, And Rebuild Kitchen And Toilets

HO CHI MINH CITY, 12th February 2007: Volunteers from The Dow Chemical Company’s Vietnam representative office brought early festive cheer to two Habitat families in Ho Chi Minh City by helping to improve their homes. Habitat’s first corporate build in Vietnam was carried out in the suburban Nha Be district, as a run up to Tet, the Vietnamese new year.

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Vast difference: Crumbling wall and cracking tiles (top) gave way to a new toilet and floor (bottom) for the Do family in Ho Chi Minh City.

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Full concentration: Dow volunteers focus on removing the old floor tiles at the Ho Chi Minh City home of one new Habitat homepartner.

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Welcome: volunteers from The Dow Chemical Company’s Vietnam representative office were the first corporate build team hosted by Habitat in Vietnam.

The Nha Be program is a pilot project between Habitat for Humanity in Vietnam and the Capital Aid Fund for Employment of the Poor (CEP), the country’s leading microfinance institution. The two-year project aims to improve the quality of shelter, sanitation and water systems for 300 families in Ho Chi Minh City through housing microfinance services. CEP is responsible for selecting the home partners while Habitat for Humanity provides technical assistance in upgrading of homes.

The 12 Dow volunteers worked alongside Habitat home partners to shovel sand, mix cement and lay bricks, among other tasks. They helped to lay the foundation and part of the walls for a new house, as well as to reinforce the wall, rebuild the kitchen and toilets for another family.

Family members of Dow staff also joined the build. Kieu Trung, chairman of Dow’s corporate contributions committee, said: “We have always encouraged and welcomed our staff to invite their family to join in such meaningful activities. Besides contributing to the effort, it is also a good time to bond and get to know each other better. All of us are very happy after the event and we would like to join this meaningful activity repeatedly in the future.”

In addition to celebrating Tet in a renovated home, Habitat home partner, Bui Van Ly, a 44-year-old mason, and his wife Tuong also hoped that the home can be ready in time for their daughter’s upcoming wedding. Their 10-year-old family home was constructed of bamboo wattle with no foundations and had a rusted iron sheet roof. The house would be badly damaged during the rainy season and costly repairs had to be made each year. The family took a loan from CEP to put in a concrete foundation and a tile floor with new brick walls and an improved roof.

For Tuong, Tet will start on a positive note. She said: “This year I will be happy to be able to start saving the money we had to spend every year fixing our home.”

An improved home with the kitchen and toilets rebuilt means a lot to another Habitat family as well. Do Thi Tam is a 43-year-old widow who lives with her 16-year-old son Thanh who works as a laborer. As her house was near the canal, the soil under the foundation had been badly eroded by the canal traffic. That caused her kitchen and bathroom to literally fall into the water and the walls to crumble. Without the loan from CEP and help from Habitat and the Dow volunteers, Tam could not afford to repair the home her husband had left to her and her son. The Dow volunteers helped her to save on labor costs in the works to reinforce the retaining wall, lay a new foundation and tile floor as well as reconstruct the three walls of the house.

As for the volunteers, their morale was boosted by local government officials who showed their support by rolling up their sleeves to help in the building. Fruits and desserts served by the homepartner families also ensured that the volunteers were constantly refreshed.

One of the volunteers, Simon Teo, country manager for Dow Vietnam , said: “I’m delighted that every one of our employees joined in the build. It is a meaningful project as we’re supporting a sustainable project and working directly with the beneficiaries of our time, effort and sweat.”

After two days of working with the Dow team, Habitat homepartner Tam said: “The volunteer workers and technical support from Habitat have saved us a lot in construction costs that we could not afford. We can work with the help of neighbors and family now that some of the heavy work has been finished. We are grateful.”

Prior to the Nha Be project, Habitat and its partners have already served more than 800 families in the southwestern Kien Giang province through a pilot home improvement project. Habitat also looks to serve more than 1,000 families in the southeastern Tien Giang province under a similar program through housing microfinance services.

Dow Chemicals, a long-time Habitat supporter, had sent their staff on Habitat builds in most countries where the group has a presence, including Thailand , Malaysia , Philippines , China , India and Indonesia . In Indonesia, Dow Chemicals has been involved in rebuilding homes devastated by both the December 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami as well as the May 2006 Yogyakarta earthquake.

CEP is a non-profit social organization established in 1991 under the Vietnam government-linked Ho Chi Minh City Labor Confederation. Through the provision of financial products and services, CEP helps the poorest and those who are not reached by the government’s poverty reduction program. As of December 2006, CEP serves over 72,000 clients in the urban, rural and coastal areas of Ho Chi Minh City.