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International Board Chair of Habitat for Humanity Recognizes Importance of Partnership With Government Agencies In Vietnam

A Habitat Roof Means No Rain… And A Good Night’s Sleep, For One Homeowner

HANOI, 9th APRIL 2008: While visiting Habitat for Humanity International’s program Vietnam, the chairman of the board of directors, Ron Terwilliger, had an opportunity to cement relations with the head of the Vietnamese agency overseeing Habitat’s work.

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Cementing relations: IBOD chairman Ron Terwilliger in Hanoi with Nguyen Van Kien, general director of the People’s Aid Coordinating Committee which oversees Habitat’s work in Vietnam.

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The benefit of a proper roof: home owner Ton Thi Diem Hang. My Hung village, Tien Giang province

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A proper roof: Tien Giang Union of Friendship Organizations Vice-President, Huynh Van Tinh (left), and three Asia-Pacific Habitat staff including vice president Rick Hathaway, communications director Peter Witton and program director Peter Gape - chatted with home owner Ton Thi Diem Hang, from My Hung village, about the benefits of home improvements that she and her two children now enjoy.

Nguyen Van Kien, general director of the People’s Aid Coordinating Committee (PACCOM), hosted Terwilliger during a brief stop-over in the country’s capital. Kien expressed satisfaction with the relationship with Habitat.

Kien welcomed Habitat’s plan to extend its building program to the north. “Habitat is the one international non-governmental organization – among more than 700 INGOs based in Vietnam – that is looking at housing solutions involving the community from both a financial as well as a construction technology approach.”

He noted Habitat’s use of concrete interlocking bricks that had been developed in Asia as these represented a good response to the raising cost of house construction materials.

Responding Terwilliger said: “This is proving to be an important relationship. Adapting the Habitat approach to partner with government-backed agencies, as is happening in provinces around Vietnam, represents an effective way to reach those who have need of proper homes.”

PACCOM, part of Vietnam’s Union of Friendship Organization, functions as the focal agency between foreign non-governmental organizations and Vietnamese partners. It also authorizes NGOs’ operations In addition to the general director, Terwilliger met others in the PACCOM team including Le Trung Hieu, director of the North America desk.

Habitat for Humanity partners with state-backed civic and women’s groups and official microfinance bodies in several provinces, mainly in the south.

Terwilliger was in Vietnam on the final leg of a three-stop Asian tour that had also taken in Thailand and Indonesia.

The orientation of Vietnam included visits to home partners in the commune of My Phong, in the province of Tien Giang. Habitat for Humanity in Vietnam is partnering the state-backed Tien Giang Women’s Union and Red Cross to address the situation of over 5,000 families living below the poverty line.

Population densities are high in the flood-prone Mekong River delta province. Many families lack proper secure homes and do without proper water and sanitation facilitates.

Through Habitat and its partners, more than 1,000 families have access to microfinance loans to rehabilitate their homes with new roofs, walls, floors or build adequate sanitation facilities such as a septic tank or a toilet.

The Habitat team visited one such family. Ton Thi Diem Hang, aged 38, and her children now have a new roof, even though the walls of their house in My Hung village, My Phong commune, remain flimsy and the floor is earth. While she is still repaying her loan, she said: “My new roof is good, now when it rains, it does not leak.”

“Now my family and I can sleep properly,” she added.

This Habitat home partner and her husband keep ducks and pigs, enough to cover the bi-monthly payments for a three-year, 6.8 million Vietnamese dong (approx. US$425) loan. The couple has two children – son Thaih Nhan, aged 13 in Grade 6, and daughter Yen Nhi, aged eight, in Grade 3.

With the success of this first project, Habitat and its partners expect to collaborate on the second phase to improve homes and provide sanitation in another 400 homes. Some may involve existing families taking a follow-up loan for further improvements, such as adding secure walls, or a septic tank for sanitation.

Prior to the home visits, Rick Hathaway, area vice president for Asia-Pacific and the Habitat team met with key representatives of the provincial Tien Giang Union of Friendship Organizations, the coordinating body that facilitates cooperation amongst INGOs and local organizations in the province.

The Union was highly appreciative of Habitat’s support. Its Vice-President, Huynh Van Tinh reported “after a review of INGO funding and support in the area, Habitat Vietnam was the most supportive and focused. Other local organizations can learn from Habitat, who has helped communities to help themselves.”

He went on to say that the Union is committed to continuing to work with Habitat – that Habitat’s work will expand into rebuilding projects in response to natural disasters in Vietnam.

Currently, Habitat for Humanity Vietnam has projects in the southern provinces of Kien Giang, Tien Giang, Dong Nai as well as Ho Chi Minh City. A program is starting in Hanoi. It has a five-year strategic plan that aims to serve 18,000 families by 2011. To date, some 2,800 households have been served.

The program uses a combination of approaches that include the provision of housing microfinance services, vocational and technical training, as well as technical support in shelter, water and sanitation projects. Through these, Habitat is helping to transform communities by improving health and well being, engaging women in decision making, and involving communities.

Vietnam is starting to host domestic and overseas volunteer teams.