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HFH Australia CEO Leads “Habitat Ambassador” Team To Cambodia And Vietnam

All Women Group See Australian-Funded Work Projects

As a part of growing links between Habitat for Humanity Australia and the Mekong delta, an almost-women-only volunteer group from Australia recently worked on a construction site in Cambodia and visited Habitat projects in southern Vietnam.

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Firsthand Look: A group of Habitat “champions” from Australia visited the Mekong Delta to learn more about HFH’s work.

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Taking action: “Mums on Tour” from Australia put their backs and hearts into building a new floor for a Habitat home partner.

The team featured HFH Australia board member Gillian Burrows and five other self described “Daughters of the Delta” and “Mums on Tour”. The token male was HFH Australia chief executive George Macdonald.

The volunteers were keen to know more about Habitat for Humanity’s work in order to act as Habitat “ambassadors” back in their local communities. Donors and volunteers from Australia are supporting a range of Habitat projects in Cambodia and Vietnam.

Sydney-based businesswoman who runs a skiing and snowboarding company Amanda Zsebik said: “We visited rural communities in Vietnam and Cambodia, where Habitat provides simple assistance such as a tiled floor, or an outside toilet, that has an incredible positive impact on lives of the families who have been helped. The red tape is formidable, and we glimpsed some of that in meetings with government officials.”

“On the positive side, we saw a new school, buildings, and related infra-structures such as a water management system, plus plans for future communities. Seemingly, against all odds, Habitat is making inroads. It is a start.”

In the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh, the team spent half a day building a 28 sq. m. concrete floor at a house in Kork Khleang. Home partner Long Yeun declared himself satisfied with the team’s work on his new house. “My family and I are very proud and extremely happy that charitable people from Australia have come and spent their valuable time in building my house.”

It was the high point for Zsebik. “We helped change the future for one family. And that was the lesson of the trip for me. From small things, become big things. You must start somewhere. It was – quite literally – a concrete step in the right direction. Minuscule. Minute. But majestic.”

Kork Khleang part of a Habitat for Humanity Cambodia project to 650 families from the Kampuchea Krom community, originally from Vietnam, who lives in a resettlement area near the airport.

Families are saving to buy land and build homes through a housing microfinance scheme. To date, HFH Cambodia has built 100 houses to this community and more are planned. This work and much of the expansion of the Cambodian program has been funded by a private Australian foundation called The Charitable Foundation. This has encouraged and facilitated the inclusion of other sponsors and volunteers from the region.

HFH Cambodia’s Phnom Penh program is currently working in ten communities around the city. Since April 2004, 358 families have been helped with better housing in Kork Khleang, Sen Sok, Kraing Angkron, Samaki – 340 with new houses. The program has also been expanded to Battambang and Siem Reap provinces with World Bank and Australian sponsor support.

In Vietnam, the Australians visited a major new Habitat project called “Rainbow Village, in Rach Gia, capital city of Kien Giang province, southwestern Vietnam. The project will eventually see some 120 families moved off a the Vinh Quang garbage dump and into decent homes

The visitors met government partners, visited the homes of beneficiary families and heard about an Australian government funded water sanitation project site.

Funding for the three-year Rainbow Village project, which includes water and sanitation improvements, comes from Communities for Communities, a Sydney-based charity in Australia; Singapore property developer CapitaLand through HFH Singapore; Australia market research consultancy Colmar Brunton, and HFH Australia.